The Somali Region of Ethiopia in Evolution

If the Somali region of Ethiopia had not evolved from an imperial empire to partial democracy, many Somalis would have ceased hope and optimism. To begin with, the Somali region of Ethiopia has gone through several stages, and it has journeyed from a horrid empire to incomplete democracy. In fact, the people of the region realized that they were not the masters of their lands when the spiteful empire draped its murky curtains on them, and dark nights surrounded the inhabitants of the land. Before that, they did not have any mentionable contact, allegiance, or relationship with Ethiopia. In other words, it was emperor Haile Salaise who officially annexed the region to Ethiopia.

The emperor secured one ploy the instant he gained full control of the entire region: to divide the Somalis in the region and make them harm each other on a regular basis. But how did the malicious emperor undermine the unity of the people? He did so by inventing names for them and making them squabble over these names tirelessly. Haile Salaise-along with Britain, the supreme colonialist of Africa at the time made sure to sow seeds of hatred among the Somali people in the region and elsewhere as well. Therefore, he segmented the region into tiny portions and gave them a number of names, including Hararge, Ogaden, to mention but a few.

Truthfully, these names have never represented the population in the region, let alone unite them. To put it bluntly, the names that the despotic emperor planted in the Somali region of Ethiopia have been akin to perilous mines that might explode at any time. Moreover, the imperialist invented names are likely to weaken the respect that the brethren of the land have had for each other. And anyone who believes that the inhabitants of the region can be united under one of the above-stated names must be hallucinating. Yes, for some, especially those who are intolerant to debates and freedom of expression, this article seems to be taking a toll. For others, it is a virtual reality that deserves complete respect and gratitude. On the whole, the aforesaid names might be ruinous to the thread that binds the brethren of the region together.

While Haile Sallaise was admired and adored by the vast majority of the Ethiopian people, the Somali region’s inhabitants loathed the emperor and longed for his immediate downfall, partly because he betrayed them in every aspect of their situation, in their integrity, education, economy, etc. Only a few Somali individuals could get a suitable education; nonetheless, the educated ones were powerless, for anyone who was committed to furthering the cause of his people were either locked up or assassinated. Abdullahi Bade, a well-educated Somali man who graduated from one of Ethiopia’s most prestigious universities, suffices to serve as a clear example. He was appointed as the governor of the then Hararge region and served his Somali people in the best possible manner, but his life was put to an end by the cannibal regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam.

Abdullahi Bade, Hararge Region Governor (the man in the silver eyeglasses) 1972 picture

When Mengistu came to power, he destroyed and outlawed the majestic empire, introduced a socialist system to Ethiopia, and displaced huge numbers of Somalis from their homes. Yes. He carved an oppressive military regime out of an unkind empire, an empire that divided and disdained the Somali populace in the region. The horrible regime decapitated countless numbers of innocent Somalis in the region and drove others out of their birthplaces. The inhabitants of the region were victimized on a daily basis, without apparent reason. Indeed, the Dirge regime detested the name “Somali”, and the Somali people could not use their own mother tongue in public in some towns of the region; furthermore, Mengistu’s soldiers, who were seemingly recruited to defend the country from external threats, turned their guns on the population that they were to serve. Add to this the intimidation that was unleashed upon the region’s residents. The regime’s soldiers used to come to livestock markets and confiscate whatever animal they desired.

As for the present time, although the region is one of the most underdeveloped in Ethiopia and has dismal human rights records, it is the first time in Ethiopia’s history that the Somali people in the region get involved in elections, politics, and parliamentary discussions. No one can deny this fact unless one is blindfolded. Of course, the fairness of these elections is another debatable matter. During Haile Salaise and Mengistu times, neither elections nor Somali elected representatives were known in the region. Now, there are hundreds and hundreds of Somali representatives who are part of the country’s system. They are elected to represent their respective communities and help improve the conditions of their people; however, many of them are indifferent to the needs of their towns and communities. The region’s representatives stay in Jigjiga, the region’s capital, throughout the year, and they seem disinclined to return to their towns so as to serve their electorate. This phenomenon might remind one of Somalia’s situation, before the disintegration, where everybody wanted to live in Mogadishu.

Unfortunately, those who are entrusted to develop their communities and dispose of the region’s affairs properly do the opposite. Instead of developing their people’s standard of living, these so-called Somali representatives prey on impoverished children and helpless women. The numbers of developmental projects carried out in the region are not proportionate with the annual budget that the region gets from the federal government; hence, the region is not as developed as many people would have wished it to be. It is lagging behind because its administrators are riddled with corruption, nepotism, and self-interest. It seems that their personal gains (administrators) outweigh the interest of the starving, sick and uneducated people in the area. In short, these commissioners are corrupt to the bone.

If division, disrespect, and dispute would avail anyone, it availed Somalia. Somalia has gone into wreck and ruin because its people have failed to realize their common interests. The inhabitants of the Somali region of Ethiopia ought to mend their differences and understand their common interests and brotherhood. It is time for them to abandon their egotistic attitudes and strengthen their bonds. As for the administrators of the region, they are accountable for their actions and will be held responsible for their deeds, be they good or evil. Let them wake up and administer the region’s affairs properly.  

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