Ethiopia is voting today, but the Somali Regional State isn’t partaking in the election. The country is voting to elect a new government, but the Somali regional state has been excluded due to pre-electoral fraud, according to a statement issued by The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE). The region is one of ten regions that make up Ethiopia and the second largest one. Although not officially counted, it’s said the region’s population is about eight million people.
The region’s history is replete with killing, torture, starvation, and humiliation of varied sorts and scales. And its people had waged long, bloody struggles against Ethiopia based on separation; but the country has always considered the region to be an integral part of it. However, the Somali region’s people have been treated differently, as second-class citizens, unpatriotic people who don’t deserve a significant place in Ethiopia.
This current election attests to this argument. Why the region isn’t participating in today’s election? What is the reason? Put it simply. Ethiopia doesn’t put that much emphasis on the Somali region due to numerous facts. First, Ethiopia has always suspected the region’s true patriotism; second, it considers the region to be a place devoid of intellectuals capable of governing their people; third, the region’s population isn’t committed to demanding its rightful place in the country.
The Somali regional state was disqualified to take part in today’s election based on a complaint put forth by Somali opposition groups. But NEBE didn’t investigate the complaint on time to rectify the situation quickly. Instead, it waited and waited until it’s too close to an election date. Then it issued a statement saying that some electoral fraud was committed in towns of the region, so the Somali region couldn’t be part of the June 21 election.
The Prosperity Party (PP) initiated by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is poised for victory in the country and the Somali region. How it will lead the country has sparked a contentious debate. The Somali region’s current administration dissolved its former Somali Democratic Party and embraced the Prosperity Party’s ideology, which is unclear to the region’s people. Established on December 1, 2019, this party is fond of Pan-Ethiopianism, a term pregnant with centralism, and collectivism, creating fear concerning the ethnic identity and ethnic federalism.
Many people view the party to be an entity aimed at fighting the country’s already adopted ethnic federalism, but the region’s president Mustafe Omar dismissed the fear and assured the Somali people that neither the ethnic federalism nor their heritage and cultural identity will be rescinded.
The PP is poised to win the region’s expected election, but Somali opposition leaders are still doubtful of having a free and fair election in the region. They accuse the party of preventing them from proper campaigning and getting deserved resources for the election. On numerous occasions, both the region’s leaders and the opposition parties exchanged spiteful debates, each one accusing the other of mismanagement and mean manners.
As said, the Somali region’s postponed election will be held in September of this year. The region is abundant with natural resources, and that’s why Ethiopia is hung up on it. But the country doesn’t give the region’s residents their rightful place and recognition.
They aren’t visible in the country’s federal institutions and don’t hold enough big positions. Also, other Ethiopian communities don’t know that much about the Somali region and its many big towns. Even Ethiopia’s media doesn’t report much on what occurs in the region. If they do, they corrupt the names of cities and towns. All they could write correctly are towns such as Jigjiga (the region’s capital) and Godey.
Compared to its history, the region is currently stable, save clashes that occur between clans. And the credit goes to fronts that put down their weapons and preferred peaceful dealings and procedures to battlefields.
The Somali region will always need a force that can pull its various tribes together. And this force can’t be a hegemonic one, but one with a shared mandate from all the region’s residents. Excluding the region from today’s election shows how far it’s for the Somali people to catch up and play a significant role in Ethiopia’s politics.