Somalia region of Ethiopia has had few heroes in its recent history, but none like Mustafa Omer, the current interim president who took power from Abdi Iley, the ruthless killer, after a stand-off with the federal government military in August 2018.
By the time the former president was evicted from power August 6, 2018, Somali region was already in turmoil, and a well-orchestrated politically motivated violence, widespread looting, and killings instigated by Abdi Iley supporters turned Jijiga, the capital, into a ghost city.
Banks were looted and churches burned down to trigger all-out ethnic violence. Somali regional state infrastructure and services literally collapsed and ceased to exist.
It’s in this backdrop that Mustafe Omer was selected and tasked with rebuilding Somali region’s ailing public institutions to deliver basic services, justice and assemble a capable cabinet to lay down the foundation for good governance.
However, the responsibility of rebuilding a shattered region —emerging from gross human right abuses and afflicted with cyclical catastrophic natural and man-made disasters —was never going to be easy for Musatafe.
He inherited a security force that persecuted his own family until they fled the country and brutally murdered his younger brother, because of his powerful writings on human right abuses, mass killings, and arbitrary arrests carried out by the former president, Abdi Iley.
To make his life even more complex, the proxy conflict and chaos started by Abdi Iley against Oromia region have severely disrupted his efforts and plans of speedy recovery.
Despite all these formidable political challenges, Mustafe has demonstrated a fiercely independent political thinking inspired by his identity as a Somali and at the same time being proud Ethiopian. It’s this unique political rhetoric that has endeared millions of Somalis across the world to him.
Mustafa has allowed and actively encourages freedom of speech to flourish in the region. He understands free minds unlock human capital and is essential for such a young population to realize its potential talents and creativity to solve the complex social problems.
Under his leadership, people in Somali region openly criticize anybody, including the president, and freely express their feelings without fear of being tortured to death.
The president’s attitude reflects the aspiration of an oppressed people yearning for change. His actions are also perfectly in line the reform agenda of the Prime Minster, Dr Abiy Ahmed.
Therefore, I recognize Mustafe Omer as the person of the year 2018 for his contribution to freedom of speech, tackling corruption and his determination to uphold the rule of law and good governance.
We all understand fixing a failed region takes many years, but we have to give credit to Mustafe for his brave political stance to run Somali region as independent president who believes the source of power and authority should come from the people of Somali region, and his persistent refusal to be a puppet like the previous presidents has made him hero.
The Somali people should keep their minor differences aside and give the president and his cabinet unflinching support to implement the reform agendas.
The unity of the people in Somali region is the best weapon to deter political interference and expose those plotting against the president behind his back. Somali region is watching.
Mustafe’s appointment and his political views have rattled powerful nefarious elements in the federal military and security networks who always thought they were entitled to receive millions of bribes and extortion money from Somali regional presidents. Not anymore.
Mustafa Mohoumed Omer was born 1972 in Degehabur, Somali region of Ethiopia. He was appointed to the post on 22 August 2018 following a political crisis where the Ethiopian military forced Abdi Iley out of power.
Mustafe Omer has previously worked as an economist, activist, and humanitarian in food security (pastoral and agro-pastoral livelihoods), partnership, resource mobilization, and strategic planning roles in different NGOs.
With his superior oratory and negotiation skills, he may eventually manage to resolve the Oromo-Somali ethnic violence, gradually improve the living condition of the people in Somali region and contribute to peace building efforts in the wider Horn of Africa.
To be honest, Mustafe is the best leader Somalia region of Ethiopia has ever known so far.
That’s why I recognize Mustafe as the person of the year 2018, not only for his charismatic personality but for leading and giving hope to a region so traumatized for so long.
Whatever pain the people in Somali region has gone through in the past, I hope new dawn of peace and prosperity is in the corner.
I also hope the days of living in fear; the days when walls had ears; the days when your loved ones, picked up by the Liyu police, never returned home forever are a thing of the past.
I wish president Mustafe the best luck in his struggle to lead Somali region into a brighter future.
Congratulations, Mr. President.