Tag Archives: New party in form but EPRDF in reality

The new dominant party in Ethiopia delays democratization

22 Mar

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

by Ethiopia Insight

 

As EPRDF’s successor, Prosperity Party will assume its suffocating role

Despite being the oldest independent country in Africa, Ethiopia has no experience of peaceful, let alone democratic, transfers of power. In fact, throughout much of its history, transitions from one regime to the next have invariably been shrouded in intrigue or marred by bloodshed. The last two rounds of power transfer for which we have a living memory (the ascent to power of the Derg in 1974 and its removal in 1991) involved unimaginable cruelty and the death of an untold number of people. Even the so-called democratic elections in recent years have been accompanied by violence, which at its peak in 2005 claimed the lives of more than 300 protesters in Addis Ababa alone. As a result, every potential change of power in Ethiopia raises fears of tumult of some kind.

The rise to power of the current Prime Minster, Abiy Ahmed, has all the hallmarks of a change of power (but technically it is not). Although the groundswell of protests that brought him to power cost many lives, all the subsequent changes of laws and regulations that transformed the political landscape in the country went largely peacefully. That is partly what seems to have generated a tenuous hope for peaceful democratization through an election, which we are led to expect in a few months’ time in August. This upcoming election is to be seen as a critical test for many things. On one hand, it will test the Prime Minister’s ability to act on his promises and fulfill the unprecedented, constitutional assurance of assuming power through the ballot box. On the other, it sadly could demonstrate that our optimism was either ill-founded or premature.

It is pertinent to ask why changes involving violence and instability have dominated governance in Ethiopia for so long. In my opinion, the burning demand at the heart of the long-standing discontent has always centered on the right to self-rule at local level. Somewhat overlooked, and, at times, dangerously underestimated, is the extent of centuries-long resentment harbored by people of the southern part of the country towards administration from Addis Ababa, ever since their incorporation into modern-day Ethiopia. For many nationalities, being part of Ethiopia has meant the loss of their language, culture, religion, and land.

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