Ethiopia: Internal geographical barriers and poor infrastructure as a base of social conflicts

Ethiopia, the most populous country in East Africa and the second in Africa, has recently witnessed appreciated waves of political reforms. The changes came after many years of autocratic rule and human rights violations came to an end in 2018.

But the recent positive changes were overshadowed by violence and conflicts between different ethnicities. This shouldn’t surprise anybody since the TPLF minority rule was based on divide and rule principle for 27 years so that each ethnicity remains isolated and only connected to the TPLF-ruled center.

The TPLF regime was against any community-to-community relationships and all infrastructures leading to this relations were denied.

Every community was infiltrated to remain internally divided. Communities were divided based on lines of clan, social or personal interest and languages.

A vividly mentionable example is the road and transportation infrastructure sector. Firstly, a peculiar thing is that the country’s main roads move from specific ethnic town to the center, Addis Ababa, while its good that every region is connected to the center, but there could have also been regions-to-region connections as well, something missing here!!!!.

In every corner of the country, each community is isolated in its own area without relationship with other surrounding ethnicities and societies resulting very local type of thinking in each community. As a result anything outside of this ethnicity is considered an alien and not deserving respect.

In an environment like this, misconceptions, misunderstanding and stereotyping is practically high. The condition will be even worse especially when pastoral nomads on both side are only once in contact, like Afaris and Somalis, or anywhere else when only rural people are in close contact.

For example, the prolonged conflicts area and the recent hotspot of tension and violence in Afar-Somali border is the best example, apart from Ethio-Djibouti road paralleling with Somali-Afar border. There is no earthly connection between the two regions, as a result no business and social interaction between the mentioned communities. It is only pastoralists and nomads that meet in the forests, grasslands and water points.

When they meet, each community come up with its own misconceptions and stereotyped concept of the other and it’s even so bad when they speak in different languages.

The same is also true in all other border conflicts be it Somali-Oromo which are the two regions with longest border where there is only single line of connection, the road from Jigjiga towards the center.

The same picture is evidenced in southern people’s state, Gambela state, Benishangul-Gumuz or any other ethnic based violence.

This minor rural based conflicts will translate to ethnic and communal hostilities especially when unfortunate human lives are lost. Finally hungry and opportunistic politicians take advantage of innocent citizen’s blood, adding benzene in the fire.

The government needs to end the colonial type development and replace it with community based type of development, roads connecting different ethnicities and regional admirations should be constructed, so that, misconceptions and stereotyping between the brotherly ethnicities and communities will be removed by minimizing geographic barriers.

By connecting these communities something commonly shared in these societies will be created. Businesses and social interactions among these societies will heal the wounds of hostilities, communities will discover each other’s hospitality and love. Therefore finally peace will prevail.

This connection is very crucial for the peace in the country, especially in culturally indistinguishable populations of eastern Ethiopia (Oromo, Somali, and Afar)

Yes culturally indistinguishable populations they are culturally intermarried, religiously Muslim followers, geographically neighboring and unavoidably interlocked, linguistically too  interrelated to an extent that, if you speak two of their languages by default you can speak the third, as there is about 40%-50% overlap in these languages and  finally  together they are all Cushitic, the common father.

By Ahmed Abdullahi