Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia

Report on the Peace and Development Conference
Jigjiga, 10-13 March 1996

Dr. Ahmed Yusuf Farah, Anthropologist, UNDP Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia - 3 April, 1996


"Shirweynaha Nabadda Iyo Horumarka"
Conference on Peace and Development



1.1. Participants
The administration of the Ethiopian Somali National Regional State organized a conference, held in the capital city of the region, Jigjiga, between 10 - 13 March 1996. As indicated by its title, peace and development were the two major topics deliberated upon during the confrence. This brief report is prepared by EUE/UNDP anthropologist who attended this 4 day conference.

A total number of 700 persons attended the Jigjiga confence. The majority of the particpants (460) were delegates representing the 46 districts administered by the regional administration - 10 representatives came for each district. In addition, 75 delegates representing 15 disputed districts along blurred border areas between the neighboring Somali and Oromo autonomous entities also attended the conference. Thus an overwhelming majority of the participants (535) were from the weredas.

Somali officials working at various levels of the regional and federal government constituted a large number of the remaining participants - including members of the regional council and 30 members of the federal parliament, the minister of transport and communication, Dr.Abdul-Majid Hussein and the two vice ministers, Shamsudin Ahmed (vice minister of energy and mining) and Abdurashiid Dullane (vice minister of water resources development). Non-Somali senior officials also attended the conference. The Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Tamirat Layne, inaugurated the conference with an extensive in-depth analysis of the security issues in the region. The presence of the Foreign Minister, Seyoum Mesfin, added to weight to the participation from the federal government and signified the importance attached to the event. At the closing ceremony Dr. Abdul-Majid apologized on behalf of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for not being able to attend, and read his message which implored Somalis to carry out the agreements reached in the course of the conference. The presidents of Tigrai and Harari regional administrations and representatives from Amhara and Southern Nations, Nationalilties Peoples National Regional State also attended the conference. They expressed their support and solidarity to the weak administration of the Ethiopian Somali National Regional State.

Even though a good number of the wereda representatives were religious leaders, some distinguished Somali spiritual scholars also attended the conference. Their participation was to enhance Islamic solidarity among the estranged Muslim Somalis and clarify religious arguments used by the fundamentalist itixad, in perpetuating violence in the region.

The Ethiopian Somali Democratic League (ESDL), which represents a coalition of more than a dozen local clans and is headed by Dr. Abdul-Majid Hussein, as well as representatives of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), participated the congress. A representative of the EPRDF also attended the conference.
1.2. Characteristics

In contrast to Kabari Dheherre conference of February 1995, women were well represented- for the good reason that they constitute half of the regional population and for the fact women and children are often greatly affected by the prevailing instability and ensuing underdevelopment. Fair representation of women, and other social groups from the districts, traditional and religious leaders, youth organizations, etc. corroborate the grassroots nature of the Jigjiga conference. As mentioned in the preceding section, the Jigjiga conference was conceived, organized and carried out by the incumbent administration.

The wide participation in the Jigjiga conference could be considered as a deliberate decision on the part of the present administration. Several reasons explain this inclination. First, is an apparent lack of effective communication and interaction between Jigjiga and the weredas. The initial need to reorganize and reform the administrative structures at the regional and zonal level, together with the absence of popular mass media, shortage of communication facilities and essential infrastructure as well as the large size of the region certainly contributed to limited interaction between Jigjiga and the districts.

To assure the electorate that the government is trying to fulfill its mandate and also to ensure public support and cooperation, the government felt the need to establish a dialogue on crucial issues affecting the lives of the population in the region - development and peace - with the representatives from all the weredas.

The first routine meeting of the regional council was due at time of the conference. This made the political atmosphere in Jigjiga replete with distracting and confusing propaganda, with ONLF radicals alleging that the intention of the conference was to replace members of the regional parliament who oppose the ESDL and the present administration. Many of these rumors were said to have been propagated by individuals with personal ambitions for power ambition and who were against the development of a viable regional government. Thus, the administration thought it imperative to bypass these individuals, who falsely represent groups in the districts, and conduct the conference.

The conference served as a successful public relations exercise for the administration. In addition to the support it enlisted from the participants, the administration presented progress reports on the activities by bureaus in the first half of the year and also presented its plans for further administrative reorganization and reform. As requested by the participants from the weredas, the administration promised to hold follow-up grassroots conferences at the zonal and wereda levels. The request of the participants to make this conference an annual event was also endorsed by the administration.

Another important feature of conference was that it was multi-dimensional. Guests from the central government and presidents, or representatives from other autonomous regions attended the conference, presumably to witness the changes taking place since the elections in the middle of last year. Regional artists performed an entertaining and educating drama featuring the developments that has taken in the region. That the Somali region is no more a troubled and dangerous place but a reviving part of the country, seems to have been the underlying message of the drama.


2.1. Security

As reflected in the 7 point resolution (see annex) endorsed by the conference, three crucial issues: security, administration and development, attracted the most attention and interest of the conference. During the transitional period (Mid 1991-mid 1995) governance in the Somali region not only prove elusive, it was seen as part of the problem contributing to the low intensity but disruptive conflict blamed on armed Itixad and ONLF groups. During this period the tendency of administration officials to give loyalty first to the interest of their kin group rather than the public interest, further explain the poor record of the weak and unstable administrations during the transitional period.

The current administration appears determined to tackle any lingering insecurity posed by the armed Itixad or ONLF factions. In this regard the participation of senior ONLF delegation headed by chairman, Bashir Abdi, signals positive sign of a possible end to instability. The chairmen of the two main political organizations, ESDL and ONLF, disclosed an on-going dialogue between them to settle their differences, through negotiation.
The change of policy on the part of ONLF and the stated desire to settle their differences with the governing party, the ESDL, through negotiation and dialogue received applause from the participants of the conference. Public appreciation of this move to possible political reconciliation between the two important organizations in the region was further encouraged by the reported advanced stage of the bilateral talks.

The talks are said to based on a six point agenda covering crucial issues including those addressed in the conference (peace and development), regional administration, fate of ONLF members in prison, etc. The ONLF chairman declared that the two sides had agreed to cooperate on matters concerning peace and development. The ONLF chairman also warned that they will not tolerate further violence from either the Itixad or radical ONLF factions, whose externally based leadership had been replaced in the organization’s conference at Harar prior to the elections in 1995. Bashir pledged that the ONLF will take an active take part in restoring peace and stability to region by using all means necessary, including fighting against armed elements who refuse to renounce violence.

In a televised discussion between the secretary of the ESDL and the chairman of the ONLF, the latter stated that their differences on most issues on the agenda had been narrowed down to a manageable level, thus predicting a successful and rather quick accord. Nevertheless, he stated that agreement on sharing power between the two organizations in governing the Somali federal unit is far from being resolved. Here the contentious issue relates to the proportional representation of parties in the regional council.

Although there are about 20 ONLF members in the regional council, only one of of them holds a seat in the executive council. Allocation of additional seats may be undertaken if it could deliver the desired goal- an end to violence and peaceful participation in the affairs of the region. If other matters are successfully resolved and there are encouraging signs towards this end, Dr. Abdul-Majid affirmed the possibility of integrating ONLF to the regional administration.

Accommodation of ONLF in the regional politics and its participation in the administration is crucial to the process of restoring peace and stability. The other destabilizing force, Itixad, lacks a social constituency in the region. With access to funds received from fundamentalist groups based abroad, the supporters of militias of Itixad are mostly individuals belonging to different clans. Because of the significance of clan based social organization in matters relating to security, Itixad or any other guerrilla group cannot operate anywhere in the region without the approval of the clan or clans controlling the area of operation.

Just before the conference, Itixad initiated raids to areas in Jigjiga zone controlled by the Abiskuul clan (Jidwaq - Abiskuul, Bartire and Yeberre), apparently in collaboration with disaffected members of this clan. Established local security forces cleared Itixad infilterators from Jigjiga zone. Dr. Abdul-Majid reported that the defeated remnants of the Itixad militia had sought refuge in disputed border areas between the Somali and Oromo regions, which act as hideout for the Itixad and Ormo fundmentalist rebel groups.

As reported by Dr. Abdul-Majid, a settlement and durable solution will soon be reached on the governance of the weredas claimed by both Somali and Oromo regions. This will deny the fundamentalist militias in both states a base from which launch their violence. Possible reconciliation and accommodation of the ONLF most probably will further marginalize the Itixad in the region.
2.2. Governance

Progress has been achieved by the present administration putting in place the foundations for a viable administration. Nevertheless, as admitted by the president of the regional administration, ‘ciid Daahir, a great deal still needs to be done. First, the number of bureaus have been reduced from a total of 24 in the previous administration to about 12. Related bureaus were grouped under sectors headed by members of the executive committee of the regional council.

The executive committee of the regional council finalized, just before the conference, 37 new directors to head the departments of the government authorities. Without totally disregarding membership of a kin group to ensure fair representation, qualification and experience primarily determined the appointment of the new directors. Thus the administration managed to install a reorganized working administration at the highest level. At the zonal level, able members of the executive council have been assigned as heads of the zonal offices. Hence efficiency has also been imparted in running the administration at the zonal level. Unfortunately, at the wereda level, there is still a need to develop a working and truly effective administration.

To curtail corruption and graft and misuse of public resource, the administration has arrested many corrupt officials. For example, recently the heads of the zonal offices in Dhagah Bur, War Dheer and Kabri Dheherre all lost their positions, allegedly for inefficiency and malpractice.

Heads of bureaus (planning, water, education, agriculture and SERP) presented their activities during this administration’s first six month tenure and their five year plans. This appears to have underlined the administration’s seriousness in accountability and openness in the public domain. This certainly achieved the intended goal by inspiring and assuring the confidence of participants from the isolated weredas.

The audience was given the floor to respond to the activity reports of the bureau heads. This produced the most dramatic event in the conference- the immediate dismissal of the head of the health bureau. A lady from Cheriti village, Afdheer zone, refuted a report claiming that the health bureau had staffed and provided supplies for a clinic. Not able to explain the circumstance, the bureau chief was dismissed.
2.3 Development

The link between development and security represented the common factor that permeated the six month activity reports by the bureau heads of the administration. The message here was that the bureaus now have the funds, the will, able staff and the other requirements to carry out development work in the rural and urban areas of the region. However, they commonly complained about prevailing man-made constraints, such lack of cooperation from the beneficiaries, opportunistic banditry and general insecurity, quite apart from the logistic and infrastructure limitations of this vast underdeveloped region. For example, the head of the water bureau reported that it takes more than one month to move equipment for construction and rehabilitation of wells to Kallafo and other peripheral districts in region. Government vehicles travel in convoys for security reasons.

The participants from the weredas wondered if the bureau heads were not using the security issue as an scapegoat and smoke-screen for not carrying out work in isolated areas of the region. Delegates from remote areas suggested that the bureau heads must stop the tendency to stay in the regional capital with its attendant benefits and start visiting and working in austere areas. SERP was cited as an example of excellence in working in difficult areas by many of the participants. SERP, which lost 9 members of its field staff and many vehicles since the change of government in 1991, manages to implement programmes in its project area. Hence, it was suggested that there is no reason for the bureaus not following the example of SERP by working in most of the rural areas. Some participants from secure and stable areas also expressed disappointment with lack of development activities in their areas.

The administration on its part promised to establish and maintain a working relationship with rural populace, while the participants pledged to ensure safety and stable environment for carrying out development activities in their respective areas of origin.

Despite the formidable problems faced by the present administration, there are encouraging signs of improved economic performance by government authorities. According to the head of the Bureau for planning and economic development, 35% of the annual development budget allocated to fund 79 projects has been utilized. Although most of the budget in the fiscal year has been allocated to fund incomplete projects carried over from previous administrations, the performance of the current administration so far is better than that of their predecessors (see Table 1)


Table 1: Region 5 Administration’s Rate of Absorption of Annual Budget, 1986- 1988 E.C.
Year (E.C.)
 % of the Allocated Annual 
Budget Utilized 
1988(first 6 months)
In his capacity as Minister of Transportation and Communication Dr. Abdul-Majid, the chairman of the governing ESDL party, disclosed his ministry’s plan to install a network of telephone lines to various parts of this peripheral region, including Jigjiga, Dhagah Bur, Xarshin, Gaashaamo, Gallaadin, Wardher, Kabri Dhaharre, and others. The installation of the network would be completed within period of 4-14 months. Dr. Abdul-Majid also made public plans for the construction of new airports and immediate flights of Ethiopian Airlines to important towns in the region, such Jigjiga and Kabri Dhahar.

To conclude, the regional adminstration succeeded in achieving most of the intended goals of this remarkably successful conference. First, the administration provided the impetus for wider participation in the affairs of this underdeveloped region. Second, it secured the necessary consensus and cooperation of the public on critical issues (peace and developement), which are still affecting the development of good governance in this previously unstable region.

The administration’s underlying objective of putting behind itself the inauspicious record during the transition period (1991-1995) warrants the encouragement and support of the federal government, donors and international community. However, this optimistic view will certainly not be confirmed until the conclusion of the negotiations between the ESDL and ONLF.


1. General conclusions

1. Declaring our strong opposition to the opponents of peace and development and with due respect to the popular desire of the people for peace and stability, we call on the destructive armed factions to lay down their weapons and live in peace and their kinspeople in the region.

2. Misuse of clan tendency in general and in the administration in particular is anathema to unity and cooperation, effective governance and development of our region. Therefore, we must strive to abolish misuse of "clannism" in order to restore the dignity of our nation and nationality undermined by instability during the transitional period.
3. Women comprise more than half of the population in the region, therefore it is imperative that they take an active part in the promotion of peace and development. In collaboration with the administration of the Ethiopian Somali National Regional State, we suggest relevant assistance be given to women so as to able to fully participate in the process of peace and development.

4. Our region is typical of the peripheral parts of the country, neglected by past dynastic and dictatorial military regimes. It inherited dismal infrastructure and amenities that are essential for development. Since it is beyond the capacity of the present administration to solve the formidable constraints on its own, we pledge to actively participate in peace and development by volunteering with our muscles, brain and material.

5. To establish a viable regional administration we are quite willing to participate relentlessly in the continuing task of reforming and reorganizing the present administration.

6. We strongly urge the administration to launch an investigation on economic crimes perpetuated by public officials at all levels of the administration by allegedly using public offices for personal ends, and persecute those individuals found guilty.

7. In order to redistribute the current work force, some of whom were appointed in terms of clan-bias and to ensure adequate and appropriate staffing of the government authorities, we urge the administration to install as soon as possible a recruitment policy that is harmonious with employment laws of the federal government and free from clan consideration- according to merit, technical and professional skills.


Somali text

1. Xoogagga nabad-gelyada iyo horumar diidka ah annaga oo si xoog leh uga soo horjeedna, ogsoonna in aanay jirin cid ka madax bannaanaan karta rabista shacabka, walaalahayaga qoriga u qaatey curyaaminta deegaankooda inta ay qoriga dhigaan si nabadgaelyo ah shacabkooda inay ula noolaadaan ayaan ugu baaqeynaa.

2. Maadaama uu qabiilku yahey lidka horumarka bulshadeenna waa furfuraha muwaafaqadeenna. Sidaa awgeed waxan u halgameynaa cidhib tirka qabiilka iyo dhaqan gelinta sharafteenna qawmiga ah ee shacabka dimuqraadiga Soomaalida Itoobiya.

3. Haweenka oo ah bulshadeenna badhkeed si ay uga qeyb qaataan nabad gelyada and horumarka ugana muujiyaan xarakaad la taaban karo waa in la dhisaa, hadaba dhaqangelinta arrintan muqdaska ah annaga oo la kaashaneyna Xukuumadda Degaanka ayaan ballan qaadeynaa meel marinteeda.

4. Maadaama degaankayagu ka mid yahey degaamada ay hilmaameen xukuumadihii hore ee gumeysiga ahaa ee dalka Itoobiya kana curyaaminyeen dhinaca hormumarka iyo adeegga bulshada oo aaney baahidayada xal u heli karin XDS oo kali ah, waxaan ballan qaadeynaa inaan maskax, muruq iyo maalkayagaba iskula garab taageyno Xukuumaddayada si aanu u hanano horumar dhaqaale oo la taaban karo.

5. Si aan u adkeynno dhismaha Xukuumadda Degaankayaga dadaal ann kala go’laheyn ayaan u galaynaa.

6. Ash-khaasta xilkii shaqo ee ay ummaddu u dhiibatey ku danastey ee dantii shacabka ka hor mariyey tooda gaar ahaaneed lundsadeyna hantidii ummadda, waxaan xukuumadda ku adkeyneynaa inay dabagal adag ku sameyso maxkamadna noo soo taagto.

7. Qaab ka nadiif ah qabiil in loo hufo shaqaalaha si la isugu dheelli-tiro shaqada iyo shaqaalaha hay’adaha dawliga ah waxan codsaneynaa in si deg deg ah loo bilaabo.



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