From bitter past to hopeful future? Debating the Somali Region in Ethiopia

Friday 29 October 2021

Hankaal, UCL’s Development Planning Unit (DPU) & SOAS Partnering with Kayd Somali week on this panel discussion on the Somali region in Ethiopia.


The Somali region in Ethiopia has long been a site of contestation with a long history of conflict. Its ‘uneasy’ and contested status stems from its position both within Ethiopia and the broader Somali territories. Positive developments over the last few years have offered the Somali region a chance to ‘re-start’ and change its course.

However, the current spectre of political instability and conflict in the rest of Ethiopia casts a shadow over the future of the historically marginalised region. This event invites its audience to debate the past, present and future of the Somali region. It starts with a roundtable of scholars and practitioners –Dr Safia Aidid, Fowsia Abdulqadir, Dr Tobias Hagmann, Juweria Ali and Khalif Abdirahman taking stock of the current moment in the Somali region and its challenges. It then features short interviews/memories/life histories of two witnesses from the region, highlighting connections – both change and continuity – between past and present. The session ends with an opportunity for the audience to debate, raise questions and remarks to shed light on the Somali region and its people, its contested history but also its future as a centre in/of the Horn of Africa.

Speakers Dr Safia Aidid is an interdisciplinary historian of modern Africa and an Arts & Science Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Department of History. She holds a PhD from Harvard University. Her research addresses anticolonial nationalism, territorial imaginations, borders, and state formation in the Horn of Africa, with a particular focus on modern Somalia and Ethiopia. She is currently working on a book manuscript entitled “Pan-Somali Dreams: Ethiopia, Greater Somalia, and the Somali Nationalist Imagination.

Dr. Tobias Hagmann is an associate professor of international development and comparative politics at Roskilde University and the director of Public Culture Lab Lmtd in Switzerland. He is a political sociologist interested in state-society relations, land politics and development policy in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere.

Ms. Fowsia Abdulkadir is founding board member of Hankaal Institute for peace & policy development. Ms. Abdulkadir is also a founding board member and current Chair of Somali Gender Equity Movement (SGEM).

Juweria Ali is a Doctoral Candidate in Politics and International Relations at the University of Westminster, London. Her current research interests focus on the politics of nation and state building in Ethiopia, human rights, colonial and decolonial epistemologies, and liberation politics in the Somali Region. Juweria is also a founding member of Hankaal Institute in Jigjiga.

Khalif Abdirahman is Senior Field Researcher on the LSEConflict Research Programme- Somalia. He has conducted research across the Somali regions for the last seven years including for Tufts University, the Rift Valley Institute, and the Overseas Development Institute.