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To redress injustice, and increase the visibility of Somalis amongst Ethiopians, a national reconcil

To redress injustice, and increase the visibility of Somalis amongst Ethiopians, a national reconciliation conference should be held in Jigjiga

I returned from the Diaspora after the formation of the ‘New Ethiopia’ in mid-2018, full of hope and optimism at the great political transformation in Ethiopia.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was leading a new reform-oriented government. The idea of a rediscovered Ethiopia was being preached from Addis Ababa, music to the ears of millions of Ethiopians within the country and abroad. Abiy’s focus was liberalizing the economy and promoting unity amongst the country’s more than 80 ethnic groups. Closer to home for me, Mustafa Muhummed Omer had taken over the seat of Somali Regional State (SRS) presidency from the notorious Abdi Iley who had ruled the region for eight years. It was a time of hope and confidence

Sadly, it wasn’t shared by everyone.

Jigjiga, capital city of the SRS, is some 600 kilometers away from Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa. By the time I had reached there, my optimism was fading. The ‘Ethiopianism’ preached in Addis Ababa does not percolate into the ears of the ordinary citizens in Jigjiga, which even today scarcely deserves the name of city. The language of the federal government and lingua franca, Amharic, is hardly spoken here. There is little attachment to other Ethiopians.

Apart from the language, segregation between Somalis and other Ethiopians can be seen in most activities in the city. Despite living in the same neighborhoods, the two groups hardly mingle. I see little or no socializing, and when it occurs, it stems from necessity. There is the dotted line of a boundary of mistrust and suspicion that exists in the mindset of the people as a result of decades of war and conflict.

The SRS has been a theatre of political turmoil since the 1977–78 Ethiopian-Somali war. The war, perhaps inevitably, portrayed Somalis as enemies of Ethiopia, but this extended even to Ethiopian-Somalis, Somalis living in Ethiopia. The civil war in Somalia itself further dented the image of Somalis, promoting stereotypes—Somalis were ‘unreliable’  and ‘dangerous’. These negative clichés became the basis for human rights abuses orchestrated or encouraged by Addis-based governments. Little effort, and little progress has  been made over the years to define or encourage Ethiopian-Somali identity within Ethiopian nationality; unsurprisingly, the region has been regarded as simply a source of problems. Read more...



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