Elections 2021 In-depth

Dire Dawa’s dilemma: Sharing power in Ethiopia’s eastern melting pot

The diversity of the city on the fringes of Oromia and Somali regions is also a recipe for turbulent politics.

Efrem Mulat describes 23 October 2019 as a “dark day” unlike any he had seen before. He was no stranger to protests and street violence—but he actually had not brushed with death. “It was crazy,” he said. “You never knew if a bullet or a piece of rock would land on you.”

His hometown Dire Dawa, often portrayed in popular culture as an embodiment of multicultural coexistence, witnessed multiple violent incidents in that year–many of which had ethnic and religious undertones.

In October 2019, security forces fired tear gas to control widespread clashes among youth from different faith groups. Roads to and from the city were closed while the city transportation was halted. Buildings—particularly in the vicinity called Kebele 5—were set ablaze. Ambulances rushed to Dil Chora Hospital carrying the injured. The incident was triggered by rocks thrown at churchgoers returning from an Epiphany celebration, observed with much festivity among Orthodox Christians.

In June 2019, at least two were killed when Dechatu and Amistegna neighborhoods were revisited by violence. Youths from the two areas rose up against each other; some residents said the hostility had an ethnic element to it. Properties were destroyed, stores were looted, and offices were closed. Help from the federal police and federal defense forces was needed to quell the fighting.

But in October, Efrem (name changed), a city administration employee, found himself among flying bullets—and death knocked at his door. And this time the episode was triggered hundreds of miles away, in the capital Addis Abeba, the only other chartered city in the country, which, much like Dire Dawa, is a point of contention among different communities.

The January conflict in Dire Dawa was the result of a provocation on Orthodox Christian believers going to church; 24 January 2019; Deutsche Welle.

When prominent Oromo political figure Jawar Mohammed announced to his massive social media followers that his government-appointed bodyguards were being suspiciously removed in the middle of the night from his home in one of Addis’ affluent neighborhoods, many of his supporters sensed a devious attempt to endanger his life. In the subsequent hours, hundreds flocked to his residence to offer protection and show solidarity. Simultaneously, in several towns and cities in Oromia and Harari regions—and in Dire Dawa—violence ensued.

Clashes among ethnic Oromos and non-Oromos, as well as security forces and protesters, claimed, by the government’s own admission, 84 lives across the country. Among them were two of Efrem’s close friends.

“We grew up together; we went to school together and we hung out a lot,” the 25-year-old told Ethiopia Insight in his office in Dire Dawa. “We were like brothers.”

One of them, Efrem says, was killed near him by shots from security forces who responded to youths throwing rocks at them by firing live bullets. Efrem denies his friend was among those throwing stones.

In the following days, Efrem had to hide for days in a relative’s house. He didn’t know how the mob violence would evolve and he was afraid security forces might come after him.

Looking back more than a year and a half later, he was confounded by the apparent futility of what happened: “There’s nothing we achieved by the violence; by discord,” he lamented. “We just lost people.”

 Multilayered tension

It is perhaps not surprising that Dire Dawa, a multi-ethnic city contested by two neighboring regions—Oromia and Somali—is prone to clashes.

Territorial disputes and conflicts over resources, particularly among Oromo and Somali communities in and around the city, date decades back.

In the 2021 edition of his book, Governing Contested Cities in Federations, scholar and politician Milkessa Midega provides details of deadly clashes among these communities going back as far as the 1930s and 40s.

These intensified in the early 1990s when Ethiopia was on the cusp of political change with the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) overthrowing the brutal Marxist Derg regime. In those days, armed confrontations between armed groups representing both communities– the Issa and Gurgura Liberation Front (ISGL) and Islamic Front for the Liberation of Oromia (ISLO) took place in Malka Jebdu, eight kilometers west of the city.

After a short stint under Oromia region, Dire Dawa was made accountable to the federal government in 1993. One of the key reasons offered was its geo-economic significance—as it’s connected to the Djibouti seaport which, for the newly Eritrea-less landlocked country, became a main import entry point. But more significantly, the measure was taken by the government as a means of management for claims and conflicts over it between Oromia and Somali regions.

While a great deal of the study of its history is dedicated to the time after the establishment of the Ethio-Djibouti railway in 1902, the conflicts are believed to predate the city’s founding.  In effect, the railway itself begat urban Dire Dawa that led to the skirmishes—not only among the Somali and the Oromo, but also including the Issa and the Afar pastoralists in the area. 

But recent claims between the Somali and Oromia regions “have not yet been finally solved in accordance with the constitution,” argues Milkessa. And, over a decade later, without a definitive resolution, the city was chartered, which means it became “part of” and “accountable to” the federal government. 

Instead, a power-sharing arrangement between the EPRDF and the Somali People’s Democratic Party (SPDP), parties that governed Oromia and Somali states respectively, was introduced. Accordingly, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization  (OPDO), one-quarter of EPRDF, and SPDP took 40 percent each of all government positions in the city.  The remaining twenty were left to other EPRDF parties. This system is commonly referred to as 40:40:20.

Another dimension

As is often the case with contested cities, there are efforts to challenge governance arrangements by changing demographic composition.

Social anthropologist Dereje Feyissa argues that a notable demographic change has been observed in recent years as the Gurgura, a community of people sharing both Somali and Oromo identities, re-affiliate from an Oromo to a Somali ethnicity. This perhaps explains the increase by above 10 percent of the Somali population between the 1994 and 2007 censuses while there is a nearly two percent decline in the Oromo.

But, the series of violent incidents in 2019 indicate a different kind of tension—one that is not just a manifestation and extension of disputes between the two spacious regions.

Dire Dawa was founded as a trade and industrial city in the early 20th century following the building of the railway. This makes the city unique as many other Ethiopian urban centers were outgrowths of garrison towns. Old and new quarters in the city are divided by the Dechatu river, which in 2006 burst its banks leaving 200 dead and thousands displaced. The UN called Dire Dawaan impressively planned city” that since the early 1960s witnessed a booming economy, largely thanks to the railway.

Documents prepared by the Dire Dawa City Administration put the city’s population above 460,000 in 2017. According to Ethiopia’s last census, held a decade earlier, the Oromo are the largest ethnic group in the city accounting for 46 percent of the population. Following them are the Somali (24 percent) and the Amhara (20 percent).

Recent years show friction among these ethnic groups making up the city’s population—especially among the Amhara, who mostly occupy some of the central residential areas, and the Oromo. The city has nine urban and 38 rural sub-districts, many of the latter populated by ethnic Oromos. Around one-third of the population lives in these rural sub-districts.

Bird’s-eye view of Dire Dawa

Skirmishes among the Oromo and the Amhara (who sometimes are joined by the Gurage minority in the city) are not novel. In the early 1990s, according to Milkessa, clashes between Oromo-dominated Legahar and Amhara-dominated Addis Ketema neighborhoods claimed dozens of lives on both sides.

But the recent Amhara-Oromo/urban-rural tensions were fuelled by a larger context of social change across the country.

The second half of the 2010s is marked by a robust dynamism of youth movements in Ethiopia, especially among the Oromo. Pushed by a feeling of political and economic disenfranchisement, the Oromo youth held multiple protests since 2014. Within three years, their protests contributed significantly to the resignation of the country’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in 2018, and the coming of his successor, Abiy Ahmed.

Meanwhile, the presence of Somali regional government-affiliated youth militia was being felt in the city in 2018 and 2019.

Much like other cosmopolitan centers in Ethiopia, there has been a prevalence of suspicion towards ethnic mobilization in Dire Dawa. Helen Shigute, a 30-year-old civil servant, expresses this deep-running sentiment among the urbanite when she told Ethiopia Insight: “The main threat I see in Dire Dawa is ethnic politics.”

However, as an increasingly assertive Oromo youth began forcing change across the country, a sense of fear and of being encroached upon grew among the city dwellers. One expression of this fear was the sudden emergence of informal youth groups that seemed like attempts to counter the much-developed Oromo youth movement.

Almost inevitably, the presence of rival groups exacerbated clashes.

Satenaw, the main one of these emergent groups, made an unsuccessful attempt to register as a political party called Dire Dawa City Residents Unity Party for the 2021 elections. On top of the agenda for the urban Amhara flavored group, according to one of its founders, Sisay Ayele, is what it sees as an unfair political arrangement that favors the Oromo and the Somali over everyone else in the city: the 40:40:20.

“It’s known that there’s an apartheid in Dire Dawa—a system of governance and a power-sharing arrangement that excludes the residents, the people who are born here,” Sisay told Amhara Media Centre in November 2020 after spending more than three months in jail accused of spreading inciteful message on social media. “That’s why I started this movement,” he said. 

In a way, urban Dire Dawa’s contestations with its rural environs mirror that of Addis Abeba. And Satenaw shares an ideological fraternity with Balderas for Genuine Democracy. Balderas is a social movement turned political party founded in 2020 by the now once more jailed opposition figure Eskinder Nega with a single-minded rejection of the ‘special interest’ provided for Oromia by the federal constitution over Addis Abeba.

Sometimes, Balderas is characterized as having an Amhara-Orthodox slant in its worldview—something raised by Satenaw’s critics like Ali Abdella, a resident of Dire Dawa who originally hailed from the Oromo dominated Biyo Awale rural kebele. “These people are enemies of diversity,” he told Ethiopia Insight. “They want the supremacy of one religion and one ethnic group.”

Quota politics

As an intra-coalition power-sharing formula, 40:40:20 aimed to avoid conflicts by providing elites from contesting Somali and Oromo groups a higher but fixed representation in power. Mayors were appointed for the city from the two parties, one succeeding the other every two years.

Critics say the arrangement has made it difficult for people who do not belong to the two ethnic groups to obtain positions of power and to get equal opportunities in housing and employment.

Ibrahim Ousman Farah, former mayor of the city, in a March 2019 interview, called the arrangement 40:60, with the EPRDF getting the larger share.

The SPDP and the EPRDF “agreed to lead the city in a rotating term since the major constituencies of the city are represented by these two parties,” Ibrahim reasoned. And the arrangement “served as the most remedial and effective way of sharing power between groups with as many different interests and claims as the diverse constituencies they represent.”

Ibrahim acknowledged there was discontent over the system, but said they were the result of incitement by those “with hidden political agenda” who were distorting facts.

One person who does not hide his discontent is Daniel Sisay, a man whose face lights up with pride when he says he has lived in Dire Dawa for four decades. He nonetheless sees it as a poorly managed city in decline. While other cities across the country welcome the promise or the reality of big projects that could accelerate their growth, he argues that Dire Dawa seems to be comfortable in its neglect.

“It’s a city. It’s small. Why isn’t it easier to manage it [than the much bigger regional states] and to find people who can properly run it?” he asked rhetorically in an interview with Ethiopia Insight. And for that, his fingers are pointed at the administrative arrangement in which political appointees are chosen in accordance with an ethnic quota system.

When the Prosperity Party (PP) was formed in late 2019 from the merger of eight mostly ethnic-based parties, Daniel hoped it would be an end to the 40:40:20 formula. After all, the SPDP and OPDO have officially ceased to exist. But the PP was forced to maintain the autonomy of its regional chapters, and Oromia-PP and Somali-PP have continued the legacies of their antecedents.

Daniel wants to remain hopeful. But he understands that the change he yearns to see needs to come from above. Maybe the government that will be formed after the election “might amend the constitution,” and reconfigure the political structure, he said. However, “I don’t expect much change on a city administration level.”

The view from rural Dire Dawa is diametrically opposite to the urbanite’s cosmopolitan tendencies. Speaking with Ethiopia Insight, Ali, the rural kebele resident, said the bargaining among the Oromo and Somali elites that has brought a settlement to run the city by rotation has helped avoid major confrontations among the groups in the city, even during the 2016 Oromia-Somali border clashes that claimed dozens of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands. And besides, he argues, it helps develop cultural identities of both groups that, otherwise, would have been ignored.

Also, like Daniel, Ali doesn’t place much hope in any post-election change. And for him, the main issue in this regard is the lack of viable options.

Somali women who fled Oromia during the border conflict at a camp outside Dire Dawa; December 2017; Public Radio International (PRI).

Election matters

Nine political parties and one independent candidate were registered to run against the incumbent Prosperity Party for federal parliamentary seats in Dire Dawa. The list was dominated by pan-Ethiopian parties like Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (Ezema), All Ethiopians Unity Organisation (AEUO), and Hiber Ethiopia Democratic Party (Hiber). 

Among the overtly ethnic-based parties running in the city is the National Movement of Amhara (NaMA). There were also parties that were perceived by some as having religious tendencies: Enat Party and Freedom and Equality Party represented, respectively, the Orthodox Christian and the Muslim electorate. 

Absent were parties representing the Oromo and Somali ethnic groups. The two major Oromo-focused opposition groups, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), were missing from the 2021 election as they refused to register candidates citing constant harassment by the ruling party and the arrest of members including key figures. Similarly, a senior figure from the main Somali opposition the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), Ahmed Mohammed, said in April that their efforts to register candidates were hampered by officials from the ruling party.

The reality was no different for the city council seats with 114 of the 189 council seats allocated for the rural sub-districts in which each sub-district chooses three representatives. This arrangement is seen by some as giving a lopsided say to the rural sub-districts with certain measures skewed in their favor. Legal scholar and political commentator Woubshet Mulat argued the arrangement could be seen as a form of gerrymandering.

Some of the parties that vied for the city’s votes describe a fairly favorable political atmosphere in the run-up to the election, which, according to Surafel Getahun, lecturer and researcher in political science at Dire Dawa University is “very different from what you would see [if you travel] 50 km outside the city,” referring to Oromia region where the main opposition actors routinely complained of persecution and intimidation.

Yared Alemayehu of Ezema told Ethiopia Insight that in the run-up to the election, besides the removal of few election posters by unknown people, his party had not encountered any significant hurdles.

“Our membership is growing in Dire Dawa,” Yared said. “The number of members is determined based on political documents you provide and how much your political thought has acceptance. In Dire Dawa, the number has been growing since we opened an office. There is progress.”

Kalkidan Adane is from Enat Party, which ran in eight of the city’s nine urban sub-districts. “We haven’t faced problems,” she said.

NaMA’s Nurlign Tsegaye, however, said there is a sense of fear among the party’s members and supporters that he said was a result of the party being described by some of its opponents, including local officials, as a toxic organization. “That brings pressures,” he told Ethiopia Insight, “which means it becomes difficult for members and supporters to express their views publicly.”

Still, he admitted, there was a much better space to operate in comparison to other regions, besides the party’s main base of Amhara region and Addis Abeba.

When results were announced on 10 July, however, all the city council seats and the one parliamentary seat released went to the Prosperity Party. 

Fragile growth

In the decades before preceding the Marxist revolution in the mid-70s, Dire Dawa had a well-established expatriate community unmatched, besides Addis Abeba, by any other Ethiopian city, giving it a true multicultural color. Kezira and Megala quarters, separated by the Dechatu, hosted European and largely native residents respectively in the first few decades of Dire Dawa’s history. While Amharic is the working language, the city, in reality, is trilingual with Afaan Oromo and Somali being used by many residents.

Wondossen Zeleke, a former head of the city’s Chamber of Commerce who now is leading the Diaspora Association of Dire Dawa calls it “a city of trade.” “From the beginning, it’s a city built around business,” he told Ethiopia Insight.

But it seems that Dire Dawa has now lost much of its historic economic importance as the significance of the railway-centered economy declined. Or at least that is what many residents feel. 

Meanwhile, although Ethiopia has seen fast-growing cities in the past three decades in Hawassa, Mekelle, and Bahir Dar, Dire Dawa has remained a city of dispute. According to scholar Dereje Feyissa, these disputes created “political fragility” that has “undermined the city’s growth potential”—a view that seems to be shared by many residents.  

Additional Reporting: Dagmawi Fekadu

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This article is part of the Ethiopia Insight Election Project (EIEP), a series of in-depth reported pieces from across Ethiopia in our ‘Elections 2021’ section that analyzes issues related to this year’s polls.

Main photo: The Djibouti-Ethiopia railway in Dire Dawa.

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About the author

Mistir Sew

This is a generic byline for all anonymous authors. The anonymity could be because they fear repercussions, as they are not authorized by their employers to express their views publicly, or for other reasons.

9 Comments

  • “But it seems that Dire Dawa has now lost much of its historic economic importance as the significance of the railway-centered economy declined. Or at least that is what many residents feel.”

    The author is trying to shift blame and cover up the atrocities and economic theft committed by TPLF over the past 30 years which was the cause of the loss of Dire Dawa as the economic epicenter of the nation. Its textile, cement and bottling industries were deliberately extracted and destroyed by TPLF at the expense of Eastern Ethiopia in order to make Mekele the new industrial powerhouse. Both from the cost of transport and distance from the capital center and other nearby big cities Dire Dawa, not Mekele would have come out the logical and most cost effective place to continue and expand on whatever was extant. But the greed, avarice and thirst for control and power by TPLF was so much, they had to destroy not only Dire Dawa but Addis Ababa, Desse, Jimma and many other cities and towns to make Mekele shine. These were the people at the helm, destroying Ethiopia from the inside and wasting capital and generations for an ethnographic centric personal glory of their ethnic group at the expense of the whole country. Their economic policies were ill devised, often a complete failure and disaster. None other than the back breaking cost of living and affordability of even basic food items is the indelible testimony to the failures of ethnic federalism apartheid system of the TPLF era. No amount of obfuscation would cover up a 5,000% increase in the price of a loaf of bread. No amount of excuse and sleight of hand will be sufficient to cover up the skyrocketing costs in everything from potatoes to lentils, from orange to tomatoes and every other basic item measured in thousands of percentage increases over a mere 30 years of mediocrity and impunity of TPLF.

  • Given historic status Axum, protecting the Prophet Muhammad’s followers, why can’t Muslims build Mosques in Axum? Why TPLF so against that for all the years? Anybody knows why?

  • The city of Harar is considered the 4th Holiest cities in Islam. With 110 mosques and 102 shrines, Harar is known in Arabic as Madeenat-ul-Awliya (the City of Saints). City ordinances covering noise, traffic etc, as posted in my previous comment can be and should be encouraged to be practiced and obeyed by all citizens as a natural and civic duty. That includes, the 3 am, 4am Mozen Prayers broadcasted loud from Mosques in Addis, disturbing the peace and tranquility of international travelers and tourists.

    Regarding religious tolerance and coexistence in Ethiopia, let’s not even get there. The burning, sacking and destructions of churches in Ethiopian history is a saga we do not want to address here anymore. Let bygones be bygones.

    It is well known and documented that Ethiopia was host to followers of the Prophet Muhammad, and upon his advice made the Migration to Abyssinia i.e. the First Hegira, when they were persecuted by the then ruling Quraysh tribe of Mecca.

    I challenge you to name one, yes one Islamic country in the world that respects the even the fundamental, basic rights of those who are of the Christian faith. How agonizing and shameful it was to see the treatments of Ethiopians and their subjugation and persecution in Saudi Arabia filmed and broadcasted live on TV before the world. These questions of religious values, treatment of our own brothers and sisters as another just because they practice a different religion should be examined by our own conscience.

    Lest we don’t sound so pharisaical, let’s remember: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”.

  • Awale

    Thank you for raising the problem that has been felt so deeply by the great portion of Ethiopians, but no one had the courage nor time to address,namely ” the noise pollution “emanating from the Ethiopian orthodox churches all over the country. Because of the noise people have been unable to rest ,sleep ,read ,study, listen to their radio or televions Some eleven years ago or so I was in Addis ababa ,living close by a church whose daily sermons ,with a blasting loud speaker,for severa hours ,was nothing of religious content but rather a blatant attack on muslims and their religion and their prophet Mohammed SAW ! Such practice went on for several years unabated and it was during the time of Melesse ! I always wondered ,did the government at the time had its hand in it as it looked the other way as the orthodox church went bersek ! yet there have been that flowery axiom :Ethiopia is a land peace where different religions coexist peacefully respecting each other ! what a falacy and what an empty talk ! it never was and perhaps is :the fact of the matter is that there has been peace in Ethiopia because the Muslims have accepted subordinately and peacefully the facts on the ground,their inferior position ! In Harar city,there is a church, Medhane Alem church , which was once a great mosque of Hararis but was changed into orthodox church by force after Menilik defeated and captured Harar .The only way out for Ethiopia is justice and equality for all ;minorities should have the same right as the majority ethnic groups,if the country wants to go forward instead of backward.

  • Awale, why attack the Orthodox Church out of the blue? The author and comments were about the political turmoil and economic degradation of Eastern Ethiopia. But that religion mantra itch, you could not resist. I think most residents of any city will not object to city ordinances that respect the rights and safety of every individual. For instance, regulations about noise, sound, traffic, parking, street peddling, street vendors etc are already or should be in the books and we should raise society to learn and respect them naturally after learning their significance. Public broadcasting regulations and the use of modern sound systems will solve most of the problems, including 3am, 4am Mozen Prayers broadcasted loud on megaphones from Mosques or long sermons and teachings from Churches.

  • And one more thing and that is related to issue raised by the author such as religious and social tolerance . True, civilized society cannot function and exist without tolerance among and with others. The case in point is the aggressive on religious peddlers and tactics by some ,especially the orthodox church leaders in terms of te noise pollution of the public space. This noisy sessions goes for hours or even days without even not being the big holidays. There always will be elements in the society and special interest groups, who would push the envelope further and they are not exception. Seemingly, they set up prerecorded material and chants with loud speakers directed to the residents. To counter this, there must be civic and public space rules and regulation enforced by the cities admin. This is becoming very problematic in Derideba Jijiga and other Muslim majority cities. I like what col Mengistu allegedly did once in Harar city while visiting there. He couldn’t sleep from the noise from night and when he woke up in the morning he shuttered those noisy premises. Asked him why spared some mosques,he allegedly said those guys only bothersome for few minutes with their morning mozen prayers.

  • The people of Harar, Dire Dawa and the entire Somali region are naturally gifted merchants and great traders. Given the appropriate and proportional federal support, the region can be rebuilt and its infrastructure development can improve dramatically if there is peace and the will to up lift the region. It should be remembered that Haramaya University was one of the oldest colleges of higher learning in Ethiopia. Established in 1954 under the auspices and tutelage of Oklahoma State University, it has been the center that generated top scholars and technocrats in Ethiopia for generation. It is a unique city, with unique architecture and many historical sites, including the very famous House of French poet Rimbaud.
    Harar should be rebuilt, and her once glorious standing as one of the most lovable cities in Ethiopia must be restored. In parallel, the carefully built industrial Dire Dawa must return to her previous glory of an industrial hub. There is absolutely no reason why these goals cannot be met. This part of Ethiopia was once the backbone and economic regional power of Ethiopia. Its people, if left alone to live in peace, will once again rebuild the multi ethnic, multi religious and multi lingual, sophisticated metropolitan populace that knows hospitality, kindness,tolerance, self reliance. It is a society mistreated with ignorance and greed, but nevertheless rich in history, culture and humanity for all.

  • Sara

    I second to you as to what has befallen to dynamic DD, historic Harar and Somali region or eartens parts in general : It was nothing of short greed, public thievery, politicsl piracy, deliberate subterfuge and devious plan hatched by the TPLF clique and assisted abated by their minion of every color and ethnicity in EPRDF entity. That said. I disagree with that this as being at fault of federalism system perse. This wasn’t even ethnic federalism, let genuine ferderildm, in the true sense. I was pure and single ethnic chauvinism. above all others and at all cost masqueraded as beig a sort of ethnic federalism. That doesn’t mean I’m necessarily saying there couldn be weaknesses and blinds spots that could be readily ratified upon hard experience and careful examination of the formula itself. Ethiopiia cannot and should never go back to centralism model in which we are all familiar with its adjective failures over hundrend years.

  • Of all the crimes against and subjugation of the Ethiopian people under 30 years of TPLF dictatorship, the total collapse, destruction and devastation of Dire Dawa and Harar is among the most heart breaking. The poverty, infrastructure decay and dilapidation of the city of Dire Dawa under TPLF is obvious. Once known as a metropolitan, industrial hub of Ethiopia, with multi lingual, easy going, very friendly people of love, Dire Dawa is now in shambles and ruin. Its famous textile, cement industries stripped bare, its greatest schools that produced top students destroyed and denied funds, it reeks of the despair, neglect and abuse it suffered under TPLF greed and iron fist control. In the the 1970s even during the Somali Ethiopian war, this level of ruins were not observed. Dire Dawa has been asphyxiated to die a violent death as a city by TPLFs incessant pressure and boots 🥾 on the necks of the people of Dire Dawa, regardless of their ethnicities. The affluent Somali, Harare and other residents are among the poorest in Ethiopia now. The city is frozen in time, stuck to its standing 40 years ago.

    The beautiful Harareghe, with the unparalleled basket weaving, artist expression, her beautiful Harare people and delightful dressings, songs and language has been marginalized and robbed of her once glorious past by ill thinking, narrow minded nincompoop TPLF cadre policies. Once the fruit basket of Ethiopia known for the famous Harar bananas, guava, papaya, the unique Gishta fruits (wild apple custard) and many other agricultural products has been relegated to produce only Kat, exposing the youth to rampant narcotic addiction, social and emotional despair and hopelessness. What if any benefits TPLF received from an intentional destruction of a generation of innocent people, will be left for others to judge.

    The failures and utterly racist system of the TPLF drafted ethnic federalism system can easily be exposed by the treatment of the Somali region over the past 30 years. The Somali region is host to over 15-16 million, hard working multi ethnic, multi lingual and multi religious population spanning an area over 107, 000 square miles. Over the past 30 years, the tiny Tigray region, with a land size amounting less than 20,000 square miles which is less than 1/5 th of the Somali region and a population of less than 6 million (roughly 1/3 the population of the Somali region) sucked up the budget, taking a lion share of the federal capital. The Somali region got nothing in return. No roads development, no school, health center expansions and development. Under such government driven intentional resource extraction and poverty spread, is it any wonder if the communities of brothers and sisters who once knew how to coexist and live together turn at each other? The legacy of TPLF is shame, corruption and greed. Its fake ethnic federalism apartheid system has been exposed bare and is seen to be against every Ethiopian, regardless of ethnicity and religion. It is also anti-Tigrean, for our Tigrean brothers and sisters totaling nearly 2 million have lived in food safety net for 30 years under TPLF hegemony of every sector of the economy. These are the hard facts that every Ethiopian needs to look at straight and struggle to reverse and change course.

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