By: Hafsa Mohamed
“Roob-doon” is a Somali term describing an ancient cultural practice of spiritual quest(s) for beneficial rains.
Drought seems to be an adverse re-occurring environmental [and social, economical, political, etc] phenomenon in our increasingly warming earth and almost a regular life experience for communities throughout the Horn of Africa. One might wonder – what causes drought? Well, drought is and can be caused by unusually dry weather (no rain / delayed rains) and, of course, human activities (pollution, cutting of trees, unsubstantiated construction/development, etc.) Drought and its uncountable negative outcomes are affecting the lives and livelihoods of millions around the globe. In an Africa, as of today, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan are the most negatively impacted countries, with serious disease outbreaks, hunger, displacement and even fatalities – albeit El Nino induced catastrophes are impacting other nations in [East] Africa.
On March 25th, the President of Ethiopian Somali Regional Administration, Abdi M. Omar, openly stated that he and a delegation will be visiting drought affected communities in the region for the purpose of gathering qualitative information and providing capacity-pertinent support – and titled the visit/travel “Roob-doon” (Rain Quest). Most people would assume that such a visitation would be a small tour of nearby towns, exaggerated media coverage and a quick return to the capital city – after all, it is what most leaders do. But, in the Somali Region, we witnessed something completely dissimilar to the norm, admirable and moving. President Abdi M. Omar and his delegation left Jijiga City with the intention of visiting Dollo Zone, one of the most early and worst impacted zones but ended up touring the majority of the Somali Region. During this tour, the president and his delegation stopped in almost every populated village and held a community dialogue on the authentic drought status (direct from the affected), relief/aid and on what the regional administration is doing correctly and what can be improved. Throughout this regional tour and travel, President Abdi M. Omar and his delegation distributed food, water and other empowering items to needy families.
The “Roob-doon” travels expresses to drought victims of the Somali Region that, although help is underway, agro-pastoralists and marginalized families have the space and opportunity to truthfully address leaders and request for relevant empowerment; and that there is a strong level of commitment from senior officials in the regional administration in ensuring aid reaches in a timely manner. President Abdi M. Omar and his delegation spent a substantial amount of time and resources in remote areas throughout the Somali Region, demonstrating solidarity with drought affected families and enabling in drought efforts. In some of the published footages, one will notice how regional officials are humbled and reflective whereas drought-resisting people are vocal, grateful, and suggestive – and how collectively drought / climate change is being discussed by women, children, elderly, etc through talks, music, and effectual mappings.
Moreover, this very same El-Nino induced drought is affecting and risking the lives of millions in Somalia, Kenya and Sudan but what is being done by the non-affected/privileged in these countries, aside from the standard “Emergency Aid” rhetoric/conferences? Do we see presidents such as Uhuru Kenyatta, Mohamed “Farmajo”, Ahmed “Silanyo” or governors such as Ahmed “Madobe”, Abdiweli “Gas” and Joshua IIrungu or even Ethiopian regional presidents such as Lemma Megersa actively addressing the drought let alone touring or visiting their respectable areas/lands to briefly share the grievances and struggles of people? I am afraid not. Even though I have mentioned names of influential persons, forget leaders for a moment — international aid workers/entities and local organizations are barely using empathetic approaches in ongoing drought interventions; it is primarily numbers, unreliable reports, nothing with primary sources of narrative or information, hardly anything with human feeling, etc. So, it is very commendable and inspirational to see the Ethiopian Somali Regional State President, Abdi M. Omar, stay in drought affected communities, sit amongst these families as an equal, directly serve the most vulnerable (women, children and elderly) water, food, items and genuinely feel or experience drought – not only as a leader/president but as a human being, father and husband.
Pic: 5 President Abdi M. Omar Sharing a Moment with a Drought Affected Family/Children
Sensitizing the Drought and Encouraging Collective Participation in Relief Efforts
What we seen the past two weeks in the Somali Region’s “Roob-doon” is an outstanding example of sensitizing the public and the larger global community to what/how drought looks like – it looks like our family, your mother, a call for action, a wakeup call, and a life or death situation. When we sensitize people to drought and humanize its victims, we make drought a changeable human/environmental condition which everyone (from president to student, mother to scientist) can reverse or end. President Abdi M. Omar and his delegation’s Rain Quest, so far, resulted in community members of all positions to visit, assess [through dialogue and observation], support drought affected families. Let us all take note of the “Roob-doon” and evaluate ways we, as individuals, can participate in drought relief, whether it be in Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan or Kenya. Let us avoid unconstructively politicizing drought and/or the efforts or even the politicians attempting to empower drought victims. Let us act quickly in ending this current drought and preventing future environmental disasters. Overall, “Roob-doon” is an exemplar of not only a quest but a resourceful community organizer who also happens to be a/the regional president, overtly encouraging and mobilizing the sensitization of all people to drought and promoting collective drought-relief approaches.
Editor’s Note; Hafsa Mohamed is the founder and Exicutive Director of Maandeeq Women’s Organization (MWO). She is also active member of North America Ethio-Somali Diaspora Community. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.