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Somali-Oromo second round “people to people” engagement forum organized in three towns

Somali-Oromo engagement forum in Jijiga, Togowuchale, and Degahabour
Shimeles Abdissa got a Camel as gifts. Photo credit: EBC

Somali-Oromo “people to people” forum sought intended to reconcile the two communities. Lencho Letta, among others, who is leading ODF joined Oromo region president’s entourage in his trip to Somali region

August 7, 2019

Mustafa Mohoumed Omer, acting president of Somali regional state, led over 100 people from Somali regional state to Bahir Dar, capital of Amhara regional state, in mid-July.

Apparently, he was invited by Amhara regional state authorities with an objective to foster what they call “people to people relation” – a political jargon coined and used by members of the  ruling coalition, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)

In a speech to Amhara regional state council, he said that  “we [seemingly a reference to the ethnic Somali party he is leading] do not accept the narrative that paints Amhara people as an oppressor, not out of a motive to gain political gains but because it is fundamentally wrong.”

And this week, he received hundreds of “delegates”, as they call them, from  Oromo regional state led by the acting president, Shimeles Abdissa, in Somali region.

Hosting the delegates turned out to be two days long event which featured prominent Oromo singers like Ali Bira who led a delegation to the capital of Somaliland, Hargeisa, soon after the end of the event in the Somali region of Ethiopia. 

Ahmed M. ciidle, seemingly an activist for Somaliland tweeted as follows :

@AMciidle The Famous #Ethiopian singer Alii Mohamed #AliBirra arrives the capital city of #Somaliland Hargeisa and is warmly welcomed. Dr Ali birra is singer,composer, poet and nationalist. He can sing Oromo, Amharic, Arabic and Somali language.@addisstandard @Jawar_Mohammed @Gadaa

Apart from musicians, Lencho Letta, one of the pioneers of Oromo radical ethnic nationalism and currently leader of Oromo Democratic Front, was in the entourage. He told Voice of America Amharic Service, “The two people should not have been in conflict. It was due to the plot of other forces.”  He also said mentioned the bloodshed between the two people and internal displacement. “Now we are transitioning to a better relationship. This morning meeting was a very good one,” he added citing the meeting between the delegates and Somali authorities on August 5. 

Regional authorities of Oromo regional state claimed in the past that more than one million people had been displaced due to what they called “border conflict” between ethnic Somali and Oromo in 2017. 

This is the second round of “people to people” engagement between ethnic Oromo and ethnic Somali regional state. Oromo regional state leaders led a delegation when Abdi Illiey was the region’s president. He is currently in prison in Addis Ababa. 

Two days events were organized in three towns – Jijiga, Degahabour, and Togowuchale. 

Dressed in Somali attire and wearing Taqiyah cap, Shimelis Abdissa, Oromo regional state president, said the conflict between the two people was the works of small “satans” and he said “Allah protect us from these small satans.”  He got Camel as a gift from the regional state.

Mustafa Mohammed Omar on his part said that the costly conflict between the two people was the work of other forces and intervention. 

What exactly is the purpose of the “people to people”?

Awol Kassim Allo is a London based ethnic Oromo activists and it seems that he was part of the Oromo regional state entourage to the Somali region. 

Describing the purpose of Somali-Oromo “people to people” engagement, he wrote “While this event was primarily about the Somali and the Oromo people, it was also equally about the Ethiopian state and the rest of the Ethiopian public…It was about Ethiopia & the vision of the two communities for a new Ethiopia – the desire to realize, together with others, a substantively democratic & genuinely multinational federation.” 

Some political observers with EPRDF political view tend to see “people to people” forums as a way of fixing the mess which was created by emphasizing ethnic-politics at the expense of Ethiopian identity.

Other critical observers see them as a window dressing measures that are not capable of resolving ethnic radicalism that is ravaging the country, not to mention the skeptical view which sees ethnic such alliances as plots to disintegrate the country or the Ethiopian empire as radical Oromo nationalists call it.

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