The Success Story of Ethiopian-Somali Region (Elyas Elmi Abdi)
Ethiopian Somali region is a young autonomous government within the federal system. Facts don’t change Somali people of Ethiopia in the history have never been included in previous administrations. Since the overthrow of the DERG, and introduction of autonomy within the federal system of Ethiopia, self-governance was a new phenomenon. The Somali region of Ethiopia known as DDSI has slowly evolved in good governance, development, and political maturity. History indicates the challenge in governing diverse ethnic groups but President Abdi Mohamoud Omar took the challenge in a unified nationalistic approach to succeed in political stability, peace, and development. He became like a father figure with unprecedented support and confidence from the public across the board.
Currently, he is leading the region with clear vision in economic development, good governance, and security. The people of Somali region (DDSI) have benefitted from the fastest growing economy through job creation taking place in every sector of the region. The use of natural resource like water management through irrigation system and building reservoir for agricultural purpose is successful.
The president spear heading has ambitious plan in lifting the people out of poverty. He takes time talking to ordinary people and listen to their concern. I can’t think of a leader carrying loads of food supply distributing to natural disaster victims. While agriculture and livestock are helpful, the untapped natural resources like oil and natural gas exploration will boost the economy in exporting through the port of Djibouti. Pastoralist communities across the region are producing cash crops using water pumps supplied by state and implementation of modern agricultural training by qualified personnel benefiting communities.
Projects are not limited to agriculture, but also infrastructure like roads and bridged connecting towns making it easier for people to move around. President Abdi Mohamoud Omar and many young energetic leaders personally monitor all progress of projects. The historic fact is previously the region lagged in education because of marginalization and lack of investment. Currently, all professionals are well trained in universities across Ethiopia taking part in development programs. The structure of the government, parliament, civil service, and military functionality is impressive. President Abdi Mohamoud Omar and his government are determined in confronting socio economic challenges that no one has ever attempted in the history of the region.
What was the role of Ethiopian Somalis in previous administrations of Ethiopia? We can definitely say none existence. I am expressing my views growing up in two previous administrations. Despite being the majority, Ethiopian Somalis were excluded from the power sharing. It is evident the people in power always came from other parts of Ethiopia. Growing up in Jigjiga, I have never witnessed Somalis working in offices and attending high school in number during my time in Jigjiga.
There were some Somalis attending primary schools just to disappear during Ethio-Somali war. There has always been tension and mistrust because of lack of inclusion to the system. What was the status of the Ogaden region? Investment as simple as basic education never existed every town and communities were ruled by a few ousiders from other regions. The Ethiopian government never established full existence and never indicated enthusiasm in investing and developing the region except securing the border.
As a young boy growing up in jigjiga, once every couple of months we used to run to the one and only major road to witness convoy of military trucks roaming to Ogaden region. We used to stand on the side of the road waving to drivers. They were carrying supplies, rations to administrators, police and military posts securing the borders. The people in the region were on their own living in traditional pastoralism, and establishing shops in towns. It’s also fact tax collection from the region were diverted to develop other parts of Ethiopia.
The contrast is clear now and then. For the first time in history Ethiopian Somalis are given opportunity to govern and promote realistically better future. They put the foundation to the next generation to peruse their dreams and are also proud Ethiopians. They are transforming the region in education, healthcare, and infrastructure. In a spam of 25 years the change I witnessed in economic activities, peace, and stability is unimaginable. The security of Somali region has been credited to the Leyu police particularly and they earned the respect and support of the people. What has changed since I left 30 years ago is Ethiopian Somalis control their destiny and government institutions are run by a new generation of well-trained young leaders.
The vibrant city of Jigjiga:
I would like to share my experience in visiting my hometown of Jigjiga since I left during the DERG era. My conscious is clear to express what I witnessed without prejudice. Some people I grew up with from abroad criticized me for supporting the autonomous Ethiopian Somali regional government also known as DDSI. People have different political and ideological beliefs and opposition groups distorting the progress of DDSI is largely driven by the conversation around political correctness. I have to acknowledge that on my first visit in a long time, Jigjiga have been transformed beyond my recognition. When I left, it was small dusty town with one high school and one two level building known as Foq Dheere. The means of transportation was walking or bicycle for those who can afford it.
Currently, Jigjiga is a vibrant city with transit system and other means of transportation. Many businesses, services providers, and street vendors are well-established taking advantage of booming economy. The streets are full of people minding their businesses, children going to school, students taking bus to University campus. In the morning, the major street is full of skilled laborers trying to get to many project sites for work. Many unfinished buildings invested by private sector and the diaspora community is visible. I just enjoyed walking and recollecting events that happened at particular place.
For instance, I was walking on the major street in front of police station with friends when I suddenly stopped speechless for a moment and started praying for many Somalis including businessman Mr. Murae. I was about twenty feet away when they were massacred, as Jigjiga was about to fall during Ethio-Somali war. That hit me hard recognizing the people doing the shooting and the guns used.
On the other hand passing the police station came to the bridge near my primary school that brought joyful memories of riding horses in the field where it is populated right now. I had the opportunity to enquire an authority what assistance is provided for investors. Anyone who comes up with viable business plan and the required percent of money is assisted to be successful. The regional government has interest in assisting investors for reasons of creating jobs and paying taxes. This is not limited to Jigjiga but across the region. There has never been a better time in investing in Somali region of Ethiopia the fact it has peace and stability. The easy flow of people from different regions, young educated generation, well-established government institutions like civil servants make Jigjiga a vibrant city. I could have never imagined seeing well-established Jigjiga University and its expansion.
I spoke with people I grew up with about minority rights and status in the majority Somali society. There were concern in previous administration but I heard under President Abdi Mohamoud Omar overwhelming agreement they are protected and enjoy the peace, Honestly, I was glad to hear that knowing they were also victims of the DERG as well. I walked in the streets of Jigjiga after midnight with my son and daughter without any concern to our security.
The construction and expansion of new roads following the master plan indicates the need to accommodate congests. The government is in the right direction in promoting education and economic development, which is a challenge that will take long time. I recommend people to visit Ethiopian Somali region and make their own judgment. For those people who criticized me, I am at peace with conscious for being staunch supporter of DDSI.
Finally, I must mention in Bold on this paper the effort of my friend Mr. Ahmed Dek Hussein to share with us facts of DDSI has great influence in western world and we are proud to him.