War-profiteering politicians: Another obstacle to peace in Somali Regional State of Ethiopia
Mohamed A. Kahin
September 04, 2010
For far too long there has been an inexplicable diffidence to speak out against war-profiteering politicians in the Somali Regional State. We fear challenging dominant and flawed dogmas created by this section of regional politicians, with the result that potentially dangerous misconceptions have congealed and settled by sheer default.
One of these misconceptions is that every politician from the Ogaden clan who is serving in the Regional or Federal Government of Ethiopia is either a mole or has the motive to be an associate of ONLF, while all non-Ogaden politicians want tranquility and are incapable of dabbling with anti-peace activities. For the inventors of this myth, the notion of collective guilt and innocence has become a real blackmail and an unchallenged vehicle for pursuing ignoble interests while using clan integument to claim immunity from rigorous scrutiny and challenge of their actions and rhetoric.
Who is against peace in the region? Who loses and who gains if ONLF were to be defeated for once and for all? Whose actions in the past one month were helpful to the ongoing peace talks with rebel movements and who was undermining it? Why have senior party leaders, who are holders of graduate degrees, happily receded into antediluvian clan chauvinism in the past few weeks? Are regional authorities working together or are they subverting one another in the renewed endeavor to bring lasting peace to the region? These are timely questions that beg a thought and an understanding.
Since the inception of the Somali People`s Democratic Party (SPDP), now renamed as the Ethiopian Somali People`s Democratic Party (ESPDP), Somali region politicians have never been a cohesive outfit. Indeed, the region has been a raging combat zone where two allied yet antagonistic forces have been ceaselessly fighting for power, resources and privileges.
On one side were men who have been promoted to leadership positions in the party on account of their strong contributions in security work and the fight against ONLF and other destructive forces in the region and beyond. Most of these men are from the Ogaden clan and have been sabotaged time and time again when they were seen to be getting ground on the support base of the ONLF.
These men, according to the flawed dogma, must be watched for they are not trustworthy and can sleep as ESPDP at sunset and wake up as ONLF the next morning. We all know what happened to Abdi Hassen Kabadhe and Abdullahi Hassen (Lugbuur). The anomaly in this pattern could be Abdirashid Dulane Rafle, who came to office with impressive academic credentials, but whose fate hasn`t been different at all.
On the other side of the equation are politicians from peaceful clans, whose commitments to peace in the region were long assumed to be positive and were exempted from scrutiny. We know where the former Speaker of the Regional Parliament Ali Kunaye is today. He is in Asmara, trying to bleach his darkened political soul by joining regressive elements and singing vitriol with the zeal of a convert. We know what Jamal Diriye, the former MP in the Federal Government, has been saying over the internet pulpits. And yet, no one would have taken them for closet ONLF or OLF aficionados before they decided to go public about it.
This week, Abdi Mohamed Omer was officially sworn in as the President of the Region for the next five years. He follows in the footsteps of past regional Presidents whose desire to free their communities from the vices of the ONLF ended in vain, as they were fought bitterly from within. He represents the former group. Abdirashid Dulane, Abdullahi Hassen, Abdi Kabadhe, Jamil Muhumed Gas, Abdi Raho, Mahamed Abdi Hamow belong to this group. They were strong anti-ONLF leaders from the Ogaden clan who are victims of organized war-profiteers in the political circles who have cleverly used the ONLF insurgency and the non-involvement of their own clans in this insurgency as a rewarding ruse to enrich themselves.
The war-profiteers group is led by Mohamud Dirir, Ahmed Shide and Abdifatah Sh. Abdullahi, who have evaded inspection and have been stifling genuine efforts of so many regional Presidents who have tried to use their popular appeal to curb the ONLF menace. The war profiteers, with distinctive elite egoism, always looked down on the security-oriented section of the regional politicians, which they view as an ephemeral setup which is easily disposable. Already there are obvious signs that the war-profiteers, with both business and clandestine clan motives, are wasting no time in digging the graveyard for the newly elected President.
President Abdi Mohamed did not only make a decisive and strategic decision to confront the ONLF on the battlefields, but has also launched a fruitful lobby to win over the region`s Diaspora community. The gains made on the political and diplomatic front must have frightened some long-serving politicians within the ESPDP who have effectively become conflict entrepreneurs.
That is why Abdifatah is fixated with inane clan issues and personal elevation to Minister-hood at Addis Ababa, at a time the President is tirelessly working to end the activities of the ONLF in the region. That is why he has been sending contradictory messages in his missions to foreign countries; calling people to shun ONLF but at the same time inciting clan hatred, which has helped the ONLF to reclaim some of the support it has been losing fast over the last couple of years. That is why Jigjiga city has become the hotbed of clan rivalry, so that he can reap some political dividends by way of a longer political life-span.
That is also why Mohamud Dirir has been stretching his neck to make a hoarse tribal point over the last weeks by saying that the UWSLF is a tribal entity that is only making a tactical repositioning. And that is why Ahmed Shide still believes districts inhabited by the Ogaden clan should not be given development money because the communities harbor bandits and therefore do not merit it. It is hard to imagine the sharp young man misses the cause and effect relationship between peace and development.
Speaking of Ahmed Shide, he is firing on all sides as usual - taking notes in seditious meetings only to place a call to the other side later, to play it safe. Wasn`t he the one who was saying President Abdi Mohamed`s mandate is exclusively security issues and therefore he shouldn`t get himself involved with matters pertaining to economic planning and development `which he doesn`t know about`?
All these plots are intended to undervalue the achievements of the Regional President who have invested lots of energy in fighting the radical wing of the ONLF, and to bring about the welcome moderation of the negative forces of the yesteryears. The plot is to distract attention from the real job that needs to be done. The war-profiteers led by Mohamud Dirir are the originators of these disparate yet connected sinister plots. But the public face of this group is Abdifatah Sh. Abduallahi and Ahmed Shide, as the godfather lurks behind the curtain. In six months or a year`s time, you will hear his voice as he decides it is time to go for the kill. Mark my words!
A defining feature of the war-profiteering politicians in the region is an invidious reluctance to provide meaningful advice to Federal Government on matters that concern the region they represent. Instead of proactively guiding government on policies and strategies, they display sheepish loyalty and fail to give candid feedback when things are not working in the region. The horizon of concern for them is portfolios and the benefits they entail, never the long-term interest of neither the Somali people in the region nor that of the Federal Government of Ethiopia.
They never have to venture out of their cozy sofas under ornate chandeliers and traverse the dangerous and dusty roads of Hamaro and Gunagado. Yet, they have the temerity to accuse men who lost limbs and legs - such as Abdullahi Hassen Lugbur, of being an `anti-peace`, merely because his father is born to a given clan – something the son could do nothing about. I thought which clan one is born to is a congenital disposition, but political orientations are a matter of choice. Apparently it is not so clear cut!
The irresponsible utterances of these war-profiteering politicians have yielded political capital to ONLF in the past. Once more, the usual suspects are undermining the gains made by the regional president by sending messages that are not in sync with his call for peace. In public, they stand shoulder to shoulder and vow to work with him. In private, they paint him as a parvenu who is incapable of providing good leadership. They paint him as a clannish figure who is working for the interest of the Ogaden clan and whose sole objective in fighting the ONLF is to advance hidden clan agenda. We have seen the backlash against him when he distributed land to members of the `Liyu Police`. We are hearing the murmurs right now as UWSLF members who agreed to abide by the constitution of the country are given plots of land to restart a normal life in Jigjiga.
Creating a rift between the Federal Government and regional politicians from the Ogaden clan, who are at the forefront of the fight against extremism and Eritrea-sponsored ONLF, has been the favoured modus-operandi of these war-profiteers. You count the number of Zone and district administration officials that were murdered by ONLF and you can easily see no one has paid the ultimate sacrifice more than pro-peace Ogaden politicians in the region. Yet, the slightest of misjudgment, the simplest of administrative malpractice, one bit of misinformation by those who have sowed the misconception with foresighted mischief, and the sticker of `anti-peace` is firmly stamped all over them in an instant. This has to change, and has to change now.
The Federal Government must stand by those who put their lives on the line to defend the interests of the people of Somali Regional State. It must not fall for the insidious machinations of toady politicians whose sole preoccupation is milking the system for personal gains. It must get over the misconceptions and wrong assumptions that have defined government course of action in the region many times in the past. At the same time, the Regional President and those who are working to ensure peace and security in the region must not be distracted by the incessant back-stabbing of organized anti-peace politicians. They must remain vigilant and root out saboteurs from within as ruthless as they have been fighting the ONLF, whenever those with divisive predilections come out to stall the peace move in the region.
Just as ONLF leaders cash in the misery of those who are burnt with the fire they started from afar, fat cats in the regional politics lead profligate lifestyles by fuelling endless factionalism and political instability in the region. A redefinition of the `Anti-peace` nomenclature is due. `Anti-peace` tag should no more be the exclusive franchise of a specific clan. It should be a name given to all those who have benefitted from unrest in the Somali region: From Isayas Afeworki to Admiral Osman, from Human Rights Watch to Alshabab, and from the bigot Birhanu Nega to promoters of clan vendetta in Jigjiga.
Mohamed Awale Kahin
Minneapolis, MN, USA
Talk Between ESDL and ONLF on Power Sharing in Somali Region Break Down
BBC Monitoring Service: Africa
August 07, 1995
Source: Radio Ethiopia external service, Addis Ababa, in English 1630 gmt 4 Aug 95
The Ethiopian Somali Democratic League, ESDL, said that it will cooperate and work with any faithful and democratic political group in [the] Somali Region [Five]. Dr Abd al-Majid Husayn, minister of external economic cooperation and chairman of the league, told a press conference today that at least 12 clans were represented in the executive committee of the recently-established regional council, which is the highest authoritative body in the regional government.
Asked about media reports about war in the region, Mr Mahmud Dirir, executive member of the league, dismissed the claim as baseless, though he acknowledged the existence of minor acts of banditry by individuals without any political motive.
Mr Shams al-Din Ahmad, general secretary of the league, said the discussion of the issue of power sharing in the regional government with [the] Ogaden National Liberation Front, ONLF, which reportedly walked out of the meeting, had failed. He described the ONLF`s acts as a desire to unfairly dominate the regional government. ONLF are said to be 18 seats in the 110 seats in the regional council [sentence as heard].
Dr Abd al-Majid strongly disapproved the annulment by the National Electoral Board of election results in three constituencies where the league was the winner. He said the act was illegal and described the board as incompetent, biased and partial.
Officials of the league told reporters that the regional government would take legal action against members of the former regional council who reportedly embezzled government property and abused their power.
© 1995 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Seven officials reportedly dismissed in Somali Regional State
BBC Monitoring Africa – Political
March 06, 2002
Text of report by Ethiopian opposition Radio Freedom text web site on 1 March
The Radio Xoriyo correspondent in Jijiga town [eastern Ethiopia], the capital of the puppet administration that Ethiopia has concocted in Ogaden, has sent us a report indicating that seven members of the Ethiopian puppet administration who used to work for Ethiopia have been dismissed from their posts after their usefulness had been exhausted. They have also been accused of corruption. On 27 February 2002, seven senior officials of the so-called administration in Jijiga were dismissed from their posts and accused of engaging in corrupt practices. It is usual for the Ethiopian government to accuse whoever cannot safeguard its interests of corruption and dismiss him from the so-called administration, which is under their control. The seven officials are:
1. Aden Abdullahi, the former vice-president of the so-called administration;
2. Abdi Aden, alias Abdi Raho, the former director for social affairs of the so-called administration;
3. Abdi Ali, the former director for economic affairs, projects and planning of the so-called administration;
4. Abdulaziz Sheikh Muhammad, the former so-called regional governor of Godey, the capital of Ogaden;
5. Abd-al-Wafi Muhumed Mahdi, the former director of education of the so-called administration;
6. Ali Abdullahi Hasan, alias Ali Gurey, a former member of the executive committee of Somali People`s Democratic Party, SPDP, which is the false party that TPLF [Tigray People`s Liberation Front] formed for the puppets that they use;
7. Abdi Isma`il Haji, alias Abdi Ganaf, the former director of training.
The report added that the decision was made at a meeting held in Addis Ababa early in February and attended by Abdul Majid Husayn, Mahmud Dirir and Abdirashid Dulane.
The [Ethiopian] minister of federal affairs, Abay Tsehaye, specifically called Abdul Majid Husayn and Mahmud Dirir to his office and ordered them to cleanse the so-called administration in Jijiga of all those who could not work well in accordance with the new Ethiopian policy. The new Ethiopian colonial policy in Ogaden is that the people be tortured and officials made to bow even more to the dictator, Meles Zenawi and the Tigrays. Also, the Ethiopian government could not bear the successive victories that the people of Ogaden had achieved in all aspects, internally, externally, politically and militarily, which are growing by the day.
Reports coming out of the office of the dictator, Meles Zenawi, say the dictator is worried about the increasing power of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, ONLF. This forced him to called back Abdul Majid Husayn who was based in America, to assist him solve the problems in Jijiga in the interest of the dictator, Meles Zenawi, and Ethiopia.
Source: Radio Freedom Voice of the Ogadeni People text web site, in Somali 1 Mar 02.
© 2002 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Peacemakers of the 1950s: The photograph was taken in 1955.