For the most part of the last twenty five years or so, the Ethiopian Somali Region was synonymous with chaos, lawlessness, suffering and peril. Don’t even try to contemplate about what life looked like under the Derg or the Imperial regime for that matter.
The underlying current of all this misery was the long standing hostility between Ethiopia and Somalia over the question and status of the Somali Region. This ever dogging question was the source of the two conflicts between the two countries that costed thousands of lives and displaced another millions from their homes.
So, that is why the recent visit by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to Jig-Jiga was a big deal. The official state visit by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud under scored two significant issues that I will discuss in detail later in this piece. It also settled long standing questions that historians will ponder for a quite long time for good. The moment he landed at Garad Wiil Waal International Airpot at Jig-Jiga, the Capital of the Somali Region of Ethiopia, was the ushering of a new period in the diplomatic relations of the two countries as well as the image and world standing of the Ethiopian Somali Region.
The first significant outcome was the resting of the question of the status of the Somali Region, in which the overwhelming political position of every government since independence was that the Somali Region was an integral part of the Greater Somalia.
More importantly, the bonus of this trip was also that it was the final nail on the coffin of all those who have long fostered an ambition to expand the borders of Somalia at the peril and against the wishes of other people.
The other historic outcome of this official state visit is the affirmation that the Somali Region of Ethiopia is no longer a pariah region among the regions in Ethiopia but a stable, dynamic and developing region that has become the symbol for federalism and self-governance. It was a clear pronouncement that it is worth-wile to pay a visit to this place that has become synonymous with peace, progress and co-existence.
It was a clear and load statement that declared it is time to learn some relevant lessons in terms of security, development and some other best practices in terms of federalism and good governance.
It was an event that highlighted the fact that the Somali Region has become a success story for how best federalism works and how beautiful self-governance is. And when coupled those two things with good governance, then development and progress is just a question of time not one of a possibility. It was a testament to the fact that the Somali Region is now virtually a living laboratory for federalism, plurality, decentralization and empowerment.
What made this, an already historic visit, an astounding success that it is a reason for inspiration and something to be proud of is the fact that the Ethiopian government has acknowledged the change and the progress that the region has achieved in every aspect that they gave President Abdi Mohamud the full diplomatic protocol to welcome President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on behalf of the Ethiopian state and people.
This trip was unambiguous ascertainment of the highest order. It was a source of excitement and a moment of pride of all Ethiopian Somalis wherever they are, especially those who are familiar with the hard times that has befallen on the Somali people of Ethiopia until a few years ago.
So, when I watched the celebrations, festivities and the hospitality extended to President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud by President Abdi Mohamud Omer on behalf of the Ethiopian Somali people, it was clear that it was all warranted and spoke volumes of this historic trip. Especially, if you were someone observing those events from afar like I was.
For me, the moment it all sank in fully was while watching a documentary about President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s visit. The part that moved me on to my core in that documentary is the part in which President Abdi Mohamud Omer, alongside the Regional Cabinet, was talking to President Hassan Sheik about the region’s recent political history, security triumphs, best practices as wells as the region’s development and anti-poverty programs.
Moreover, President Abdi’s description of the contrast between the region’s past and present was so striking and riveting. The significance of the moment will not easily be lost forever on someone who has worked and lived in jig-Jiga like me.
Editor’s Note; Mohamed Olad is a Somali Commentator and Writer whose works have appeared on different media publications. He was a former Academic Staff and Faculty Fellow at Jig-Jiga University. Now he as an entrepreneur based in the the United States.