Ethiopia’s ongoing discord regarding the borders demarcation of ethnic killil is often mired with misinterpretations of the local history and the timeline of the migration of the different ethnic groups that makes up the country population.
The standoff between the Afar and Somali killil is the last example of a long list of conflict that pitted neighboring communities against one another from Mutema to Moyale. It also highlights how past regime weaponized communal disputes to assert own control over the strategic corridor leading Central highland to Djibouti`s ports.
For Somalis, the 3 kebeles of Garbo Ciise (Gedamaitu), Hundhufo and Adaytu are emblematic of the bitter religious wars that opposed the Christian Empire and the predominantly Somali Sultanate of Adal.
As a matter of fact, the first mention of the name “Somali” in Ethiopian History dates back to the XIVth century when Amda Seon cavalry who conquested the Makhzumi Sultanate of Showa was met by Adel’s archers’ fierce resistance in a wadi located between Garbo Ciise and Gewane.
Who were these defiant Adels warriors?
Made Seon chronicles record them as Issa, Abgal, Hawiye, and Harlas all Somalis clans with the later one being predominantly agriculturist by contrast to the majority of Somalis who are pastoralists.
At the same period, the Portuguese cartographers who identified Abyssinia as the mythical Empire of Priest John drew a map of Abyssinia with an unrealistic domain but with the locations of the Adels homeland right at the foothill of Dub Cas (Ahmar Mountains) and as far as Libaan zone, South of Bale mountains. With the exception of Oromo migration into Harla’s heartland in Dub Cas, Somali people homeland did not change much in the course of the last 5 centuries.
The 19th century saw the Abyssinian empire expand to the Southern highland and Eastern low land; however, as Merara Gudina noted it, the successive regime assimilationist policies triggered a nearly continued resistance from the newly incorporated provinces.
As part of the divide and rule policy, the Somalis kebeles lying on the Southern edge of the Middle Awash were added to the much diverse province of Harrarghe before returning to Somali administration under the newly created Somali killil when the Derg collapsed. The territorial statuesque was not to last as the TPLF dominated government decided in 2014 to handover these kebeles to Afar State illegally without due process of referendum which is against the constitution of the country.
The special arrangements made to preserve the population rights in the handover process were ignored by the Afar side which saw the provision of basic public services as an encouragement to urbanization of the Somali population. In a typical tribal mindset, the Afar State leadership claimed the land but it did not want the Somali population living on it.
On their side, Somalis understood neither why they were deprived of their constitutional nor why they were traded between killils without them being consulted. However, the revolt was not on the agenda as the TPLF`s iron fist prevented any open challenge at the time.
The collapse of the authoritarian rule in Ethiopia encouraged the uprising of the people of the Middle Awash. The Somalis of Garbo Ciise, Hundhufo, and Adaytu staged a demonstration on January 13th onward to voice their demand for the respect of their constitutional rights but the Afar`s state resorted to heavy-handed repression which left so far 9 deaths among the civilian protesters and dozens of homes burnt completely.
In an unprecedented show of force, the Afar liyu police carried an attack on the village of Dahan Hellay in the Somali State leaving 15 deaths and score of local villagers wounded. Furthermore, the Afar State controlled youth’s movement Doko Hina escalated the conflict by interrupting the traffic along the corridor and sending shock waves up to Addis Abeba as the drivers rushed to the gas stations while fearing a stock out of fuel.
The radicalization of the conflict in this vital corridor is calling for a firm intervention of the Somali State to defend the civil rights of the subjugated fellow citizens. TPLF dominated regime did not organize self-determination election in Garbo Ciise, Hundhufo and Adayta for the good reasons that they were no other indigenous contenders to challenge the Somali people’s ownership of the land while the presumed historical claims of the Afar people on the land are void.
Therefore, the Somali State leadership should denounce TPLF`s cocky bilateral arrangement and seek the reincorporation of this land to the Somali State. Failure to do so will further erode the popular support for President Moustapha Omar administration at the time when many Somalis are wondering the reason behind the Somali region authorities inability to protect Somali civilians in the kebeles surrounding the ancient towns of Tuli-Guleed and Babile.
Mida, Sitti Zone.