Touring the West and speaking to diaspora community will do little to restore confidence in the condition of the Somali region of Ethiopia and may not change facts on the ground. During these last weeks of August 2009, a high ranking delegation from the Somali region of Ethiopia is touring Europe and North America in an effort to convince the region’s diaspora community that peace and prosperity prevail in the region and that its citizens can return to the region to invest in whatever industry they desire.
The delegation led by AbdulfatahSheikh Abdullahi Yare– head of Somali People’s Democratic Party (SPDP), the region’s ruling party– is meeting with the region’s diaspora community in order to convey their message and update the diaspora community on the region’s present situation.
The Somali region of Ethiopia, with a population of 4.5 million people, is one of the most marginalized regions of Ethiopia. The vast majority of the region’s population don’t gain access to the basic necessities of life, while the region’s annual budget is a hefty one. Basically, the region’s residents are dependent on two sources of livelihood: livestock and farming. However and due to constant droughts, Loss of livestock is a major concern in many parts of the region on a regular basis; and in the event of losing their source of livelihood; those who are dependent on livestock for survival are forced to seek refuge in major towns, where they can’t eke out a living due to numerous factors. Similarly, the region’s residents whose livelihood relies on farming are continually plagued by rainless seasons, so they become unable to cultivate their fields and feed their families; but when they get good rains which enable them to cultivate their fields, they do so primitively because they don’t get farming equipments from the region’s administration.
Over the past two decades of its autonomy, the region’s subsequent administrations have been blind to the plight and suffering of the region’s population, and a political culture based on corruption and nepotism has permeated the entire region. According to the region’s revenues and resources, the residents aren’t proportionately benefiting; rather, countless numbers of the residents die of hunger and lack of water yearly. Funds intended for the development of the region’s beleaguered population are often pocketed by individuals to satisfy their lusts.
Collective punishment is carried out in the region continuously; and apart from the devastating droughts and hunger in the region, innocent civilians are often killed, arrested and jailed without just cause. In fact, Ethiopia is known to have the worst prisons in Africa, prisons whose inmates are not seen again. Many people from the region are languishing in the Ethiopian prisons and have been unable to get a fare trail. This is a country whose constitution purportedly values human beings’ dignity and their security.
For instance, in December of 2008, an entire hamlet of the Araarso district was obliterated based on false premises stating that the hamlet was a helping hand to so-called freedom fighters. Over fifty men from the hamlet were massacred on one night; it was a gruesome genocide perpetrated by the region’s administration. No camera captured the awful genocide, no media reported on it, nobody presented the victims case to the outside world and none of the genocide perpetrators has been brought to justice to answer their heinous crimes. What a justice! What a democracy!
On the other hand, those who claim to be fighting for the region’s cause do at the same time inflict colossal damages on the region’s residents. Unfortunately, the residents are caught in the crossfire and between two rivals: the region’s administration and its opposing fronts.
Not everything of the region’s situation is doom and gloom. Although the region’s people are not getting what they are supposed to be getting from Ethiopia, there are numerous developmental projects carried out in the Somali region of Ethiopia, some of which are very vital for the residents’ wellbeing. Intermediate schools have been set up in most of the region’s districts; hence, many Somali families are able to send their children to schools taught in Somali by Somalis. This itself is a great achievement which can’t be denied at all. In addition, the first university was launched in the region and is now operational; Jigjiga University teaches and trains hundreds of Somali students from all over the region’s different districts. Similarly, roads that can make the residents life easier have been built in some parts of the region.
The aim of the region’s delegation is to present the region’s condition differently, but their presentation and message may not make a big difference. The diaspora community is already aware of the region’s situation, so the delegation’s talk and its message may not sway them that much. Apparently, the diaspora community will remain divided along two lines: a section that will fully support the region’s administration and another section that will protest the delegation’s presence