As Oromo and Amhara Protests continue in and outside of Ethiopia, Somali, Afar, and other Ethiopian communities demonstrate support for national inclusivity and federalism.
Ethiopian-Somalis, both inside Ethiopia and abroad, have expressed vast concerns over the ongoing Amhara and Oromo Protests.
In Europe, Ethiopia and North America this past week[end] — there have been over five protests led by Ethiopian-Somali Diaspora communities denouncing Oromo Liberation Front (OLF/ONEG), Ginbot7 and all groups opposing Ethiopian solidarity. Also, Ethiopian-Somali Diaspora members and nationals assembled committees and publicly met on getting their voices heard, given that, in their opinion, ‘all narratives have [so far] been centralized on groups that do not express the legitimate concerns of Amhara and Oromo communities in Ethiopia.’
Ethiopia’s current system of federalism has paved substantial way, especially in the last decade, for the Somali Region to transition from poverty, political instability and marginalization to sustainable socio-economic development, environmental justice and influential presence in regional and national political spaces.
In Photos: Ethiopian-Somali Diaspora Community Members From Around the World Demonstrate against ONAG/ONEG/OLF and Ginbot7 groups and Display Support for Ethiopian Unity
Somali Region Overview:
- Somali Region is the second largest region in Ethiopia, a land area of around 280,000km.
- Somalis are the third largest ethnic group, making about 6.2% of the general population.
- Ethiopian Somali People’s Democratic Party (ESPDP) is the current ruling party in the Somali Region and holds twenty three (23) federal parliamentary seats.
Memories of Repression and Exclusion
Prior to Federalism and the overthrowing of the Derg Military Regime, the Somali Regional community faced irreversible displacement, land grabs, lack-of resources, conflict, famine, no sense of ownership, imprisonment and micro and macro levels of fear.
“During the Derg Regime, we did not have the right to live, let alone have the right to resources, self-governance or even proudly speak our native Somali language…those days were truly unbearable.” says Bisharo Ibrahim
Somali Regional natives were seen and treated as inferior under the Derg Military Regime and extremely isolated under Ethiopian Monarchies. As well, the Somali Region was hub for military bases and often systematically marginalized from all education, political, economic and social establishments.
‘During the early 1980s, the Somali Region was rendered a vast military zone. Ethiopian-Somalis often allude to the Derg’s rule over the Somali Region and the associated absence of social development as corresponding to ‘30 military camps and one high school.’ A short-lived façade of stability at the beginning of the 1980s was rudely disturbed by the 1983–84 famine. Deprived of traditional livelihood mechanisms of cross-border movement, trading, and cultivation, the Somali Region population plunged into a famine situation long before the whole country in 1984.’
‘Reversing over two decades of development, security and equality’
Many Ethiopian communities claim the ultimate aim of certain groups (ONEG/OLF, Ginbot7, etc) manipulating the current Oromo and Amhara protests is to de-stabilize and overturn the economic, social and political progress made in the last twenty five years. Before Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the Somali Region was debarred and disenfranchised from (right)fully participating in any institution of the country.
“The Somali Region is finally experiencing and enjoying equity in governmental representation, economic empowerment, development, security and social mobility,” Says President of the Somali Regional State, Abdi M. Omar
The diverse people of Ethiopia experience(d) and remember [history] differently; some label the current misunderstood protests as anti-Ethiopian unity movements, some view these demonstrations as a chance for Ethiopia to “change”. What is perplexing and insensitive is seeing the flag of the Derg Military Regime in large public protests, as a symbol of freedom or justice – when, in fact, that very same flag triggers dismay and trauma for families in the regions of Somali, Afar, Tigray, Oromo, Amhara and all of Ethiopia.
What is the Ethiopian Government doing to meet the demands of dissent?
According to a recent briefing from Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
- The Government is now conducting a series of widespread discussions, intensively engaging with various segments of the population, the youth, rural communities, religious communities and leaders, political parties and others.
- The Government is taking note of lessons to be learnt from recent events. The country is moving into a new period allowing the country’s transformation and development to continue with a changed and improved momentum.
- The Ethiopian public is showing interest and concern to use legitimate channels, via debates and discussions, to put issues on the table, and provide acceptable solutions. From now on, Ethiopia can expect issues, problems, difficulties to be resolved in a committed and determined manner with administration and people working closely together.
It is undeniable that a few people have hijacked local resistance and discourse for their own glory or gain, such as CEO of Oromo Media Network (OMN), Jawar Mohammed. It is also true that homegrown dissent need a more plausible platform to express their needs, concerns and peacefully mobilize sustainable change. The Ethiopian Government is doing their best to address and meet the objectives of protesters but there is always room for improvement. Collective actions must be taken to strengthen institutions and communities so that resources are additionally mobilized, palpable representation is further equalized, land disputes are sensibly resolved and, ultimately, Ethiopian federalism and constitutional rights are extensively (and lawfully) comprehended and practiced.
By: Hafsa Mohamed