The Perils of the EPRDF Politics Towards the Somali Region

(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.)

I.           Summary

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:

1 Lack of strategic interest, indifference, constant unconstructive meddling and lack of consistent, transparent and sustained positive engagement. Through a seemingly non-ending coup d'états, the Federal government had deposed seven elected regional presidents in the past ten years . Currently, a non-functioning pseudo-political party keeps a tight reign on the region, under the tutelage of the Ministry of Federal Affairs of Ethiopia - making a mockery of the lofty ideals of the system of federalism enshrined in the constitution .
2 Failure to provide institutional capacity building provisions, administrative and managerial support and policy guidance to the region in order to enable the development of effective and efficient system of governance.
3 Perpetual condoning to sustained mismanagement, inefficiency and power abuse in the region carried out with impunity by few irresponsible “bureaucrats” supported by vested interest within the Federal Government establishment. Ironically, it suits the Ministry of Federal Affairs to keep weak, obedient and disrespectable figures in charge of the affairs of the beleaguered Somali region.
4 Persistent lack of knowledge of the region and lack of a mechanism to collect and collate substantive information on prevailing socio-economic and political developments in the Somali region and their potential ramifications to the stability and development of the region and the country, as a whole. This is further aggravated by lack of adequate intelligence gathering system that lead to permanent gap of information between the region and the Federal Government. The government must have all the information at hand to make an informed decision.
5 Provision of immunity and protective shield to human rights offenders, criminals and embezzlers of public funds and disregard to sustained and systematic corruption and lack of accountability. Shockingly, the regional officers who continue to commit human rights violations, power abuse and embezzlement of public funds are those most favoured by the Ministry of Federal Affairs. The Ministry continues to condone sustained and systematic corruption and lack of accountability.

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.

6 Endorsement of selective, unconstitutional and discriminative measures adopted by the corrupted leadership of the ruling SPDP to purge and eliminate people with integrity and competence from the leadership of both the party and the regional government, under the pretence of acquiring their educational credentials from the now defunct Republic of Somalia . Recently, the regional government, with the blessing of the Ministry of Federal Affairs, has made redundant more than 1000 civil servants on the pretext that they have studied in Somalia . Paradoxically, this unwarranted discriminatory action belies the goodwill intentions of the Federal Government and its peace building efforts towards Somalia.
7 Sustained marginalization, alienation and exclusion of a dominant clan in the politics of the region, insensitivity to social structure and creation of artificial imbalance of clan equilibrium in the Somali region. The Ministry of Federal Affairs has completely eliminated the Darod clan from the regional politics (please refer to the attached table). This “clan cleansing” policy of the Ministry has indeed generated deep-seated sense of discontent and frustration. We believe that the Issa-dominated Government of Djibouti has influenced the ill-advised actions of the Ministry of Federal Affairs.
     

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.

8 Lack of a mechanism to identify and differentiate Somalis of Ethiopian origin from those coming from Somalia proper - a grave and dangerous oversight that necessitated serious identity crisis and confusion in the Somali region.
9 Aggravating further the growing sense of public dismay in the Somali region, the people of Somali region feel uneasy with what they see as systematic state-sponsored machinations of land confiscation and discriminatory relocation of territorial jurisdiction of Somali inhabited districts into the neigbouring Oromia region. The Ministry of Federal Affairs seems intent to recreate the map of the Somali region, yielding sizeable Somali inhabited territories to the Oromia Regional State.
     

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 .    

IV.         Recommendations:

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;

A   To promptly intervene and bring to an end the festering state of affairs of the region and effect the immediate dismissal of the incumbent leadership of the party and members of the executive committee.
B   To appoint an independent committee to investigate the performance of the regional officers allegedly involved in human rights violations and embezzlement of public funds and the adverse role of the Ministry of Federal Affairs.
C   To appoint immediately a Provisional Preparatory Committee (PPC) to manage the affairs of the region for an interim period (prior to the upcoming election) with the following terms of reference.
  1 To prepare a set of criteria for the selection of prospective participants of a regional conference to be convened for the formation of a new, viable and broad-based regional political party.
  2 To arrange the necessary preparations for the regional conference, select and screen participants based on established criteria and ensure wide-ranging representation of the general public to enable sense of ownership and devotion to the new party.
  3 To facilitate the regional conference in the process of selecting the Central Committee of the new party.
D   To facilitate a regional peace conference to be held within the region with the participation of all stakeholders – elders, women, intellectuals (in and outside the country).
E   To establish a joint technical group comprising intellectuals from both the Somali region and Federal Government to help bridge the cultural gap and misconceptions, minimise mutual suspicion and promote understanding and mutually-beneficial cooperative relationships between the region and the Federal Government.
F   To incorporate the new Somali regional party into the EPRDF to consolidate the amalgamation of the progressive forces in light of the emerging chauvinistic opposition parties in the national arena.

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

E-mail:elders_srse@yahoo.com

Annex A

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.

Regional Institution/ political position

Incumbent clan & zonal affiliation

Remarks

Chairman of SPDP

Issa, Shinile zone

Minister of Mines

President of Somali Region

Issa, Shinile zone

Accused of being a national of the Djibouti republic, he was expelled from the regional party in 1998.

Police Commissioner

Issa, Shinile zone

 

Head information Bureau

Issa, Shinile Zone

 
Head Trade Bureau Issa, Shinile Zone

 

Head Office of the Cabinet

Issa, Shinile Zone

The incumbent, Mohamed Sh. Adan, has been dismissed recently from the Dire Dawa Council Administration by the Minister of Federal Affairs due to alleged engagement in corruption

Head Water Enterprise

Oromo national

The incumbent is an Oromo national and a family relative of the President of the Somali Region. He is seconded from the office of the Oromia Water Enterprise.

Speaker of Parliament

Garre, Liban zone

 

Head Water Bureau

Garre, Liban zone

 

Head Revenue Bureau

Garre, Liban zone

 

Head Finance Bureau

Akishe, Jigjiga zone

 

Head Justice Bureau

Akishe, Jigjiga zone

 

Head Health Bureau

Karinle, Imey zone

 

Head DPPC Bureau

Jarso, Jigjiga zone

 

Head Food Security Bureau

Gadabursi, Jigjiga zone

 

Head Planning Bureau

Gariire, Afdher zone

 

Head Border Affairs Office

Gurre, Afder zone

 

Head Reform Office

Gurre, Afdher zone

 

Head Public Works bureau

Isaaq, Warder zone

 

Head Audit Office

Shekhaash, Jigjiga

 

Head Women Dev Fund

Hawiye, Godei zone

 

Head office of Irrigation Dev

Hawiye, Mogadishu

 

Head Public Mobilization

Shekhash, Jigjiga zone

 

Head Sports&Youth Bureau

Marexan, Liban zone

Darod

Head Cooperatives Bureau

Geri, Jigjiga zone

Darod

Head Agriculture Bureau

Ogaden, Godei zone

Darod

Head Capacity Building

Ogaden, Warder zone

Darod

Head Security sector

Ogaden, Dhegahbur

Darod

Head Education Bureau

Jidwaq, Jigjiga zone

Darod

END
By Elders & Intellectuals of the Somali Regional State of Ethiopia
Monday, July 7, 2005

E-mail:elders_srse@yahoo.com

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