In Ethiopia’s Somali region, peace takes shape

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An overview image of Jigjiga, the regional capital of Ethiopia-Somali region

In 2010, Ethiopia signed a peace deal to end 20 years of war with the rebel faction that has posed the main threat to foreign oil and gas firms in the disputed Ogaden region.

By Muluneh Gebre, muluneh@alleastafrica.com

JIGJIGA – For years, the Somali state of Ethiopia has struggled to restore peace and order in the face of attacks by armed rebel fighters which was demanding an autonomy for this region which the government considers as parts of the country under the new federal system.

The Somali ethnic group, Ogaden National Liberation Front also claimed responsibility for several attacks against the government which designated the group as a terrorist organization.

However, in recent years, the region begun to enjoy the fruits of peace and development, having tackled its internal problems, thanks to the region’s own special force (Liyu Police) together with national defense force that were deployed across the region.

In 2010, Ethiopia signed a peace deal to end 20 years of war with the rebel faction that has posed the main threat to foreign oil and gas firms in the disputed Ogaden region.

The latter had helped the national government to work on one of its flagship of oil exploration projects called Ogaden Natural Gas (Kalub) and an oil Pipeline installation that extended along the Djibouti sea port.

In addition, the federal government has since recalled Officials from the China Poly Group Corporation, with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Dessalegn last month confirmed that natural gas and oil exploration work was being undertaken in Ogaden, and said that the Somali State was bearing fruit of the projects.

According to the Chairman of the Corporation, Yu Baodong, the explorations performance was promising. The 3.7 billion USD worth exploration project is scheduled to be concluded by the coming four years.

With an estimated total population of five million, Ethiopian Somali region has more 3000 sq km international border with neighboring countries: Somalia, Djibouti and Kenya. According to Ethiopian officials, the region has strategic importance for peace and security for the country and the horn of Africa, which is known to be the most volatile region in Africa.

With plenty of natural resources including natural gas and many other minerals like gold and salt, the region has four rivers with fertile soil which is more appropriate for agricultural irrigation and cultivation.

“Massive security and development are being undertaken in the region now, peace is reclaiming its place here.” said Ahmed Mohammed, an official with Ethiopia Somali region’s government in an interview with Alleastafrica.

Meanwhile, the region is also working to avail its water resources through investments in irrigation projects to advance the agricultural productivity.

The regional state has prioritized agriculture as a backbone of livelihood and socioeconomic development of the region, a gateway for imports and exports of Ethiopia. In the meantime, the main conduit to reach sea port is through Ethio-Somali state.

Ethiopian-Somali region's president Abdi Mohamud Omar
Ethiopian-Somali region’s president Abdi Mohamud Omar

“Progress has been made in the agriculture, health and education sectors, and we are also planning to make resettlement for 55000 families affected by the conflict.” said Abdi Mohamed Omar, the region’s president, discussing about the region’s progress in 2013.

For the moment, the state seemed comfortable with the federal system of the country as witnessed last September 2016 when hundreds of thousands of people gathered at a stadium and highways around Jig-jiga, the regional capital stadium denouncing anti-government groups including Oromo ethnic groups opposed the government.

“Diversity is our beauty, Ethnic based federalism is our solidarity, 1995 national constitution of Ethiopia is our integrity and co-existence, Article 39 of constitution is our bond & trust, yesterday is not today, and today will never be tomorrow and Ethiopia can be Ethiopia one nation only with respect of current ethnic based federal system and 1995 constitution of Federal Democrat Republic Of Ethiopian etc.” read placards waved by the demonstrators.

During his recent visit to the Somali state of Ethiopia, Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud praised the region, saying that the way peace and stability prevailed and development being attained in the Ethiopian Somali region is ‘exemplary’ to his country.

“The peace and stability ensured in the region is the basis for the development of the region.” Mr. Mohamud said.

Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (L) and the Ethiopian-Somali region's president Abdi Mohamud Omar (R) speak during a press conference in Jigjiga, the regional capital of Ethio-Som region in August, 2016.
Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (L) and the Ethiopian-Somali region’s president Abdi Mohamud Omar (R) speak during a press conference in Jigjiga, the regional capital of Ethio-Som region in August, 2016.

In his speech, Mr. Mohamud also lauded the local community’s efforts in combating tribalism so that lasting peace can be ensured.

“Tribalism and religious based terrorist acts are threatening the stability of our country.” He said of his country, Somalia.

Twenty years ago, this region had almost no access to medical services or education as result of conflict and regular battles between government forces and rebel fighters.

However, the government now says it has built more than 200 health centres in recent years, with a new hospital opened to serve local residents.

A newly-constructed building in Jigjiga, the regional capital of the Ethiopian Somali region
A newly-constructed building in Jigjiga, the regional capital of the Ethiopian Somali region

According to officials, there are more than 150 high schools across the region, in a stark contrast to twenty years ago that there were just two. A university which opened in 2007 now has over 21,000 students studying there.

(Judy Maina contributed to this report from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, editing by John Thiongo)

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1 COMMENT

  1. That’s all in paper, not on the ground sir. Your pedling a Woyana Propaganda here. What’s taking place in the Ogaden is Ethnic cleansing of the Somali people , pure and simple. Dressed it how you like, over 1 Million Dead and Rape as State Policy is not progress. If it was Real you let the World see The Ogaden, Instead a brutal military siege, No Red cross, United Nations or Media is allowed in this region. Gaza of The Horn of Africa. …

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