Ethiopia’s most repressive state is reforming


The change in Somali Regional State offers an example for the country


asks Bashir Ahmed Hashi, smiling broadly, as he bounds out of his jeep towards the gates of Jigjiga prison. Entering the courtyard, the commissioner is greeted by a loud cheer. Excitable inmates jostle to shake his hand and pat him on the back. “For 24 hours a day we are happy now,” says one. Bashir, who was appointed prison chief for eastern Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State less than a year ago, looks a little bashful. “I’m popular here,” he explains.

Before August 2018 the Somali region was the most ill-treated place in all of Ethiopia, tyrannised by its then state president, Abdi Mohamed Omar, who had waged a scorched-earth campaign against secessionist rebels for more than a decade. Backed by the central government, Abdi and his heavily armed special police force, the Liyu, murdered and raped civilians, imprisoned and tortured tens of thousands of alleged rebels, and, according to Human Rights Watch, committed crimes against humanity. “It was like a giant prison,” says Mohammed Gurey, one of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian Somalis to have fled abroad in recent decades.

Source: The Economist