Martin Luther King once remarked that: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. The Somali region of Ethiopia is by far the unfortunate land of the 21st century but yet unknown to many due to media blackout that obscures the actual state of things. Being in periphery coupled with ethnic affiliation with Somalia did not help but made matters even worse for Somalis in Ethiopia.
EPRDF’s constitution remains a mirage not only for the Somali region but the rest of the country. Hence, the main reason for the current unrest in the country. It’s plausible to suggest that the change of strategy used by EPRDF to root out the insurgency is partly attributable to the invasion of Somalia from 2006-2009. The main lesson drawn from the invasion was that to eliminate ONLF one should use the Somalis themselves. Hence, the creation of Liyu- Police.
The change of strategy not only helped the incumbent government to eliminate groups like ONLF but also succeeded in taming the people due to outright fear of their own sons and brothers-the Liyu Police. One might ask why the people couldn’t rise against the Liyu Police as they have done with the military in the past. Several reasons abound but two reasons stand out from the rest. These are: (a) the rule of engagement has significantly changed since the advent of the Liyu-Police. The Liyu-Police don’t abide by any rules whatsoever. They kill, rape, imprison, torch and displace entire villages at will and face no consequence for their deeds. This does not mean that the military is immune from doing such heinous crimes. They do. But not in such scary scale; and (b) the military is considered an alien force that came to subjugate the people. Hence, a rallying point for the insurgents to fight them. But the Liyu Police is different. Though the leadership mainly come from one sub clan, they still considered as part of the community. Rising up against them will bring intra and inter community conflict.
Abdi Iley encouraged by the praise of the generals exercised his power in the many incursions he made into the territory of Somalia proper and Somaliland and killing innocent people including elderly and children. Did the EPRDF regime cared and thus put in place mechanisms to regulate his absolute power? Not at all! The regime thought that as long as he tamed and subdued the people, it does not matter the human cost and suffering involved. As a result, while they opt to condone his actions, they also hid the atrocities he is committing from the rest of the country and the world.
To give you a picture who Abdi Iley is, one should read the below two statements in conjunction. The first one is a saying of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) and the second one is that of Lord Acton. The Prophet (PBUH) said:” Among that which reached the people from the words of the earlier prophethood: if you feel no shame, then do whatever you wish.” (Bukhari). Lord Acton also said “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
The former saying of the prophet is not a license for people to do whatever they want. But rather it constitutes a threat and a warning for the shameless person. Secondly, it will also tell us that whoever feels no shame will do whatever they wish and thus descend to low moral standing. Similarly, Lord Acton has warned us about giving a person absolute power without any check and balance.
Abdi Iley is both shameless and a man bestowed with absolute power. Now have you got a picture? Let me illustrate both in examples. Long before he came to the circles of power, Abdi used to be an electrician with elementary schooling, grade 8 to be specific. One day his wife accused him of sodomizing her to the Sharia court. He acknowledged doing it but said that it was not intentional but a slip of his shaft. He also used to beat his mother in the market place. This is the guy the EPRDF generals brought him to climb the ladders of power and assume the presidency of the regional state.
Abdi Iley neither has the education nor the experience to lead people. So, power enters into his head and corrupted him absolutely. One clear indication of this is the way he portrays himself. He wants to be referred as “Aabbe” meaning “father” and the best leader in the whole of Africa (not sure if he considers Somali region as a country). Some even went to the extent of calling him “Nabi” (i.e. prophet) and “ Tinishu Egziabher (i.e. Junior god in the Amharic language) since he has absolute power in everything except bringing rain and changing the course of the sun. He can kill, imprison, make you extremely rich or poor overnight, displace an entire village and of recent entire Oromo inhabitants of the region, but to mention few of his crimes.
Since some of his supports gave him some deity characteristics and /or prophethood and yet he claimed to be the vanguard of Islam, I want to put him to Islamic litmus test to see if he is what he claimed to be. This test is to see if he fulfills the-main-objective-of-the-Islamic Sharia. The primary objective of the Islamic law is to preserve and maintain the five necessities. These are: protection of religion, protection of human life, protection of the mind, protection of progeny, and protection of property. I will explain each one of them in relations with Abdi Iley’s action.
Protection of Religion: Abdi Iley have taken Ethiopian government blatant intervention against the religion of Islam in contravention with its constitution (Article 11 (3) that reads “The State shall not interfere in religious affairs; neither shall religion interfere in the affairs of the State”, to another new level. He is not only satisfied with the imposition of the new “version of Islam” better known as Al Ahbash but went to imprison all the prominent sheikhs, closed the Quranic schools, and stopped any religious sermon in the mosques including the commentaries of the Quran, Hadith, and Sirah (i.e. the prophet’s autobiography).
Protection of Life: Life is Allah’s gift to human, and no one has the right to trespass it, even the person himself. Human being is dignified and thus has a right to lead a decent life not only having the basic needs but also protected from humiliation, annoyance, and harm. But in Abdi Iley’s world, life loses its meaning. Mass killings and displacement are committed because certain groups belong to a clan that allegedly support ONLF. Prisons are full beyond their capacities. Prisoners die from both their injuries due to the constant beatings and starvation. What’s more, the entire region is food insecure. As a result, IDPs camps are pervasive in the region and 3.3 million (50% of the total population) are in dire need of emergency food!
Protection of the Mind: Descartes said “I think; therefore, I am”. The ability to reason, the ability to understand are properties of humanity. Islam encourages us to use our mind to discover the truth and not to blindly follow. Here in this part of Abdi Iley’s world, everyone is expected to delegate thinking to “Aabe-the father”. Non-conformity causes one to lose not only his life but also to place the life of his family in jeopardy. Let alone to become an active opposition which can cause your life or that of your family members (if you are outside the country), not posting Abdi Iley’s picture will be considered a grave mistake punishable by loss of job, contracts, or imprisonment. Civil servants are compelled to register their close family members living abroad in order for them to attend rallies organized by Abdi Iley.
Protection of Progeny: Sexual reproduction is the means that keeps human species in existence, and for that reason humans are instructed to keep their progeny by forming families through marriage. The marriage institution is considered sacred and thus protected by law. However, as explained above, Abdi Iley is not a person to respect marriage institution even before he seized the power. Coming to power only increased his lust and carnal desires. Wherever he goes, girls of all types are brought to him to satisfy his sexual needs and those of his dignitaries. Credible sources tell us that Abdi Iley has got a department within his palace that are responsible in bringing girls and women of all types to entertain his guests. What’s scary is that those guests of honor will be recorded while having intercourse. Some of the girls brought to the guests were trained in love-making skills and will guide their innocent guests to commit perversion. Abdi Iley will use the recording to blackmail these individuals as they commit obscene things. Is this one of the reasons no one from the federal government and the generals afraid to speak against Abdi Iley and his crimes against the Somalis and Oromos? Furthermore, the main prison of Jijiga better known as Jail Ogaden is a typical example of how base Abdi Iley is. Girls and women ended up in that notorious prison will end up gang-raped and as a result will come out either having babies or pregnant. Men are also said being raped in that prison a copycat crime that resembles Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Protection of Property: Islam encourages work, production, and earning money and other property by lawful means. In the world of Abdi Iley, only few of his family members are allowed to trade as they controlled most of the trade in monopoly. For instance, bottled water, construction materials, such as cement and gravel, sugar and other food items are all under his brother, sister and brother in law’s control. The unfortunate thing is that your property will not be safe if you happen to be an opposition or have said wrong things about him. For instance, one of a former regional official traded insult with Abdi and Jigjiga city council found a way for paving a new road that passes via the home of this formal official, demolishing it to the ground with no compensation paid.
Do you have the picture of Abdi Iley now? Is he a guardian of Islam and humanity as he and his supporters portray him or a shameless man corrupted by absolute power? Or even more apt description is to call him a “Capo”. Victor E. Frankle in his famous book titled “Man’s Search for Meaning” aptly described Capos and how they are selected. Capos were selected based on their level of inhumanity in treatment of other prisoners, the lower they are willing to go, the better their chance of being elected as capos. Inhumanity is the quality needed in the selection process and in case they still have shred of humanity, they are demoted quickly. Well, I think TPLF tried different “Capos” for leading Somali regional state and demoted them quickly, in maximum of two years, when they couldn’t find in these candidates what it takes to be a “capo” in Somali regional state. They found their candidate in Abdi Iley, and stuck with him for last 8 years now, and counting.
Capos and their sponsors in Hitler’s Germany were finally put to rest with the help of allied forces that recognized the risk of having such a menace in the world to their security and the all-time-truism that “injustice somewhere is injustice everywhere”. The tormentor-in-chief of Somali regional state has confined his tormenting business to Somali region or other Somali speaking areas of the horn. Naturally, finding no meaningful resistance in these parts, he needed to extend his reach, the closest target he found was Oromia regional state and Oromo nationals. If he succeeds here, others will follow. Hence, it is high time for Ethiopians to recognize tyranny anywhere in the republic is tyranny everywhere and will come back to haunt us all and jointly establish a kind of “allied forces” to resist and subdue Abdi Iley’s hand and his sponsors.
Abdel Haq Noor is a political commentator from the Somali region of Ethiopia and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org