John Markakis’s “The Last Two Frontiers” is instructive when it comes to what needs to be done in order for Ethiopia to become a modern nation state and a vibrant polyethnic democracy.
The first frontier, power shifting from the North to the South, is already crossed with the selection of Dr. Abiy Ahmed. The second frontier, the integration of the peripheral communities is at its infancy.
An adaptation of this can be made for the Somali Regional State of Ethiopia. Two frontiers must be crossed if the people of Somali region are to overcome clan-based disunity and internal bickering.
The first frontier is that Somalis must be allowed to determine their fate. The TPLF told them who should rule them or from which clan he/she come from for 27 years. This SHOULD never happen again. The Somali elders and politicians must decide who they want to lead them! The moment the Oromos repeat TPLF’s “oh, we heard so and so clan is upset or big, and therefore they should be given this or that”, they lost the plot!
For three reasons: one, they will be seen as deliberately dividing Somalis; two, they will earn the enemity of those clans they ruled out from leadership. Three, they will be seen as new masters who are telling Somalis what to do!
The second frontier that must be crossed is that since its creation in 1991, there is a perception one clan dominates the politics of the region and the “national character” of the region reflects the culture and narratives of the hegemonic clan.
The perception is both right and wrong. It is right because those who benefitted from the spoils of power are from the dominant clan. It is wrong because the claim dismisses the fact that the said clan is also the one that suffered most in terms of rights violations.
Nonetheless, it is true communities in some zones, including those in the peripheries do not feel they own the region, the same way southerners (those who are not from Tigray or Amhara) in Ethiopia always felt they don’t belong to the country.
For Somalis in the region to come together, people in Jigjiga, Sitti, Liban, Gashamo, Mustahil, Togwachale, Dambal, Afdheer, etc., need to feel they own the region! This is the second frontier that must be crossed! This can only happen when the nonesense about “only clan X can be President of the region” is confined to history!