Ethiopia’s communal violence augments since Abiy Ahmed Ali takes the office in April last year. Positively, he has made peace with Eritrea, expedited a conciliatory hand to opponents, and pledged moves to free and fair elections, expanded political space, women participation in the political atmosphere and economic reform. But in the mean time, insecurity proliferates, culture of impunity is so rife, the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) mounts and the economy volatiles. Though, the youngest leader of Africa makes some trajectory towards the economic privatization, political transformation in the horn, historic peace agreement with Eritrea and talks with the Ethiopian oppositions the so-called OLF, ONLF and Ginbot 7. With all these positive changes, there are also enormous mistakes that had taken place under Abiy’s watch and debilitated all his positives.
Somalis and Oromo
There is a long standing friction among the two neighboring communities so-called Somalis and Oromo since while. The two communities were contesting the administration of the Diredawa city which results plenty of conflicts among them. When Abiy takes the office, Oromo paramilitary troops accelerated and increased their enmity against the gullible Somali community in Ethiopia. This temerity and envious decision took Oromo as longest Abiy; the prime minister belongs to their ethnicity. Oromo commits genocide and ethnic cleansing against their neighbor Somalis, and Abiy’s government gives no attention towards this blatant and atrocities which his community in origin is doing.
Qaloji camp hosts 100,000 Somali’s IDPs
This IDPs camp is located on the outskirts of Jigjiga, the capital city of the Somali region, and hosts thousands of Somali internally displaced people who expelled from their land after Oromo implements wave of attacks against the cherubic Somali community in Ethiopia.
Infamous Lemma Magersa, federal minister of defense since 18 April this year, previously the president of the Oromia region, is the one who is responsible most of the atrocities implemented by Oromo paramilitary troops against Somalis.
Let me share with you a very painful story, one day 18 women and children of Somalis being locked inside a building that was set alight, and then all of them were burn alive. This appalling and inhuman action done by Oromo ethnic group, and the government kept silent. This disparity and culture of impunity is so rife nowadays in Ethiopia. So, the gross human rights violations that Oromo is committing are ample and crystal clear.
Somalis and Afar communal conflict
Since the last months, there is blatant and ample conflict between the two communities who are resembling each other Somalis and Afar. The two communities share plenty of things including the appearance, culture, dress, cuisine and etc. additionally, they both belong the Cushitic languages. Furthermore, Afar inhabits Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, while Somalis inhabits Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.
On the other hand, the loggerheads and dichotomy among Somalis and Afar traces back these contested three areas Candhayto, Candhufto & Garbo-Ciise. Both sides claim the administration of these areas.
Different clashes happened between the two communities which belatedly propelled to deploy the federal government troops to quell new eruption of deadly ethnic clashes in the country’s north.
The other side of the coin, In an extraordinary meeting it held on May 03 in Jigjiga city, the cabinet of Somali Regional State unilaterally withdrew from a 2014 agreement transferring three towns to Afar regional state and nullified the agreement. The SRS’s cabinet rebuked the previous agreement among Afar and Somalis which gives Afar these contested areas. Also, the incumbent administration in the Somali region emphasized that, this agreement has no base under the federal constitution, and those permitted this residential areas were contrabandist under the cover of Afar Regional State. Because, these areas are fully dominated by Somalis who don’t want to be under Afar Regional State. This intrepid decision made by the Somali Regional State’s cabinet came after 11 Somali pastoralists were killed by Afar regional state Special Forces.
Afar ethnic group was getting moral support after Aisha Mohamed Mussa, a civil engineer who is originated from Afar was appointed the first Ethiopian women the minister of defense Oct 2018-April 2019. After Abiy made his third cabinet reshuffle within a year, she was appointed minister of Urban Development and Construction.
Cagjar and Addis Standard
The deputy and acting president of the Somali region his Excellency Mustafa Cagjar was giving an interview with the Addis Standard during first days in this month. Addis Standard quoted a statement which Cagjar said during BBC debate which the president himself participated. He said “ Ethiopia is more stable than before one year”, Addis Standard asked him, why do you think so? Because, as you know and I do as well, since Abiy takes the office the displacement peaked, the security is fragile both the federal and some of the regional states, the communal violence increased, the law and order is weakening. Cagjar, while persisting his temerity response said, I said because, I was talking about beyond the displacement. He adds, a year and two year ago, the federal troops and regional Special Forces were destabilizing the country. Some political pundits believe that, the president was indicating the previous administration in the country led by Tigray ethnic group (TPLF), and his predecessor’s administration in the Somali region, especially (Liyuu Police). In the mean time, Cagjar says” currently we don’t have armed oppositions against the government , OLF, ONLF , Ginbot 7 and other movements are ready to participate the political landscape in the country peacefully” so, we are getting better and more stable than a year ago. Furthermore, the president mentioned that, the country is vanquishing the culture of impunity for the last one year. If this is veracity, why notorious Lemma megersa, current minister of defense, previously president of the Oromia region is yet flexing his muscles? Lemma is the one who committed tremendous human rights violations in the country; especially he is the one behind the killings of thousands of Somali innocent people.
So, what type of improvement the president is telling the world as far as Lemma is in the government? As longest Lemma Megersa is free, the culture of impunity remains.
The other side of the table, the president himself confirms that, there is 1.3 million internally displaced people in the country during the first year of his big brother’s government Abiy, so if things are so good why they are so bad? We can see there is a conflation. Cagjar is shying away to admit the bad things they committed under their watch, while demonizing their predecessors as an antidote. Again, the president quoted “Communal violence and displacement are not a precursor for a very bad future; they are the residues of a very bad past” still the president is applying scapegoating and loophole policy in order to dodge confessing these sticky wicket under their watch, which leads ultimately into elephant in the room.
The other side of the coin, Cagjar rebukes EPRDF, which the ruling part in the country for the last 27 years, and yet is still in power. He says, most of the communal violence, politics of resentment, enmity among the communities, state oppression were taken place under the watch of EPRDF. So, the big question is, Abiy was part of the previous administration led by Meles Zenawi, and additionally EPRDF is still ruling the country, so what is the difference? You can see how the president’s speech is contradicting each other dude.
Though, Cagjar says that, Ethiopian federal government and his regional administration is both applying “Maximum Restraints” against the dissidents, but this is not true indeed. Because, the federal troops were targeted enormous times the Oromo Liberation Front’s troops (OLF) while, they were encamping their troops as part of the peace agreement with Ethiopian government. In the regional level, Cagjar’s government tended targeting specific tribes as retaliatory actions, arresting well-known traditional elders. So, is that maximum restraints? Of course not, it’s self-defeating.
Last Sunday 19 this month, the Ethiopia federal troops with armed vehicle known as locally (UURAAL) destroyed wittingly tuk-tuk (Bajaj) with 7 passengers, 5 of them died on the spot, while the two others injured badly in Kabridahar under Korahey region. So, we can realize how, the Ethiopian government is applying ruthless and relentless policy against the Somali innocent people in their own soil.
The Addis Standard also, asked the president the political future of the Somali Democratic Party (SDP), whether the Somali region’s party can have a space for the ruling party in the country the so-called EPRDF? , Cagjar didn’t respond adequately. Because, EPRDF conglomerates only four parties from four regional states namely Amhara kilil, Tigray kilil, Oromia kilil and Southern Nationalities kilil. So, Somali region’s party is not in the room, and there are also other four regional states which don’t have political representation in EPRDF. So far, EPRDF bestrides only 4 regional states out of 9 regional states, and from here we can see disparity. As marked 2020 upcoming election in Ethiopia will be free and fair election, so how the election becomes free and square as far as the political arena in the country is overarching only single party for the last three decades? It’s incompatible.
The most dumfounding response was, when the Addis Standard asked the president “Are you recommending the gradual phasing out of the so-called regional Special Forces?, he says “Yes, definitely. I recommend the gradual phasing out of these regional Special Forces.
This reckless and immature respond shocked the people. Because, he suggests disbanding (LIYUU POLICE), if this happens, then it will be easy the Ethiopian federal troops, especially Oromo paramilitary gunmen to invade and dominate the Somali’s region which is catastrophe.
UNESCO awards Abiy which is Hocus-Pocus!
The sickening was when UNESCO awards Abiy the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Prize for Peace in 02 may this year. They justified that, Abiy was the driving force behind the peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Yes indeed, but on the other hand, Abiy fails the internal politics of his country. Tremendous internally displaced people can be seen in the country, the communal violence peaks. Ethiopia tops global list of highest internal displacement in 2018, more than 1.4 million forced to flee their homes as published Internally Displaced Monitoring Centre (IDMC).
So, Abiy hoodwinks the world for his window dressing activities, but the reality on the ground is too different.
Anwar Abdifatah Bashir (Freelance Journalist/Independent Researcher and Horn of Africa Geopolitics Analyst)