A high-level delegation from the highest traditional Gadaa leadership caucus of the Oromo concluded a visit they stayed in the Republic of Somaliland.
The delegation capped their five-day stay in Somaliland with a banquet Dahabshiil Founder, Mohamed Said Duale, threw in their honour which was held at the posh, five-star Damal Hotel.
The delegation did not include political figures but it, nonetheless, stated it was prepared to meet any contingency, discuss all issues of short-or long-term value to the objective at hand – fostering relations in accordance with the system the Gadaa was built on which accorded them such a space for all-inclusive negotiations.
According to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage page, the Gadaa is “a traditional system of governance used by the Oromo people in Ethiopia developed from knowledge gained by community experience over generations. The system regulates political, economic, social and religious activities of the community dealing with issues such as conflict resolution, reparation and protecting women’s rights. It serves as a mechanism for enforcing moral conduct, building social cohesion, and expressing forms of community culture. Gada is organized into five classes with one of these functioning as the ruling class consisting of a chairperson, officials and an assembly. Each class progresses through a series of grades before it can function in authority with the leadership changing on a rotational basis every eight years. Class membership is open to men, whose fathers are already members, while women are consulted for decision-making on protecting women’s rights. The classes are taught by oral historians covering history, laws, rituals, time reckoning, cosmology, myths, rules of conduct, and the function of the Gada system. Meetings and ceremonies take place under a sycamore tree (considered the Gada symbol) while major clans have established Gada centres and ceremonial spaces according to territory. Knowledge about the Gada system is transmitted to children in the home and at school.”
Since the twelve-member Oromo delegation arrived on Saturday, they worked their way through a charged schedule of meetings with government Ministers, the business community, traditional leaders, and the separate visits to the bicameral parliament.
The main thrust of the delegation’s visit rested on securing a reassurance of continued business transactions between the 28-year-old unrecognized republic and the Oromo regional state of Ethiopia.
Somaliland imports the mild, narcotic Khat (Qat) from the region. Conservative estimates put the amount Somalilanders pay to Oromo farmers at US Dollars 680 a year.
“Same as an unborn baby’s life-saving bond to his mother through the umbilical cord our trade relations with Somaliland,” the leader said, adding that there was no country in the whole region with whom the Oromo region has a similar bond or dependence.
A communique’ released of several meetings the delegation, particularly, had with their Somaliland counterparts stated that the two sides will work together on the formation of a joint council to attend to matters pertaining to security, conflict resolution and the strengthening of brotherly relations between the two sides. The joint statement also touched on how important it was to further boost relations between Somaliland and Ethiopia on all spheres as the core interests of one completely agreed with those of the other.
The delegation was warmly received at every turn. But, on every occasion, the extent of damage the new Ethiopian leader, himself of Oromo descent, PM Abiy Ahmed, surfaced in one form or the other.
The President of the Oromo State of Ethiopia, Lammaa Magarsaa, had, same as the delegation, spoken at length of the State’s economic ties with Somaliland, inviting President Musa Bihi to a formal visit.
Unlike his compatriot, Mr Magarsaa, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Mr Abiy Ahmed has since he assumed power mid-year this year embarked on a wooing spree with Somalia – an obtuse, former partner in a 30-year union with Somaliland. Abiy, it appeared did not only read his history books well but to have adopted to turn his back on a traditional ally preceding administrations saw in Somaliland and nurtured.
MR Abiy’s attitude started a growing murmur among Somalilanders across the spectrum on why Somaliland should continue offering respect that was not reciprocated at all.
Kenya offered another option and moves to start and consolidate better relations with this East African nation began. the two sides revisited traditional, political and economic ties and a visible thaw started.
As was the case with Ethiopia, Kenya was interested in fostering qat tarde with Somaliland.
The incumbent Kenya minister for trade, Peter Munya, a former governor of Meru, played a major role in promoting trade relations between the two countries encouraging forums where the two sides could exchange and sell ideas to one another.
Ambassador Bashe Awil, a charismatic young, Somaliland diplomat, and, presently, the country’s Chief envoy to Kenya, accelerated high-calibre connections between politicians on either side.
Somalia, which had successfully quashed similar initiatives in the past, seems to have been blank-walled this time around by a Kenya awakening to the geopolitical importance of Somaliland to the region.
The budding Kenya-Somaliland is a threat to none, according to Analysts. But that is not how Ethiopia and Somalia currently view it.