Born in 1973 in Degehabur zone of Somali regional state, Mustefa Muhumed Omer became the deputy president of the Somali region in the midst of a crisis following the ousting of his predecessor Abdi Muhamud Omer, a.k.a, Abdi Iley in August 2018. A well-known critic of Abdi Illey’s ten year iron fist rule in the region & the rampant human rights abuse by the region’s Liyu police (Special Force), Mustefa is an economist by training and has a Master’s of Science degree in Agricultural Economics. He has worked, among others, for the UNOCHA in Somalia, Kenya and Zimbabwe before being assuming his position in late August 2018. Since then, Mustefa has set in motion a sweeping reform which is largely credited for stabilizing the region which has seen the displacement of more than 1.3 million civilians during the 2016 – 2017 violence involving the security apparatus of Somali and Oromia regional states.
On May 06, 2019, Mustefa Omer participated in a BBC debate recorded in Addis Abeba along with three other panelists during which he stated that Ethiopia was more stable today than it was a year ago before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power. Addis Standard’s Tsedale Lemma and Nasredin Mohammed sat down with Mustefa to discuss this and other issues affecting national politics.
Addis Standard: You participated in a BBC debate on Monday May 06, 2019 during which you stated that Ethiopia was more stable today than it was a year ago, a comment which steered some controversy among Ethiopians who argue otherwise. Explain to me why you believe the country is more stable today when many others, including international analysts and journalists, believe otherwise, especially due to increased violence and internal displacements
Mustefa Muhumed Omer: I think there’s a misunderstanding in terms of how this stability is defined. If people are debating about the number of people displaced in this country, it’s a different matter. But, if we are talking about stability in its multiple dynamics then the issue that we have to look at are beyond internal displacements. Take for instance the key drivers of conflicts – we have to see where we were a year ago and where we are now. Let me elucidate some of them. For instance political violence: a year, two or three years ago we had a situation where government forces, or regional Special Forces were openly destabilizing millions of people. We also had a situation where several armed groups were strengthening their military might: some from abroad, some from inside the country, threatening the long term stability of the country.
So let’s look at a couple of points and see where we are today. Political violence, threats from armed groups, popular support for violent groups or for armed groups, unmitigated use of state security forces for political repression, and the criminalization of hundreds of thousands of civilians by state security forces. If you consider all these factors, I believe we are far better today than we were a year ago. It is true that we have a small issue with OLF, for instance, in some pocket areas of the country. Beyond that we don’t have an armed group openly at war with the country for political purposes. TPDM, ONLF, Patriotic Ginbot 7, Gambela Liberation Front and Liberation Movement and all the liberation fronts have now agreed that the political space is enough to accommodate their views and have come back to continue their struggle peacefully. So this is one indicator that the country is on a better footing today than it was a year ago.
We can also look at the issues of injustice and impunity; a lot has been done in the last couple of months to crack down on impunity by government and that is the key for the country. Impunity at the individual level or at community levels can always be handled by state security forces. There is a willingness by the government and there is a government capacity to reign down on vigilante; impunity by the state is what usually fuels the possibilities of a state collapse and large scale violence. So on all of these counts we have done major progress and that’s why I say we are in a better position stability wise than a year ago.