Easterly storm brewing for the good ship medemer

Easterly storm brewing for the good ship medemer

By Mohamed Olad, June 13, 2020

Protests in Jigjiga on 11 June 2020; social media

Prosperity Party’s problems in Somali region expose the incumbent’s weaknesses

(Ethiopia Insight) — The slick media show, the rolling out of an all-encompassing new ideology, the unfussy extending of its own term. These trappings of efficient leadership might convince casual observers that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is running a tight ship, despite the country’s multiple challenges.

However, the storm gathering from the east, the endless political crisis in Somali region, one of the largest and most complex federal states under Prosperity Party (PP) control, may well expose the incumbent’s deep internal fissures.

That political crisis in Jigjiga spells trouble, if it’s not occurring already after protests last week, for the harmony of PP. This is indicated by the tensions within the Somali branch of the party. It is displayed by how acting president Mustafa explains the turbulence and increasing resistance to his rule from broad sections of Somali society, from parts of the regional PP leadership, and rebelling parliamentarians who have made accusations of corruption, maladministration, and increasing authoritarian tendencies.

What also spells trouble is how Mustafa tries to build critical alliances within PP by exploiting ideological fault lines that are also more or less ethnic. His right-wing Ethiopianist cheerleaders are disseminating conspiracy theories that Mustafa is being undermined by an unholy coalition of  TPLF remnants and Oromo extremists angry that he is not towing the ethno-nationalist line.

But we all know that Mustafa, as well as other Somali PP leaders, were against, or at least implied they were against, PP before they were for it. As with other EPRDF-era regional elites, the Somalis seem to have gone along with PP merely as they had little other option.

The latest bizarre defense for Mustafa’s role in the never-ending crisis in the region came from the man himself while speaking to the national broadcaster on 29 May. He said those unhappy with his leadership are Somalis and others working in cahoots with Al Shabaab to instigate ethnic and religious violence in Somali urban centers. “Their goal is to pin the security breakdown on us so that they create a rift between us and the federal government”.

Such outlandish claims should ring alarm bells.

Acting Somali president Mustafa Omer with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed; 3 April 2019; Prime Minister’s Office

The dominoes that are currently at play started to fall two months ago when Abdi-Adil Hassen, the regional security chief and a PP executive member, was dismissed without due process following an alleged Asaminew-like coup attempt against Mustafa. Ensuing tensions just stopped short of a serious security escalation. Mustafa’s administration has yet to initiate an investigation into this incident that may have national security implications.

Just two weeks later, another rupture occurred between Mustafa and Abdi Mohamed ‘Ugaaska’, the regional council speaker, over whether  to hold a council meeting that was three months behind schedule. In the lead up to his resignation, ‘Ugaaska’ is reported to have resisted Mustafa’s demand that he step down, accusing the president of meddling in internal council affairs, while inside sources said Mustafa insisted the order came from Addis.

On the same day the speaker’s resignation was announced on state television, Mustafa appointed him head of the Mining and Energy Bureau—perhaps to secure his cooperation—without the approval of his resignation by the council he was serving. Even during Abdi Iley’s time, when disregard for the rule of law and separation of powers was the norm, at least the autocrat was good at following the script. But the shady moves observed now certainly do not sit easily with Abiy and Mustafa’s promised transparent law-abiding pluralistic approach.

Roughly, a month later, the tussle between the regional council and Mustafa came to a violent standoff when on 21 May more than 100 lawmakers walked out on a session alleging “intimidation and disregard for council rules and the constitutional clauses that regulate powers of the council and the executive branch”. The administration attempted to strip the immunity of 12 members, detaining five of them while the other seven fled to Addis Ababa.

The rebelling lawmakers still contend these and other decisions don’t hold water since the quorum was not met, given that the majority of them stormed out of the session. On 22 May, the Minister for Women, Youth, and Children’s Affairs, Filsan Abdulahi, reacted to the assault on lawmakers who walked out due to what they called the “administration’s stonewalling of a list of agendas they tabled for discussion including a vote of confidence on president Mustafa.” In her statement, she urged “the Somali regional government to abandon its reprehensible and regrettable actions, especially the intimidation, maltreatment, and arresting of lawmakers and journalists” calling it “wholly unacceptable, and a blatant disregard for the rule of law.”

Filsan was not the first to speak out.

It was only a few weeks prior that 16 members of the Somali contingent in the PP central committee wrote a complaint letter to the party secretariat criticizing the president and other regional leaders. The latest twist of this saga was when Ahmeddeq Qabyo, a senior member of Mustafa’s cabinet and Prosperity Party’s Central Committee, called for immediate federal intervention, to salvage the so-called change in the region.

Not surprisingly, after his scathing public criticism of the Mustafa administration in a widely shared Facebook statement, not only did he lose his job, but he is being sought for arrest, according to a media often relatively supportive of the administration, SRAJ News. However, that is not the end of the story. There is still a stand-off between the current acting council speaker, Fardowsa Deyr, and Mustafa, as she apparently expects her position to be made permanent.

Underpinning all this is Mustafa’s bet that he can exploit the Amhara-Oromo rift by aligning himself with the Amhara wing of PP. The acting president’s public statements, as well as his ‘Ethiopianist’ media boosters, tend to support him, whether because of his now-famous saying that he prefers “geographic federalism”, his staunch advocacy for ‘Ethiopian unity’, or his speech in Bahir Dar that he is against the prevailing political narration that depicts the Amhara as privileged.

The most significant selling point for PP to take over Somali region by replacing the Somali Democratic Party (SDP), however, was to achieve elusive political stability. Former regional vice president Aden Farah’s election as House of Federation speaker will not help, as he was one of the few shrewd and stable arbitrators in Garabcase statehouse, although the failure to deliver order has not got due national attention—yet.

Abiy, PP, the media, and everybody else may be tempted to look at the constitutional crisis, the situation with Tigray, or the federalist forces that are gaining momentum elsewhere, but all disregard the current political situation in the Somali region at their own peril. If the current trajectory continues, it will only be a matter of time that the streets of Jigjiga, Gode and Kebridahar are hit by bigger protests than we have seen in the past few days, or perhaps the first infighting within PP will be over the fate of Mustafa himself. Arat Kilo is by no means insulated from the squabbling at Garabcase statehouse.

All this comes at a time when the region, and country at large, faces the daunting challenge of containing COVID-19. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed Somali the least prepared region. Three months later, the region admitted it is not prepared to tackle the pandemic when it asked for urgent federal assistance. Unfortunately, the endless political drama in Jigjiga is distracting attention from the pressing need to address a pandemic that risks exacting a devastating toll.

It also jeopardizes the region’s shaky transition initiated by Mustafa’s appointment to the regional presidency in 2018, an appointment engineered by Abiy. The federal government should give the Somali people and their concerns the due attention they deserve by holding Mustafa and other PP leadership accountable for their recent erratic leadership. Either that, or the Somali people may well hold them accountable for their dereliction of duty.

1 Comment

  1. Somali region went in a rollercoaster ride more than anyother region because of the actions of the previous and the current Ethiopian leaders took rendering the people of Hararge to lead a life of uncertainty forcing the people to depend on the underground economy of Ethiopia to survive on rather than depending on the official economy of Ethiopia .

    Hailesselasie was born in Harrar so he favored Hararge Teqlay Gizat . Both Dire Dawa and Harar were developed compared to other cities during Haileselasie’s time with contraband booming the locals economy .
    During Mengistu Hailemariam”s time Hararge Kifle Hager was favored because Mengistu Hailemariam didn’t want Somalia to step in Ethiopia, so the contraband and other benefits the Hararge people depended upon continued .

    When Tamrat Layne and Meles came they chose to treat Somali region as a colony because Meles knew he cannot win over the Somali region people’s approval easily because they were well pampered by the previous leaders of Ethiopia and he was in noway able to compete with the pampering the Somali region were used to getting from the previous leaders
    so he treated then as enemies of the state and colonized them .

    Then Hailemariam Desalegn tried to pamper them building libraries and other infrastructures in Ogaden but that didn’t bring the end of the colony.

    Then Abiy came with his empty promises ‘wowing’ the people of the Somali region, the people almost thought they finally are free and even went to the extent of deporting Oromos so ethnic Oromos donot Rob the Somali region’s natural resources which Abiy promised to put to use.

    With Abdi Alley’s help the people deported Oromos from the Somali region to declare their freedom from colony but the deportations of Oromos out of Somalia region about two years ago backfired on Somali region Abdi Alley getting imprisoned signaling that Somali region is not yet free but instead the Federal government PP is under full control of Oromo fanatics. PP is trying to start irrigation farm developments and minings in the Somali region but the details on how exactly these natural resources development are expected to benefit the region us not specified so many started blocking waters from flowing , PP was forced to leave the rivers and waters supplies unused with terrorists holding water rivers hostage for ransom money repeatedly , which brought
    many uncertainties on the security issues among other issues of the Somali region . My assumption is there is a lot more suffering and revenge the current federal government has prepared to Somali region people because Abdi Alley deported Oromos out of the Somali region and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) recently condemned the extension of MUSTAFA’S
    PP/ Abiy Ahmed’s leadership for another year without a transitional government .



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