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In politics like in any other field of academic studies, there are different schools of thought. But, sometimes you would find people, who intentionally distort subjects of studies to score political points to their advantage. Federalism in Somalia is one of those subjects. You hear grown-up and seemingly educated people stating that “Somali clan federalism” was imported from “Ethiopian Ethnic Federalism”. These people, some of which considering themselves enlightened, are expressing only their opinions devoid of any basis in facts and history.

  1. First of all, Ethiopian federalism is based on nationalism in which every region has one predominant nationality like Somalis, Amhara, Oromo, and so on. These are specific, regional and reality-based conditions of Ethiopia. The concept itself was initiated not by TPLF, but by the Derg Government of Mengistu Haile-Mariam, for those who care about history. Prime Minister Abyi Ahmed of Ethiopia is trying now to dismantle it without much success so far, giving some political motivation to Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo of Somalia, who has failed abysmally in copying Abyi’s thoughts and desires for central dictatorship from Addis Ababa.

Secondly, TPLF government of Meles Zenawi was against the formation of Puntland State. I am still a living eyewitness as one of the founders of the State. At that time, Ethiopia wanted to continue its Mandated Plan of Somalia’s Peace and National Reconciliation – the formation of Puntland State was a distraction they didn’t want. At the time, IGAD and AU had authorized Ethiopia, ironically, (given the historical burden between Somalia and Ethiopia) to conduct Somali National Reconciliation Process.

Thirdly, Ethiopian government had opposed to the establishment of Jubaland State, until a later date when they had secured the loyalty of Ahmed Madobe, and they decided to promote Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in his election bid of 2012. Ahmed Madobe was persuaded or coerced to support HSM. In return, Hassan would drop his resistance to the proclamation of Jubaland State. As establishment of Jubaland became a turning point in Somalia’s federalism, leaders of Hawiye, who were in opposition to the system had no choice but to hurry up to form their own federal states, hence the creation of Hirshabelle and enhancing and recognizing Galmudugh as fully-fledged federal member state without fulfilling the constitutional requirement on establishing a regional state.

Still, many Hawiye intellectuals and politicians alike continue to denounce Somalia’s federalism as clannish imported from Ethiopia, a fallacy bought by many other gullible people from Darood clan family too. For example, recently I met with a former colleague of mine, who was present in Northeast Somalia at inception of Puntland State. He knew that Ethiopia had nothing to do with the foundation of Puntland State in any form or shape, yet, this gentleman had been sold the idea of Ethiopian influence in Somalia’s federalism. Having said that, there is no denying the impact of geopolitics on the sub-region and reach of globalization in politics as well.

There are many other historical distortions and fake stories about Somalia’s realities. Unfortunately, there are always ready minds taking in this nonsense without any scrutiny.

Moreover, many Somalis are not aware of the fact that regions in Southwestern Somalia had demanded federalism, in return, for endorsing the rest of the country’s desire for national independence. That was circa 1956. Was that an Ethiopian TPLF manipulation as well, I wonder? These people also ignore the fact that, given the legacy of Civil War, residents of many regions in Somalia don’t want to return to a one city-state situation any more. Nobody has to suffer the tyranny and repression of a regime of Barre’s type and clan cleansing of United Somali Congress (USC) again.

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