By Liban Ahmad
The report published by the Addis Ababa-based Centre for Dialogue, Research and Cooperation on the impending presidential election in Somalia has touched a raw nerve. It raises more questions about Ethiopia’s interests in Somalia than how the Somali political classes are sharing power at the federal level.
The report warns against the election of a president who does not belong to the major Somali clan associated with the Somali capital city. According to CDRC, two presidential candidates, the Prime Ministe Omar. A. A. Sharmarke and Southwest State President, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, were asked to support the incumbent President, Hassan Sh. Mohamud, to prevent the return of Al-shabaab to the capital city. The report does not say who was behind the failed attempt to persuade the two presidential candidates to drop their candidacies.
The CDRC report authors utilised Marehan, Ogaden and Dhulbahante (MOD) alliance theory formulated by the late London School of Economics Professor of Anthropology, I.M. Lewis, to argue that the incumbent president’s clan would not accept a president from the Prime Minister’s clan in Mogadishu. The flaw in MOD alliance theory had been exposed in 1991 when the United Somali Congress (USC) overthrew the military dictatorship. The USC was formed in January 1989 in Rome, more than five years after Lewis formulated MOD theory.
The aim to apply an outdated theory to the Somali politics of 2017 is two-fold:
1- To give an indirect, political message to the Ethiopian social groups against the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front regime. It is EPDRF’s way of comparing its handling of Addis Ababa in 1991 to the Somali opposition groups’ capture of Mogadishu in January 1991 and the subsequent debacle.
2- To sell the argument that Somalis cannot overcome state failure and one of its attendant problems: collective clan ownership claim of the Somali capital in a blatant violation of property rights.
In the second aim the sponsor of the CDRC report sees an opportunity to undo the political progress in Somalia tactically lauded by the report to hide the ulterior motive of the sponsor. In 1991 there was a regime change in both Somalia and Ethiopia. What happened in Somalia in 1991 was more far-reaching than a mere regime change. Somalis ask how Ethiopia’s multi-ethnic opposition groups led by EPRDF averted state collapse whereas Somali opposition groups made up of one ethnic group failed to prevent the collapse of the state.
The CDRC report insinuated that progress made in addressing protecting citizens’ property rights in Mogadishu is an illusion. To argue a president from a clan other than the incumbent president’s clan will cause the return of Al-shabaab to Mogadishu is to contend the president’s clan is using Al-shabaab as a political bargaining chip. The CDRC report is promoting a return of warlord’s reign of terror in a capital city that had been through a lot since 1991. The hidden message in the report is: to try to persuade EPRDF regime to relinquish monopoly on ruling Ethiopia since 1991 is to facilitate disintegration of Ethiopia. Who thought EPRDF regime would seek salvation by subtly likening its situation to that of Somalia?!
Another message in the misapplication of the MOD alliance theory is the desire to unite the EPRDF’s ruling clique and its core, mono-ethnic supporters around grievances against the toppled Derg regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam. Ethnicity does not seem to hold the promise the late Ethiopia’s UN Representative, Abdulmajed Hussein, thought it held when he told the The Economist in 1997 that Africa should not fear ethnicity but use it for nation-building. Ethnicity might eat the state in Africa.
Why is the EPRDF regime irked by the political progress in Somalia? The ruling EPRDF fear a reversal of political fortune for Ethiopia twenty-five years after the fall of the Mengistu Haile Mariam. The EPRDF introduced a development state. It was praised for presiding “over some of the fastest economic growth in Africa while engineering significant improvements in education and healthcare, especially for the rural poor” but “the Oromo resent the dominance of the Tigray ethnic group, which makes up six percent of the population, in the military, in government and business.” The EPRDF regime is on the skids.
According to the CDRC website, the “The Centre for Dialogue, Research and Cooperation is an international, non-profit and an independent Ethiopia-based Centre of Excellence engaged in Dialogue, Research and analyses, and accorded the status and privileges of an international organization under the host country agreement with the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.” It “works towards the establishment of sustainable peace and security in Africa and beyond.” The content and tone of the report CDRC has released contradict the mission statement of the think tank.
While Somali politicians are experimenting with federalism and learning how to work together on nation-building, Ethiopia is divided into two groups: a tiny, well-armed group protecting the status quo and another group (more than 80% of the Ethiopian citizenry) risking their lives to demand political change. The best way to delay the inevitable political change demanded by the Ethiopian opposition, the EPRDF senior leadership believes, is to manufacture a political crisis in Somalia and make no “substantial concession to greater democracy and accountability” at home. The late Somali Minister for Interior, Abdulqadir Haji Mohamed, said in 2007 when resistance forces loyal to Union of Islamic Courts were fighting Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu, “Ethiopia would like Somalia to become its begging bowl under the pretext of fighting terrorism“.” If a Western think tank had written a report similar in content and tone to the disinformation-based CDRC report, it would be accused of racism.
This article was published on Wardheernews