Ethiopia's Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms above his head at the finish line of the Men's Marathon athletics event of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Sambodromo in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. Lilesa crossed his arms above his head as he finished the race as a protest against the Ethiopian government's crackdown on political dissent PHOTO | FILE
Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms above his head at the finish line of the Men’s Marathon athletics event of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Sambodromo in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. Lilesa crossed his arms above his head as he finished the race as a protest against the Ethiopian government’s crackdown on political dissent PHOTO | FILE

(Africa Review) — Diplomats in Addis Ababa attribute the build-up to the dissent in Ethiopia, which started with protests by Muslims in 2012,  mainly to the growing youthful population that have no institutional memory of the 1991 revolution.

According to the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) chairman, Merera Gudina, the country is facing a youth uprising which could turn the country ungovernable if the issues affecting them are not addressed.

The youth, with 64 per cent below the age of 25, have been voting with their feet, risking dangerous voyages in rickety vessels in the Mediterranean Sea in search of better life in Europe and the United States in the face of unemployment and a repressive government that is using anti-terrorism laws to crack down against civil society and the media.

Other issues include the opaque land tenure system, the suppression of alternative view and the succession plan by the former Prime Minister, the late Meles Zinawi who died in 2012.

Kennedy Abwao, a Kenyan journalist and expert on Ethiopian affairs says the challenge is that the country has always had a coalition system where ethnic groups pick their leaders, who later negotiate for a coalition at the top.

When Ethiopian silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa raised his two hands over his head after crossing the line in the just concluded Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, millions all over the world watching thought it was his unique way of celebrating.

But Ethiopians knew better. Lilesa was passing a message to the world about the continued suppression, and sometimes massacre of Ethiopia’s Oromo people, the ethnic majority in the country.

Now, the Oromo have joined with the Amhara—the two make up 60 per cent of the country’s population—to protest the 25 years domination by the minority Tigray, who share kinship with the neighbouring Eritrea.

The protests begun last year against plans by the government to expand Addis Ababa city limits that could have  annexed parts of Oromiya County—the biggest of the nine federal regions.

The Addis Ababa Master Plan has since been dropped but the protests that begun as a political statement by the Oromo over marginalisation, has turned into political unrest, spreading to Amhara Regional States.

There have been subsequent protests in Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara region and Gondar targeting governmental buildings and business.

“While the Oromo and Amhara initially had their specific reasons for protests, it is now taking another shape which is calling for a wider freedom,” said Elias Meseret, an Ethiopian journalist based in Addis Ababa.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released in June accused Ethiopian security forces of gunning down more than 400 Oromo people in November last year who were protesting against the Addis Ababa  expansion plan that was to take part of their land.

But Information Minister and government spokesperson, Getachew Reda, dismissed HWR saying they lacked credibility. “More often they just pluck their numbers out of thin air,” he said.

Despite recording economic growth and impressive infrastructure development, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is increasingly coming under pressure from widespread protests  for the first time since the 1991 revolution that removed the dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam due to land issues and human rights violations.

The government maintains that the protests are sponsored by the rebel, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) that has been fighting the government since 1973 and the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) in conjunction with dissidents in the diaspora, who are using social media to incite the people.

Addis Ababa has responded by cracking down on protesters and regularly shutting down social media to avoid the protests from spreading to other parts the country. The protests have been demanding greater freedom under the EPDRF rule.

Powerful posts

Currently, the country has no effective opposition since the ruling EPRDF and its allies swept all 546 parliamentary seats in the June 2015 elections despite the country having close to a hundred registered political parties.

Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn (C) arrives at the Waterkloof Military air base in Pretoria on June 12, 2015 for the 25th AU Summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa. PHOTO | FILE
Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn (C) arrives at the Waterkloof Military air base in Pretoria on June 12, 2015 for the 25th AU Summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa. PHOTO | FILE

However, according to Mr Abwao the system is getting won out since all powerful posts in the country in terms of military, police and big business are currently occupied by Tigreans, leaving less grandeur position to the rest.

Ethiopia—the second most populous country after Nigeria with 96 million people—is divided into nine regional governments which are vested with authority for self-administration.

They include: Afar, Amhara, Benishangul/Gumuz, Gambella, Harari, Oromiya, Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’, Somali and Tigray; and two chartered cities: Addis Ababa and Dire-Dawa.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who hails from the Wolayita community in the South, was positioned strategically by Mr Zinawi after he was promoted to be the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, ultimately assuming leadership in September 2012 upon his mentor’s death.

1 thought on “The trouble with Ethiopian politics

  1. In Ethiopia representatives of various privately owned insurance companies are expressing serious worries if the insurance companies will be able to stay in business if the recent protests do not get real solutions quickly.
    Promoting effective corporate governance in the financial sector contributes immensely to the soundness of the financial system, disclosed The United Insurance Company SC, better known as UNIC-ETHIOPIA.
    The United Insurance Company SC, better known as UNIC-ETHIOPIA shareholders said “even though in the past the country has made remarkable progress to build corporate governance practices among companies, enhancing the nation’s financial system currently the ability to keep insuring is being highly challenged due to the recent protests in many parts of Ethiopia.”
    The International Finance Corporation (IFC) also indicated that corporate governance will create more sustainable political environment and foster economic development in Ethiopia.
    IFC and The United Insurance Company SC, better known as UNIC-ETHIOPIA jointly organized a workshop on corporate governance in Addis Ababa, the workshop discuss flaws in the current Ethiopia government that led to the protests and share good practices that advance the country’s insurance system.
    “The role played by the financial system is essential to realize the country’s mega development plans as such a system helps mobilize and pool savings, among others said The United Insurance Company SC, better known as UNIC-ETHIOPIA” shareholders which called on actors in the industry to contribute to strengthening of good corporate governance so as to add value to shareholders wealth, improve competitiveness and ensure safety and soundness.
    According to IFC Country Manager for Ethiopia Adamou Labara, corporate governance is becoming an essential concept to boost investors’ confidence as well as their business environment.
    IFC has been implementing corporate governance with many African countries to end extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity in the continent.

    http://www.unic-ethiopia.com/

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