Thursday, January 28, 2021
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A Letter to Fanuel, Ethiopian TV Journalist

From Faisal Roble

Dear Fanuel,

I send to you my warmest greetings from Los Angeles, California, especially on the commemoration of “journalists’ day,” which was yesterday. I know the profession of journalism carries many risks and thank you and the worldwide journalists who conduct this necessary mission under difficult circumstances.

I have watched two of your interviews with Somali opposition personalities with much interest. Before I raise my concerns with the issues raised in your show, let me introduce myself to you. My name is Faisal Roble. I was born and raised in Jigjiga. I belong to the [younger side] tortured generation of EPRP, a generation that believed in a revolutionary politics based on class struggle and the rights of nations and nationalities. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000, I was a contributing editor of the Ethiopian Review magazine and The Horn of Africa Journal. Just to complete my short bio for you, I am a founding member and former editor-in-chief of As you can see, I share some values and interests with you especially in the consumption of news and disseminate and encourage debates.

Let me come to the central idea of my letter. Your two interviews with two gentlemen (Mr. Hamare and Geedi) from the Somali region was needed and encourage you to do more of these in the future. Having said that, I was disturbed to listen some of the baseless charges leveled against Mustafa. This may come as a surprise to many who have known my position vis-a viz Mustafa. But let me state the issues that disturbed me and how your guests did not come to you with a sense of honest critique of Mustafa and his administration. And here are my issues:

The issue of corruption: It is undeniable that there is corruption in the region. Corruption exists both at political representation as well as steeling government money. No one can deny that. For example, political representation at the local and national parliament level should be based on population. But that is not how the region’s people are represented. This does not align with the constitution. And this problem should be addressed locally and be solved. Also, corruption is thriving in the country as well as all in the nine regions and Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is going through tough times and corruption thrives during uncertainty (you also recognized this conundrum in your interview). From political economic point of view, corruption is usually more than the behavior of individuals. It reflects the level of development and the strength or lack of “rule of law.” In that respect, the Somali region is struggling with corruption.

The total collapse of the previous administration and some key institutions after Abdi Muhumed Omar (Abdi Ilay) was ousted facilitated an already institutionalized corruption to thrive. But the charges stating billions of bir being lost is a hard charge to believe. As you said, the government of Ethiopia knows every stone turned up and where every secret is hidden. To that, there is a Somali saying that “the Habashi government is full of ‘jaajuus’ or ‘jooro dabi’ and knows everything that happens.” We should bring either proof of such a huge amount of monies lost or argue on a general theory to explain the trail of such lost monies. If not, we need your guests to maintain a general critic of corruption and suggest solutions.

The other charge against him that Deputy President Mustafa is “pro-greater Somalia is simply preposterous and nonsensical opportunistic charge. To the contrary, Mustafa is pro-greater Ethiopia. I waged ideological war with Mustafa because of my differences with him on the issue of whether he is more inclined to pro-Ethiopian unity at the expense of Somali rights. Simply put, Mustafa is not seeking to advance the idea of “Greater Somalia,” despite that this is an ingrained value in all Somalis. Neither is he working towards seceding the Somali region from the rest of Ethiopia. On the contrary, his viewpoint on Ethiopia is clearly stated both at international and national forums. As a matter of fact, many Somalis including myself accuse Mustafa of dolling a pan-Ethiopian viewpoint that is very aligned with groups like Ginbot 7 and the now defunct Medhin organization led by the erstwhile former foreign minister of Ethiopia, Mr. Goshu Wolde.

Mustafa argues for a rare viewpoint among Somali intellectuals that attempts to reconciles two often juxtaposed and hostile identities, and that is being Somali and Ethiopian at the same time. Most of us find that line of argument to be very difficult, and we believe history is on our side. However, Mustafa on the other hand, grandiosely dreams to see a day when a Somali is as equal of an Ethiopian citizen as the next Amhara or Oromo. Some of us find that naïve. Mustafa things this is a “work in progress” and is achievable. Therefore, accusing Mustafa of fanning and peddling the idea of “Greater Somalia” is nothing more than the usual Habasha wanjel. I for one could be rightly accused of that charge; Mustafa cannot, except this being used as a cheap shot or “wanjel.” I think Fanuel you yourself sensed that charge being a cheap blow as shown in your repeated revisit of the issue with a bewilderment.

I found that folks to cry over not being members of PP to be childish, opportunistic and a reflection of a totalitarian political culture. My brothers who shed tears for not being selected to be part of the ruling party seem to only be after power. Is it because they love PP so much that they would go at any length to be included, or because they have concluded that just like TPLF/EPRDF, PP is the vehicle to get closer to the power corridors? Why does any sane man cry over not being part of PP’s elite? On the contrary, PP should be begging them to be part of their part.

The answer is simple. PP is now the mother of power, and they want to be in the PP tent. If they want to be politically active and help the Somali masses in the region, they have options and alternative venues to participate in the political process: they can join ONLF which is Mustafa’s competition. There are also other parties in the region that they can join. But to shed crocodile’s tears over a seat at the PP central committee is again a reflection a totalitarian political believe system. Do they really love PP so much so that they would shed tears? I refuse to believe that.

Finally, the question of clan conflict in Salaxad and Raso was and will be here with or without Mustafa. I found it disturbing to hear these folks now raising eyebrows about a conflict that is only two days old when they were silent when conflicts were raging and death of innocent civilians were mounting on the outskirts of Jigjiga (Tuliguuleed), Babile, Moyale, Sitti and elsewhere. Especially the Salaxad and Raso conflict is about more than 14 years old and it just got flared up because of misunderstanding on an inter-clan marriage related issue. If any, this is a sad saga unique to Somalis and the mode of production of this clan-based society. Now the issue is spilled over to Mogadishu. No sane Somali should blame this on Mustafa.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate you for giving the opposition individuals a forum to air their grievances. However, they better be serious political players and stop trying to be cadres of a party that is evolving into a mega autocratic party. They should compete with Mustafa and raise real issues their masses care about, not on issue of “wanjal” which does not go far enough to reflect the hearts and minds of the Somali nation.

Faisal A. Roble
Email: [email protected]
Faisal Roble, a writer, political analyst and a former Editor-in-Chief of WardheerNews, is mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region. He is currently the Principal Planner for the City of Los Angeles in charge of Master Planning, Economic Development and Project Implementation Division.

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