By Mohamed Garad
As the Somali Republic is inexistent for close to three decades and “Ethiopia” remains the unparalleled power in the horn to this day, Somalis are lucky enough that Faisal Roble is alive and talking.
In late July this year, I have had a short flight from Ottawa, Canada, to Minneapolis Minnesota, home of the largest Somali diaspora in the world and the place in which one of the world’s most historic women, Ilhan Omer, is elected. As I had abled to view the clouds from the above, I started to read one of the latest books of Prof. Christopher Clapham, the Horn of Africa State Formation and Decay, published in 2017. Though it wasn’t my first time to read the pages of this book, the reason I had been revising it wasn’t to gain knowledge from the book but was largely to understand its lines of argument as I am facing a new invasion of illusion which the book could be one of them.
Following the ongoing consequential split of the Ethiopian power center, which has uncovered the Ethiopia’s decaying condition of its “state” structure a vast majority of the Somali populace, including scholars, seems intellectually trapped and unconsciously legitimizing the Abyssinian’s fascist claims.
Since the nomination of the half Oromo Ethiopia’s premier, Abiy Ahmed, it seems Ethiopia has been mistakenly perceived as being the horn’s version of the famous phrase of “When America Sneezes, the World Catches Cold,” meaning when Ethiopia sneezes the Horn mistakenly catches a cold.
The birth of the above new phrase is not based on this author’s intellectual speculations rather its based-on evidence on the ground. Since the nomination of Abiy Ahmed, the entire horn has been reacting like a child who is trying to suit his/her traumatized single parent. In political terms, the new prime minister’s policy initiatives received the highest welcome in the region. The so-called Abiy’s horn integration plan has been praised far-more than scrutinized. Eretria has danced with love behind the new Ethiopian negus at the Meskel Square, in Addis Ababa. The already kowtowing Somali administrations in the free Somali lands doubled down their obedience to Addis. Villa Somalia has been doing everything to win the approval of Abiy over the leaders of the Somali federal members. Djibouti is a given factor to Addis. The only spiritually strong Somali organization since the fall of the Somali Republic, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, ONLF, turned down its gear and already praised the negus.
Amid all the above things are real, the intelligentsia community of the horn, especially that of the Somali society, has been largely failing to understand the real substance of this hysteria. Though some Somali scholars have read the “change” in Ethiopia with skepticism, Somali scholars fallaciously largely assert that change has come to the fundamental political establishment of Ethiopia. They contend that an Oromo “revolution” has swiped the power equation of the “country” in favor of the historically marginalized nations and as Oromos who were unable to call themselves Oromos in the time of Haile Selassie and Derg are now leading the “change”, “sinaan baa imanaysa (equality is coming)” in the words of one of the well-established living Somali scholars, Prof. Abdi Samatar. Thus, the theme of the most Somali scholars’ augments has been Somalis should suite the change in Ethiopia instead of articulating an independent broader horizon of thought which can preserve the purity of the Somali civilization and revive their nation.
The mainstream Somali scholars’ understanding of the “change” in Ethiopia is a pure misconception and their fallacy lies in a lack of understanding of Ethiopia’s deep state and political establishments. The simple claim the Oromo demonstrations which led to the appointment of the “Oromo” premier and premier’s “reforms” which sacked TPLF from the power is a reversal to the historic hegemonic role of the Abyssinians is a bonafide fallacy.
Such assertion is failing to appreciate the simple fact that Haile Selassie who has forced “Oromos not to call themselves Oromos,” in the words of Prof. Samatar had been biologically a pure Oromo son and Oromo elites had always been one of the cornerstones of the linchpin that holds the Ethiopian identity, which has been essentially an Amhara identity, intact. Their assertion even omits the weight of Abiy’s past career which has been entirely an implementation of Abyssinian policy decision. They further fail to acknowledge the simple fact that Abiy came to power not simple because of an Oromo “revolution” but with the help of Amahara elites, Ethiopian longest oppressors, who want to dismantle the theoretical redefinition of the Ethiopian identity which was achieved after the fall of the Derg regime.
Nevertheless, the lingering question in my mind is “why is the horn reacting in such a kowtowing tendency behavior towards Addis?” The answer given by Abyssinian elites and scholars is straight forward. “This region [Horn] had been under the control of Ethiopia (Abysinia) from about the beginning of Christian era until the revolt of the vassal king of Adal Grany (Ahmed Gurey) and subsequent invasion of the horn by the Oromo and Somali,” in the words of Getatchew Haile, a well-known Ethiopian-American philologist. Another vivid and fresh answer from the Abyssinians is the events at the Bahar-Dar Conference, the center of Amhara Administration and Abiy’s strongest ally, in which Amhara participants openly claimed the historic ownership of all lands of Somalis and Somali balabats—the Abyssinia installed “governors”—in the hall applauded for them.
Moreover, Abyssinian elites are not alone in this fascist claim. A significant number of western scholars fall into the trap. Prof. Christopher Clapham, which I have been reading his book, for instance, generalized John Markakis’s power categorization of Ethiopia—the highland core, the lowland periphery and the highland periphery—to the entire horn and argues “the people of the peripheries [including all Somalis] have been and to a large extent continue to be subordinated and to which ,therefore, they have to react.” Meaning, all Somalis have never been a parallel independent nation-state with Ethiopia but rather been the peripheries of Ethiopia which had been and have to be continuously disciplined.
Now the question is, given the reaction and the current state of the horn, isn’t the Abyssinian narrative legitimate? The answer is a bold NO. What we see is nothing but a fascist narrative that seems to wine. It must be defeated and defeated now. That is the invasion of illusion that Somalis and people of the horn are facing but scholar Faisal Roble has been and is essentially lonely resisting.
In most of his entire career, scholar Roble has been writing counter-narrative essays towards the fascist narratives and his contributions enlightened many invaded and occupied nations of the horn. Needless to say, had he not been living as of today, the invasive narrative could have made far-reaching effects which could have been irreversible. Though his contributions are uncountable, a living and vivid example is how accurately he has fact-checked the recent invasive claims of Abyssinians in Bahar-dahar Conference.
Mr. Roble’s consequential two-part article uncovered the ugliness of the Abyssinianism and freed the intellect of many occupied nations of the horn including the occupied Somalis and Oromos. Had he not been alive today, these falsehoods would have gone far unchecked easily. It’s his knowledge about Ethiopian politics and history which makes him the Markakis of the Somalis added with his firm determination to aid his people always that enabled scholar Roble to make a far-reaching contribution to his people and all Abyssinianism affected nations. Make no mistake, Somalis owe to him a lot.
As a part of the fight against the invasion, Allah willing, I will write a rejoinder article for Roble’s recent article of “Bahar-dar: Torturing Somali History”. Long live brother, friend, and scholar Faisal Roble!