By Mohamed Bakayr
The Somali region of Ethiopia has been affected by both external and internal injustices and is faced with dismal situations, some of which have been created by its own people. On one level, Ethiopia’s successive regimes have traditionally marginalized the Somali region of Ethiopia and made the region’s population peripheral to other Ethiopians; as a result, the region has remained to be one of the least developed regions of the entire country. In fact, for about one hundred years until the advent of the current administration, the Somali region had grossly been marginalized and boxed into a corner, but one may not gather from this statement that the current Ethiopian administration is a utopian one for the region’s population, far from it. Truly, all basic human necessities are in short supply in the region. For instance, more than seventy percent of the region’s population cannot gain access to potable water, let alone other basic necessities such as food and medicine. In addition to the marginalization and destitution, Ethiopia has collectively punished the region’s population for a long time. As reports compiled in this ending year indicate-- in some towns of the region, residents were murdered, maimed and raped at alarming rates-- and Ethiopian soldiers were reported to have carried out these inhumane actions inflicted on the defenseless civilians. One should not murder and maim the very people that one purports to protect and promote their conditions!
On the other level, there have been internal elements from within the region whose aims have been to divide and disjoint the region’s people, and prevent them from any progress they may aspire to. Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) is a case in point. This organization is bent on dividing the region’s population on the basis of an imperialistic name, a name that doesn’t embody identities and interests of the region’s residents. The name ‘Ogaden’ was invented by a colonial system whose aim was to divide, dismember and deride the Somali people in the region, and of course, dividing the region’s population on the basis of an ‘imperialist invented name’ is outmoded and colonial mentality. It is a matter of fact that Ogaden clan is the biggest and most powerful Somali clan in the region, but this does not mean the region ought to be named after a clan, thereby depriving the region’s other Somali clans of their identities and ancestral roots. Hence, the name ‘Ogaden’ is discriminatory because it is not an inclusive name that can represent and reflect the inhabitants’ identities and interests.
Contrary to what it claims, ONLF pulls its guns on innocent civilians and terrorizes them on a regular basis. Evidences for this argument are numerous and evident in many places of the region. Oble and Dannood massacres are two examples. On April 24, 2007, ONLF, while people were asleep, launched a spiritless attack on Zhongyuan Petroleum, a Chinese oil company whose mandate was to survey whether some parts of Jarar Valley contained some kinds of crude oil.
In the night of April 24, 2007, 74 workers for this china owned, oil digging company were cold-bloodedly murdered in Obele town, which is 120 kilometers south of the Somali region’s capital, Jigjiga. Nine of the slain workers were Chinese, while the remaining sixty-five workers were Ethiopian labourers, thirty of whom were Somali-Ethiopians. Although ONLF took the lives of many innocent civilians in that eventful night, and took credit with the massacre, it brought great sorrows to many beleaguered families whose livelihood depended on the slain workers. Similarly, the destructive organization murdered and maimed tons of innocent people in Wardheer zone, where residents had already been plagued by successive droughts. In this zone, the organization murdered and maimed traditional chiefs, religious figures and innocent fathers, raising poverty-stricken families. These are just two examples of the organization’s atrocities in the region, but brutalities carried out by the pitiless organization and inflected on the beleaguered population in the region are numerous and cannot be contained in this short article. Unfortunately, slaying innocent people, blowing up and annihilating vehicles carrying medical supplies for needy people have become an integral part of ONLF’s behaviour.
Another injustice inflicted on some segments of the region’s population is how the Somali region’s current administration dispenses the region’s affairs. The administration’s indifference to some localities is, indeed, beyond imagination. Abdullahi Hassan (Lugbuur) is the region’s President; however, his regime is anything but a just system. Being the president of the region and accountable to the region’s entire inhabitants, President Lugbuur is supposed to be fair and furthering needs of the region’s different zones and segments, whether these zones and segments share tribal bonds with him or not. However, the President has discriminated against some segments of the region by distancing them from public offices and destabilizing their constituencies. In fact, President Abdullahi Hassan’s administration has been blind to compelling needs that some of the region’s towns face and experience.
Araarso is one of the towns that suffer from the administration’s injustice; it seems that the town has been embargoed. The town is one of Dhagaxbuur zone’s localities, but has not been able to be recognized as a full district. The town, with a population of fifty thousand, has everything that can make it a fully functioning, independent district. It has schools, medical centers, community policing services, and farming corporations. Counting on the efforts of its concerned people, whether they live locally or overseas, Araarso town has achieved huge developments, yet despite the town’s unprecedented achievement, President Abdullahi Hassan’s administration has neither recognized Araarso town nor convinced it why it cannot be recognized as an independent, fully functioning district! Apparently, it appears that the town has been bullied and pushed aside by its stronger brother. President Abdullahi Hassan and his close associates must not blind themselves to stark reality that is in front of their eyes. The stark reality is the fact that Araarso has all components that can make it a fully functioning district.
The Somali region of Ethiopia is suffering from both internal and external injustices, but the region may not break free from the injustices unless all the region’s inhabitants are treated equally and reminded of their shared bonds and brotherhood, and unless the region’s residents are constantly reminded of their rights that Ethiopia owes them; but despite the shortcomings of the region’s regime all peace and progress loving people must contribute to the betterment of the region’s conditions, or else the region will forever languish in dismal situations and undesirable circumstances. Likewise, the current region’s administration led by President Abdullahi Lugbuur ought to administer the region’s affairs justly and work tirelessly so as to meet the region’s different needs and concerns. Lastly, all exclusive names that can not pull all the regions’ residents together and represent their identities and interests must be shunned, for the exclusive names will weaken the Somali people in the region and widen their differences.
Mohamed Bakayr can be reached at:
e-Mail: [email protected]