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The Challenges of Ethiopia’s Transition and its Policy Options

26 May

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

by The Board of Vision Ethiopia

The postponement of the election was predictable long before the outbreak of the COVID-19 outbreak. The  government  has not been able to  conduct  national  census, political parties  were  not  able  to  campaign  freely  in  all  regions  of  the  country,  and  sectarian messages  dominated  the  airwaves.  Allegations  that  security  forces,  law  enforcement agencies  and  government  institutions  are  partisans  have  eroded  public  trust  in  the government’s ability to prepare the country for the promised free and fair election.

 

Had it not been for a complex set of events, the month of May 2020 would have witnessed Ethiopia’s first post-conflict and transitional election.

Two years have passed since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in the aftermath of  a popular  uprising  that demanded political  reforms,  protection of  human  rights and establishment  of  law  and  order.  He  raised  the  hopes  and  aspirations  of  millions  of Ethiopians back home and abroad with tantalizing measures that included the releases of  political  prisoners,  amnesty  for  political  dissidents,  and  a  peace  settlement  with neighboring Eritrea.

These bold steps earned the prime minister all round commendations and the 2019 Nobel Prize for Peace.

To the dismay of many Ethiopians, no sooner had glimpses of these signs of change been caught than the specter of anarchy and chaos ominously descended on the land. Ethnic conflicts got worse, resulting in countless deaths   and   massive   internal   human displacement. Minorities (especially the Amharas and Christians) in the various regions were  targeted  and  persecuted,  while  university campuses  became  centers  of  political agitation, violence and killings. Defenseless students of the Amhara ethnic group, mostly young girls, were abducted and tortured by extremist Oromo fighters, and several places of worship, including heritage institutions, were burned down. The governor of the Amhara region and his colleagues were assassinated under mysterious circumstances, as was the Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces.

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