The Wind of Change Sweeping the Greater Horn of Africa Region Has Propelled Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy to the Helm of Ethiopia by Suleiman Egeh

Wed 22 August 2018.

Introduction/Background Information


The writing of this investigative piece is an attempt to shed some light, as to what is behind the endless, intractable tension, turmoil and turbulence in this strategic area. Therefore, I would try my best to put what has happened in the past, and still happening today in the Horn-Of-Africa into a historical context. The purpose of my article is not to deride or bash anybody but just to spill out some historic facts: Axumite Empire was inhabited by Cushitic speaking people in northern Ethiopia and Semitic speaking people in southern Arabia, who settled around the red sea about 500 BC. From the 4th century to the 12th century the Axum Empire dominated by the Tigrians, the cousins of the current rulers of Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s Solomonic kings were believed to be descended from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

Original Abyssinia comprises of the three states of Gonder, Gojam and Tigre. The Amharas; the group who dominated both Abyssinia and Ethiopia for more than several hundred years were originally confined to the two states of Gonder and Gojam. The other major ethnic components of Abyssinia and Ethiopia are the Tigrians, who were originally confined to the state of Tigre only. 

Menelik 11 of Shawa; with the help of the European powers especially France, Italy and Great Britain invaded the ancient Muslim; walled city of Harrar in 1887. From 1400 until 1887, there were endless wars of attrition between Abyssinia and the Muslim states of "Awdal"(Zeila), "Ifat"(Harrar), "Hadya"(Sidamo) and others.

The "Adel Empire"(Awdal) was the largest and the most powerful of about seven Muslim emirates. From 1526-1543 the "Adel Empire" led by the legendary warrior, statesman and military commander, Imam Ahmed Bin Ibrahim(Ahmed Gurrey) controlled almost all of Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian conquest and encroachment into to non-Abyssinian territories to east and south of the Ethiopian highlands succeeded only after the European colonization of the Horn of Africa. In retrospect Ethiopia received tremendous help in military aid and other material support from the European colonizers. The mantra of all the successive Christian Empires emanating from the Ethiopian highlands was quote, "We are a Christian island in a sea of Islam."That false claim served them well in their struggle with the great "Awdalian" warrior Imam Ahmed Ibrahim of "Zeila"(Awdal Empire) in 1543, when the Portuguese came to the rescue of Abyssinia and Imam Ahmed Ibrahim was defeated. 1896, according to Anglo-Ethiopian treaty large swaths of Somali territory were illegally ceded to Abyssinia/Ethiopia.

These large swaths of non-Abyssinian lands were annexed by military force without the consent of the indigenous people of those lands. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that no redressing of that historical injustice and blunder has ever taken place as of now. No force in the world, let alone Ethiopia; a fragile empire founded on a policy of annexation of foreign lands and marred over the years by bad governance, brutal suppression of opponents, ethnic tension, disunity and backwardness, can lord over people questioning her legitimacy forever. Ethiopian empires are no different than the other empires of the past that are now extinct, such as the Byzantine, Roman, British, Ottoman, French, Yugoslavia, Austro-Hungary, Soviet Union and other empires. This means in its current situation the Ethiopian empire is not sustainable.

The separation of Eritrea from the Ethiopian empire marked the beginning of the unraveling of the Ethiopian empire. That separation all of a sudden made Ethiopia a landlocked country. Menelik was an absolute emperor of Abyssinia who started the Abyssinian expansion and colonization of the non-Abyssinian land to the east and south of the Ethiopian highlands. Following his death in 1813, about 17 years of power struggle ensued, when finally Tafari Mekonen; the son of Ras Mekonen of Harrer; ascended to the Ethiopian throne in 1930. Like Menelik, Haile Salessie continued Abyssinia’s expansionist policies. This shows that Haile Salessie's Ethiopia has completed what has been started by Menelik's Abyssinia. This is a confirmation of the expansionist and imperialist tendencies of Axum, Abyssinia and Ethiopia.

On the basis of the above-named history of Ethiopia what was happening in Ethiopia for the last several years that led to an ethnic Oromo to ascend to the highest echelons of power of Ethiopia was called a revolutionary change in Ethiopia. This revolutionary change needs to reach all Ethiopia including the Somali region. The Somali region is riddled with enormous problems created by the former regime.  One of the problems facing Somalis in Ethiopia is the division between the different Somali groups and tribes in Ethiopia. The former regime in the Somali region has fueled and exasperated the conflict and land disputes between ethnic Somalis as well as between Oromos and ethnic Somalis. For the last fifty years the different Ethiopian regimes have changed the demographics of the Somali region. Since that time, ethnic Somalis who were a majority in Dire Dawa, and other places have been overtaken by other ethnic Ethiopian such as the Oromo. Moreover, multiple localities were ceded to Oromia region through sham and questionable referendums. The major city of Dire Dawa is no longer a Somali-majority city, and the Ethiopian regime called it a chartered city (so-called multi-ethnic city) that is to be directly controlled by the central government in Addis Abba. Moreover, the intervention of the central government in Addis Abba and its military in Jigjiga, the so-called capital of the Somali region may mark the dawn of a positive change for this long suffering region.

 For your information the Ethiopia government has tolerated that corrupt, inept, tribal, regime that was responsible of serious crimes and atrocities against ethnic Somalis for so long. I believe any change in the Somali region will be hogwash and cosmetic, if the senior members of the former regime are not removed from the highest corridors of power. Despite the difficult work ahead, I am still hopeful Minister Ahmed Shide who was made in charge of the affairs of the Somali region will succeed to reestablish the governance of the Somali region. He is trying to form an inclusive, democratic, pluralistic, and accountable government.   

For the last ten years an EPRDP handpicked notorious person was sitting at the top echelon of power in the so-called Somali region. That man has committed wide spread crimes against humanity whereby he killed hundreds of innocent citizens. The EPRDP has apparently blessed and supported the atrocities that notorious person has committed against the people of the Somali region.  Luyu police frequently raid Towns, villages, and localities, confiscate or destroy confiscate peoples’ properties and charge them with baseless and trumped up charges. This brutal regime has been in charge of the Somali region for about ten years. In those ten years the regime of the former criminal leader has committed all types of crimes such as arbitrary arrests, illegal seizure and confiscation of peoples’ properties, murder, rape, bribery and so on. Adding more fuel to the fire is the lack of accountability of the regime. They did every type of crime one can think of and yet get away with it.

The regime crack thugs called Luyu police were brutal criminal killers that are beyond salvation and they need to be disbanded and immediately.  What makes the brutality of the regime worse was the prevailing lack of accountability of both the EPRDP/federal government and the handpicked leaders of the so-called Somali region of Ethiopia. What is happening in Ethiopia today is the continuation of change that started in 1991. This current wind of change happening in the greater Horn of Africa has been prevailing in some fashion or the other for the last thirty years. That change culminated with the liberation of Eretria, the liberation of the Republic of Somaliland, and the independence of South Sudan.

The ascendency of honorable Ahmed Abiy to power in Ethiopia did not come easy. It came following the sustained agitation for equality by Oromos and other traditionally marginalized groups in Ethiopia. This is an unprecedented opportunity that availed itself to the Marginalized groups in Ethiopia including the Somali region. Following the Eritrean triumph and the march of the EPLF to Asmara that marked the end of the Ethiopian occupation of Eretria, and the ignominious fall of the brutal, repressive and dictatorial regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam, many Ethiopians at the time thought a real change was finally coming to Ethiopia, but their hopes for a better and prospective future has been shattered.

 At the time many Ethiopians were expecting a change in their lives, and they were expecting the beginning of democratic and pluralistic Ethiopian state where all people will be equal, but their expectations did not materialize. The ascendency of Ahmed Abiy to power may be a positive response to the long shattered expectations and dreams of the Ethiopian people following the march of triumphant EPRDP forces into Addis Ababa in 1991. The afore-mentioned expectations, wishes and dreams may finally be realized. Somaliland has a historical relationship with Oromo people of Ethiopia; they are our trade partners and neighbors. Moreover, all people of Somali decent and especially Somalilanders and the Somaliland government need to support both Ahmed Abiy and Ahmed Shide in their quest to finally change Ethiopia for the better.  


Suleiman Egeh is freelance writer and a senior science instructor


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