Ethiopia:Jijiga in turmoil: Abdi Ilay downfall

by Zelalem

abdi iley2

The latest news reaching us from Somali regional state confirms that Jigjiga is in turmoil, griped by tension and confusion related to reliable news indicating the expected removal of the notorious Abdi Mohamed Omar (aka Iley) who ruled the regional state for the last four years as regional president and previous nine years as the head of Security and Justice Bureau, from his post as head of the so-called Somali Regional State (SRS).


It is rumoured that the effort to remove Abdi Iley is spearheaded by the Ethiopian EPRDF’s inner circle influential man, Getachew Asaf (head of Ethiopian National Intelligence and Security Service Agency (NISSA). The recent altercation occurred after Abdi Ilay confronted the Mr Getachaw, and organised a regional elite meeting to outsmart him.   Abdi Ilay survived many plots to oust him simply because he had unswerving support from the Ethiopian military personnel based in Harar, in particular General Abraha Worlde, Head of Eastern Ethiopia Defence Force. However, Abraha’s protection dwindled after Mr. Getachew came up with concrete evidences that showed the level of embezzlement; Mr Abdi Ilay has been involved in.

Reliable sources inform us that Abdi ilay owns substantial amount of businesses in Gulf countries by the names of his close relatives. He has also bought two villas in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. These are on top of extensive residential and business portfolio he had acquired in regional state capital, jijiga, and nation’s capita Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. Many have tried several times to replace him with another amenable and less brutal man in the past but could not succeed as the senior Tigrayan army generals based in Harar has objected to it. Abdi Iley established close relations with the Tigrayan General, by bribing them with money he siphoned off from the coffers of the Somali Regional Administration.

Cleverly enough, Getachew did not directly tried to remove Abdi Ilay. Rather he used the regional politician, who were lying low and waiting for such opportunity to materialise. They immediately took the opportunity seize the chance to oust once for all the so called brutal, and strongman ever in Somali Regional State. Mr. Getached used Abdi Ilay’s the executive committee, which comprises of eleven yes men who in the past unreservedly worked with him. What has happened that changed the eight out of the eleven executive members. There is no doubt that the paradigm in Addis has changed.

Abdi Ilay has caused massive suffering for the Somali people in the regional state. He has wiped out an entire family member in his effort to win the heart of his military portage in Harar. He used the massive budget and armour provided to twenty thousand special police headed by his close relatives. It is rumoured that Abdi Ilay encircled himself by his own close relative belonging to Ali Yusuf. It seemed he has never learned any listen from previous dictators. The downfall of Abdi Ilay will send a shockwave throughout the Special Liyu Police. It is believed many of them will desert the Liyu police and join the rebel movement, Ogaden National Liberation Movement.

It will also create political crisis in the regional state. The question everyone is asking is who will be the next president of the regional state. There are two possible scenarios according to reliable sources. The first one is the vice president and head of Security and Justice Sector; Mr. Abdillahi Werer (AKA Ethiopia) might take over the presidential position. He is believed to be the second strongman in the regional state and the one who is cooperating with Addis Ababa to oust Abdi Ilay. It is also known that he is the one who has been close to Abdi and his benefactor in Harar. However, he would not last long on power due to his minority background as far as Somali credential is concerned; he is from minority Abaskule clan. Instead he might lay low and let the next vice president, Abdifatah, takes presidential position while he remains in his vice presidency and security position at least for the time being until the dust settle down. Then he might remove Abdifatah who is considered too weak to resist any power struggle within the ruling political party of the regional state, i.e., Ethiopian Somali Democratic Party. This kind of tactic had been used by previous presidents in the Somali Regional State in the past.  The other scenario is designed to remove abdi ilay through instigating internal in fight within the eleven executive community of the ESPDP.

One thing is for sure; Abdi Ilay is now more isolated than ever in his whole political life in Somali regional state. All his henchmen have deserted him in drove and joined a anti Abdi Ilay group composed of eight men, only three, out of eleven executive committee members of the ruling party, support him. Taking into account the recent massive power Abdi Ilay has within the regional and federal government, it is an unimaginable how his power has vanished within short period of time. It is believed that no regional government head in Somali regional state is directly responsible for the killing, torture, extrajudicial detention significant Somali people in Ethiopia. In comparison, Abdi Ilay has managed to cause massive damage to the inner fabric of Somali people in the whole Horn of Africa than the last dictator Mohamed Siad Barre who massacred millions of Somali.


Our sources within the regional cabinet reported that Abdi Iley was summoned to Addis Ababa and put in speedy self-criticism and confession he mastered in his political life. Abdi Ilay knew that his days in office can be counted in hand and immediately came back to Jijiga to use his old tactics of smear campaign accusing his refactors as members of ONLF and anti-peace and using his state propaganda machinery to paint himself as a saint and saviour of somali people. Never the less, everyone knows that it is politics as usual in Somali regional state. No president has ever reigned in this regional state more than four years term. It is believed his stench supporter, General Abraha Wolde, finally advised Abdi Ilay to resign before situation get out of hand.

The question everyone pondering over is where Abdi Ilay will end up. More than ten presidents who ruled this desolate regional state have never heavily involved in massacring Somali people. At the end of their power, they either lived among ordinary Somali or migrated abroad leading a confortable lives. However, this will not be the situation in case of Abdi Ilay. Everyone will be after him to bring him to justice for gruesome massacres he committed in the regional state.


Abdi Iley tried desperately to convince Addis people of his indispensability as head of Somali Regional State reasoning that there is no capable person (who is as trustworthy to Ethiopian regime as he is) who can do his job of securing the affairs of the Somali regional administration. He played as usual the anti-peace and pro-development cards by saying to everyone: “I’ve been cleansing ‘the anti-peace elements’ from my administration for the last four years. But I found out just last month that some members of my cabinet have secret relations with the anti-peace element.” He also told his predator” The ones you’re trying to replace me with are secretly working with the anti-peace.”


He blackmailed the Federal Government that the Liyu Police will defect in large numbers to the ONLF if he is removed, since they trust no one else. After that squabble, Abdi Iley was instructed to go back to Jigjiga and wait for the arrival in Jigjiga of a delegation from Addis Ababa office.


When Abdi Iley returned to Jigjiga, he immediately convened a closed door meeting with senior commanders of the Liyuu Police from his sub-clan. They are: Abdirahman ‘Laba-go’le, head of Liyuu Police operations; Abdi Aden Waris, commander of the Liyuu Police; and Shiekh Mukhtar, head of secret services.


As relayed to us, Abdi Iley instructed these men to tell Addis Ababa when they arrive in Jigjiga that there is no one they can trust and work with other than him; that they will stop working if Abdi Iley is replaced; and that they suspect senior members of the regional administration for having connections to the anti-peace, this is the tactic that made him to survive for four years.


There is a fear that these men may go into action and organize what one might call an attempt of desertion from the Liyu Police that will be followed by large scale round-ups of Liyu Police men, and the extra-judicial killing of Senior Liyu Police officers.


The writer is a foreign correspondent resident in Harar, Ethiopia, he can be contacted

Chris Brown

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