(Editor's note: This article, which WardheerNews exclusively received, reflects a comprehensive complaint that was officially submitted to the Federal Government of Ethiopia by the region's intellectuals, traditional leaders and a broad-based community groups in the Somali Regional State that strongly feels the burden of the government's clan manipulation. It is a serious and powerful complaint that, if ignored, would have serious repercussions for the region's future well-being and political stability.)
The Somali Region of Ethiopia is one of the largest states with a surface area of approximately 375,000 square kilometres. It is bordered by Oromia Regional State in the west and southwest and Afar Regional State in the Northwest. Internationally, it is bordered by Kenya in the south, Somalia in the east, and Djibouti in the north. The region is divided into nine administrative zones with 52 districts.
The landscape of the Somali region has been altered significantly, both literally and figuratively, in recent years. Environmental degradation and population pressures are affecting most areas, contributing to depleting vegetation and range resources, resulting in an overall decrease in bio-mass and bio-diversity, reduced water infiltration, increased runoff and soil erosion. Rainfall throughout the Horn in the last two decades has been inconsistent as well, and has contributed significantly to food shortages and the onset of famine.
The people of the Somali region have suffered from decades of civil conflict, war, cycles of drought and famine, and social disintegration. Conflict, whether trans-boundary or internal interferes with development performance of the region, exacerbating the scramble for limited grazing and meagre water sources. It removes able-bodied men from productive activities and, incidentally, places an extra work burden on women. Human rights, particularly children's and women's usually suffer most during conflict.
The people of Somali region are predominantly pastoralists, with nomadic pastoralism and agro-pastoralism supporting over 80% of the population. The earliest development in the region was forged by a geography that demanded, for most of its inhabitants, regular movement in search of water and pasturage for the livestock that are the staples of life. Most Somalis, as pastoralists, have always lived beyond the reach of public services, and the national government has either neglected them or considered them only in terms of how the government might benefit by controlling them. Hence, the region remains politically and economically marginalized, receiving little or no assistance from the government. The social service facilities such as markets, clinics, schools, roads, water supply, power sources are highly underdeveloped.
Aggravating further the prevailing predicaments, instability has become the permanent feature of the Somali region over the past one hundred years. Chronic instability has generated a perpetual environment of poverty and underdevelopment.
Having lived amid enduring poverty, instability and injustice, the population of the Somali region had sustained deep-seated mistrust towards the Central government. Understandably, aggrieved and disgruntled Somalis continue to feel marginalized, disadvantaged and deprived. As evidenced in the unpleasant developments elsewhere in Africa , protracted marginalization serves as a necessary alibi for violent outburst of public fury and explosive civil conflict. Hence, it is the responsibility of the center to redress the genuine grievances and concerns of the marginalized periphery regions and to foment an environment of peace and equity.
There can be no environment of peace, if an environment of peace is not built. Peace and stability cannot be built unless the causes of the instability are addressed. Conflicts and ensuing instability often cause damage to the hearts and minds of the people who have been affected. The quest for peace has to be two-pronged: freedom from fear and relief from want. Sustainable peace and sustainable security are both fundamental prerequisites for sustainable development and no dimension can succeed without the other.
II. Critical review of Somali region of Ethiopia since 1991
Thanks to the victory of the EPRDF, a new Ethiopia has been born in 1991. Subsequent to the overthrow of the dictatorial regime of the Derge, democracy has landed in Ethiopia for the first time in its entire history. A new constitution safeguarding the rights of the individual and ensuring the equal status of all the ethnic groups within the country was formulated. The constitution upholds a federal system of government where the statehood of all constituent states is acknowledged. States of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia have equal rights and powers and are self-governing.
Despite the age-old problems that prevailed in the country, the process of democratisation, good governance, decentralisation of authority and politico-socio-economic transformation has been insinuated. The states within the federation are governing their areas of jurisdiction and implementing plans and programmes projected and devised by their state council and not by the Federal government.
Nevertheless, there exist glaring disparities and undeniable inherent socio-economic imbalances within the states of the federation. The notion of equal opportunity and equitable development cannot be translated evenly across the states widely separated by their economic status. States which are cohesive socially, maintain a certain degree of stability, functioning infrastructure and high numbers of literate population are making the most of the limited introduction of decentralization. Expectedly, those states that have been neglected in the past and deprived of any opportunity for natural or planned growth are caught ill-prepared and remain relatively disadvantaged in the current process of decentralisation of power.
During the early years of the EPRDF's government, political development of the Somali Region have been dominated by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a secessionist-oriented militant group. The ONLF adopted antagonistic stance towards the federal government. In 1994, the ONLF leadership, which was then holding the reins of the regional administration, unexpectedly withdraw from the government; retreating into the country-side, naively, believing that political questions could be resolved through the barrel of the gun.
In 1994, a new party had been brought into being in the Somali Region after a number of political parties were merged to gather to form the Ethiopian-Somali Democratic League (LEAGUE). The LEAGUE was formed to counterbalance the divisive, confrontational and secessionist-oriented politics of the ONLF.
The hastily invented new political party of the LEAGUE, composed of aggrieved but inherently conflicting hordes of clans with little or no unifying common denominators, had neither succeeded in cementing internal cohesion nor to function as a viable alternative to the failed ONLF. In what amounted to an irrevocable political blunder, the LEAGUE, vengefully, unleashed relentless and indiscriminate campaign of targeted terror against anyone associated with the Ogaden clan. With the blessing of high-ranking officials of the EPRDF, the LEAGUE waged brutal and merciless war on intellectuals and the venerated traditional leaders and spared nobody in its excessive, collective punishment meted out to anyone accused of hold dissenting views. The LEAGUE committed gross human rights violations, employing heavy-handed tactics of intimidation.
In 1998, the remnants of the ONLF who espoused a policy of non-violence had merged with the LEAGUE, and together had formed a new political party: Somali Peoples Democratic Party (SPDP). This merger was entirely choreographed by elements within the EPRDF with no regard to then prevailing objective realities on the ground and the consent of the Somali people. The formation of the new party neither contributed to cement the unity of the Somali clans residing in the region nor to speed up the delivery of the much-needed development programmes.
Unfortunately, the SPDP has been hijacked by few powerful vested interests within the EPRDF who had been assigned to provide technical support and professional guidance to the regional party. These “experts” from the EPRDF, who had their own hidden agenda, had been responsible for the enrolment of the cadres of the newly born SPDP. Staffing the SPDP with handpicked pawns, they waged a virtual war on intellectuals, trained professionals and people with experience and personal integrity. They have encouraged and sustained a culture of corruption and inefficiency and had, deliberately, stalled all the development programmes earmarked for the region.
III. The Unconstructive Role of the EPRDF in Somali Region
Since early 1990s, the Federal Government of Ethiopia has allocated substantial yearly fiscal budget to the region. However, the fiscal budget allocated to the region has not been properly utilized for the benefit of the impoverished population of the Somali region.
All efforts and endeavours geared towards the development of good governance in the Somali region have ended in failure. Leadership failure and disunity within the Somalis is largely to blame for our inability to produce a workable administration. To our opinion, the Federal Government bears a fair share of the responsibility for the prolonged political debacle, neglect and deprivation that continues to ravage the Somali region of Ethiopia .
It is our firm believe that vested interests within the Ministry of Federal Affairs had virtually grounded the Somali region and squandered the golden opportunities provided by, and the goodwill support of the EPRDF to the Somali people. Rather than promoting the image of the Federal Government and the EPRDF, these vested interests have indeed inflicted damaging stain on how the Federal Government and the EPRDF is seen by the public in the Somali region.
Incompetent government officials unilaterally appointed by the few vested interests, who allegedly have committed crimes, violated human rights or looted the public funds, were purposely kept in high government positions at the expense of the discontented public. The fact that the Federal Government kept blind eye on the situation and events taking place in the Somali region has been read by the public, as a clear manifestation of either indifference or accomplice.
Throughout the past decade, only few developmental projects were successfully implemented in the region. Many ill-planned white elephant projects and non-operative infrastructure development ventures were also implemented. Nonetheless, the region largely remains neglected and underdeveloped. Likewise, the people of the region remain poorer today than a decade ago and their confidence and trust towards the Federal Government of Ethiopia is on the wane. There is an alarming surge of inter-clan conflicts in the region; the death toll is mounting and the overall security situation continues to deteriorate.
The following empirical evidences are presented to corroborate the aforementioned unpromising realities.
In the absence of concerted strategy towards the Somali region of Ethiopia , the Federal Government's involvement in the affairs of the region in the past ten years has been characterized by:
The Ministry of Federal Affairs seems oblivious of the fact that much of its body politic is corrupt and the rot starts at the top. Facts on the ground speak for themselves. The Ministry's ill-fated record in the Somali region contains countless instances of inconsistencies, flip-flops, endless tactical flexibility and fundamental incoherence of political philosophy. The Ministry's core strategy towards the “mismanaged” Somali region is basically characterised with mendacity, narrow-mindedness, political manipulation, unrelenting predatory intrusions and premeditated alienation and marginalization of the majority. Depressingly, intellectuals and trained professionals had to bear the virtual brunt of the reckless and devastating policies of the Ministry. Hence, the Ministry can no longer expect to be cosseted and shielded from the public domain.
There is a disturbing trend in the Ministry of Federal Affairs of demonising and denigrating the Darods. Any government that denigrates its own people is not worthy of its calling. The Ministry of Federal Affairs must be guided by the needs and concerns of the majority. The Ministry should not be exempt from looking after the interest of the majority of the people. We want to make sure that the inalienable rights of our people are not violated, forfeited and trampled upon. They are too central to be ignored.
Without the consent of the resident Somali populations, and indifferent to their fervent national sentiments and (perhaps) incognizant of the historical developments of the Somali peoples struggle against successive oppressive Ethiopian regimes, the Federal Government has recently transferred the jurisdiction of a predominantly Somali inhabited territories to the Oromia Regional State. We are seriously concerned of the plight of our brethrens in the districts of Jinacsanay (just 30 km away from Jigjiga, the Capital of the Somali Regional State ) and Babile, who are arbitrarily dismembered from their own nation and compelled to endure humiliation and ongoing repression perpetuated by hostile occupying foreign administration foisted on them, outrageously. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the Federal Government to take note of this intolerable injustice inflicted upon our unsuspecting fellow brethren in these districts, prompt adequate redress to their genuine grievances and arrange the return and restoration of the illegally transferred Somali districts of Jinacsanay and Babile to the Somali Regional State .
What needs to be done prior to the upcoming regional elections
Following are some of the potential remedial options and expedient measures that may be considered as priority interventions by the Federal Government in addressing existing predicaments in the Somali region and in accomplishing Ethiopia 's vital strategic interest in its eastern flank. These are measures required to salvage the Somali Region from developmental deterioration, and political quagmire that has became its permanent feature in the past ten years.
As clearly described in the preceding pages of this document and confirmed by the executive committee of the ruling SPDP in a recent appraisal meeting held in Addis Ababa with the presence of the Minister of Federal Affairs, currently there is no functioning political party in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. We, therefore, strongly recommend the Federal Government;
We recommend the Federal Government to cease its misguided policy of alienation and marginalization of the Somali region and support the genuine aspiration of the region's inhabitants towards sustainable development, good governance and full integration with the rest of the country.
No responsible government can afford to alienate millions of its citizens, derelict its responsibilities towards its people and ignore the misery, pain and hardship foisted on them. Equally, no responsible government can remain negligent and insensitive or indifferent to the improper, indecent and harmful deeds of its officials.
By Elders & Intellectuals of the Somali Regional State of Ethiopia
Monday, July 7, 2005
The following table depicts the clan configuration of the administrative council of the Somali region. It clearly elucidates the premeditated marginalization of the Darod clan, which is the dominant clan in seven zones out of the nine zones that the Somali Region State is administratively composed of. This is basically making the playing field very uneven.
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