Ethiopia: A Bogged-Down Transition
Meron W/Rufael 10-20-20
The demise of The Provincial Military Administrative Unit (Derg) was assumed to be a novel entry point for democracy and readjustment of the Ethiopian state. 1991 is a remarkable period in many terms. Internationally, it signaled the breakdown of the USSR block; regionally it was a period destined to witness the collapse of the Somalia state and withering away of Seid Bare’s regime. In contrast, in Ethiopia, in a hopeful and aspirant manner, a force determined for equality and democracy was able to come to the saddle of power, of course by the blood and sweet of the Ethiopian nationalities. The people of Tigrai, being at the helm of the struggle and climax of flowery future rearrangement, were the once who paid a lot towards this end.
A military pseudo communist regime was dismantled and replaced by a republican government. The unitary system of governance was replaced by a federal arrangement, which gives nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia an upper hand. Instead of one party system, the new regime embarked on multiparty politics and the politics of pluralism. All earthly four generations of right were enshrined in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia’s Constitution.
The advent of EPRDF could be considered as the relatively peaceful decade, both internally and externally. This was until 1998 when the Ethio-Eritrea conflict and subsequent bloody war flared up. The war was not only bloody and destructive; it was also an incidence that would have regional and national consequences. Politically speaking, the war also became a source of contention and discontent among and between the top leadership of EPRDF in general and the TPLF in particular. Debates about the cause and course of the war divided the TPLF leadership in to two camps. Following the party crack significant segment of the top leadership was purged and some were thrown in to prison. The issue of using Eritrean ports was closed, to the detriment of both Ethiopia and Eritrea. Regionally, the two states began to engage in proxy wars and the hope the Ethiopians and the international community bestowed was waning. Progressively, the party transitioned in to totalitarianism under the then PM Meles Zenawi, who dominated the domestic political atmosphere.
Despite the significant political crack and one-man rule, Ethiopia began to see a remarkable degree of economic growth and was acclaimed as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Its infrastructural expansion was unprecedented. Roads, schools, universities, airports and railroads mushroomed throughout the country. The number of people living under poverty line declined significantly. Ethiopia was praised for its ability to meet the goals of Millennium development goals. Its energy and telecom service expanded revolutionarily. Agriculture production and subsequent export of commodity items rise to a new record.
However, the notable economic growth and immense socio-economic development was accompanied by corruption and extensive quality issues. This led many to doubt its sustainability and fear of its consequences both politically and economically.
Additionally, there seems to emerge a gap between the increasing demand of the people and the decreasing delivery performance of the regime. The youth began to raise issues of employment and more freedoms. Cultural groups and nations and nationalities start to demand more rights and opportunities. The political establishment was then not capable enough to deal with the growing frustration of the population. Journalists of the private sector were imprisoned and their outlets were muzzled. Leaders of contending political parties and human right organizations were frequently harassed.
After the death of Meles Zenawi, the party in power faced a more serious leadership crisis. It was the failure to respond properly to the rising economic and political demands that finally led the youth to revolt against the government and forced the then PM Hailemariam Dessalegn to resign.
After serious intraparty deliberation, the EPRDF elected Abiy Ahmed as its new chair and the parliament endorsed his premiership. The Ethiopian mass was quite hopeful and celebrates the leadership change. To the dismay of all, it was going to be a short-lived euphoria.
The advent of PM Abiy was accompanied by encouraging measures; such as, the release of prisoners, the rapprochement with Eritrea, the welcoming of exiled politicians and forces that were waging armed resistance from Eritrea and so on. These initial positive measures were not supported by any sort of political roadmap for any form of transformational or reform plan, at least. The radar of Abiy’s administration did not see the skyrocketing democratic and economic expectation of the population as well.
Therefore, the new regime did not take months to detour from its originally assigned mission of improving the politics and economy of the country. Rather than setting serious agenda of reform and fixing the old loopholes, they began to hunt down possible contenders and actual critics. In a very short period of time Abiy’s regime demonstrated that democracy and development is not in their operational manual. It is power and the preservation of power that matters the most.
Prosperity Party, the unlawful inheritor of EPRDF superseded its mother party EPRDF in terms of immersing in unconstitutional activities. According to many observers and critical minds, the last two and half years could be characterized as a period of political oppression and dismantlement of individual human right of all citizens. Journalists were harassed and detained with draconian laws that were supposed to be amended. Civil society and public intellectuals were also under constant dictatorial regulatory standards and hurdles of the oppressive bureaucracy. Being a member of opposition political party had become a legitimate ground of right deprivations.
One defining characteristics of the new regime is its continuous hate and prejudice towards Tegaru as a people and Tigrai as a region. After months in power, Abiy began a mass imprisonment of Tegaru. Especially Tigray and Tegaru are going through multiple economic, political and social bombardments from the new regime in Addis. Budgetary mischiefs and developmental projects delays are employed as a weapon to attack Tigrai. Main regional roads leading to Tigrai closed. Many Tegaru are dismissed from their office for the mere fact that they belong to a particular ethnic group; many are still suffering in prison without due process of law.
State media and higher officials of the new regime accompanied known hate mongering Medias, political parties and personalities. Verbal violence and carefully orchestrated genocidal propaganda was waged against Tigrayans. This was preceded by fake documentaries targeting Tigrai as a nation. The media war is still being conducted through many outlets. For the previous human right transgressions and abuses, Tegaru’s (Tigrigna speakers) were blamed. In nutshell, the state machinery and the party apparatus work 24/7 to instigate the Ethiopian people to rise and take measure against Tegaru. The consequence was fatal and left a hard to heal wound on the mind, body and property of many Tigrayans. The state media and higher officials, including the new PM, were part and parcel of the new wave of genocidal instigation against the Tigrayan ethnic group. This was utilized as a strategy to gain supporters and capitalize over the previously escalating hatred towards Tigrians instead of bridging the divide and resolve misunderstandings among citizens.
As a result, the concerted effort of the anti-Tigray camp is changing the dynamics of the Horn of Africa, by fomenting secessionist politics among the Tigrayan youth and some parts of its political leadership.
Other regions are also victims of the incompetent ruling tyrant. Amhara region became unruly and chaotic. The Qimant people in Amhara region are brutally targeted for requesting their constitutional rights. Oromos’ plight has reached a climax of human suffering. Southern Nations experienced unrests and massive displacement of citizens. Addis Ababian’s are living under continuous fear of violent ethnic conflict.
Amnesty International has reported the dire situation of Ethiopia’s human right record. Gruesome killing, rape, torture, imprisonment and killing of individuals suspected of supporting the oppositions have become a norm. In sum, the democratic constitution was replaced by undemocratic wishes of a single leader who would like to reign indefinitely.
The main discrepancy between the stated aspirations and the continued unhinged antidemocratic tendency of the regime would cost the nation a lot. The Ethiopian mass and ordinary citizens alike wish to see nothing but the fulfillment of their wholeheartedly stated constitutional principles and demands. In an era where the rights of animals and the environment are respected and enshrined in International Covenants, the low regard that our government is giving to fundamental and conventional human and democratic rights are becoming the agenda of the day. The continuous harassment of journalists, the unhinged prosecution of political opponents, the unwarranted political maneuver of the judiciary, the manipulation and abuse of the security agencies and violation of individual and collective rights of the people is making our future unpredictable at best and catastrophic at worst. As they say, the struggle of the Ethiopian people would continue!
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