The Upcoming Election in Ethiopia and the Current Situation: Compatible or Contradictory?!

Abiy, the would-be Authoritarian in Ethiopia

Ethiopia, is mosaic communities with rainbow federalism. Also, is one of the largest countries in Africa, historically also known as Abyssinia, is Africa’s oldest independent country and its second largest in terms of population.

It served as a symbol of African independence throughout the colonial period, and was a founder member of the United Nations and the African base for many international organizations. Ethiopia has as many as 80 ethnic groups, each with its own language.

Additionally, its population is over 100 million according to the 2013 national census. Apart from that, Ethiopia is the regional actor when it comes to east Africa countries for the sake of its population and as well as its military capabilities. (1) Moreover, Ethiopia consists of ten (10) regional states, namely: –Oromia region, Amhara region, Somali region, Tigray region, Gambela region, Southern nation’s nationalities and people region, Afar region, Benishangul-Gumuz region, Harari region and the late coming region Sidama region. Additionally, there are two Administrative states (Addis Ababa City administration and Dire Dawa city council). (2)

On the other hand, EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. The EPRDF and its allies control all 547 seats in Ethiopia’s parliament, which must confirm every new prime minister.

Parties under EPRDF

The parties are: the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO) and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM). Each one of these four regional states are eligible to become the prime minister of the country from 1991 when the party took the power closely 27 years which this party EPRDF was overarching the country. (3)

 

It’s ironic and peculiar to be stable and impeccable, a country with over 100 million under mosaic federal system.

Ethiopia tends volatile country in Africa as far as specific ethnicities are ruling the country since its birth, while belittling other communities. Amhara, tends chauvinist and patrimonial leadership ethnic, Tigray, minority ethnic, Oromo insatiable desire and frivolous demander overarched the country. Bear in mind, Ethiopia conglomerates big fat of different ethnicities. But, these three communities became the political dynasty in Ethiopia, which is also known as (The China of Africa). Suffice it to say, Ethiopia is multi-ethnic country, but the sickening and the dumfounded is, why only these three communities are eligible the top decision-making positions, and others are disregarded, especially Somalis, who are the third most populous community and the owner of the second largest land in Ethiopia. According to my gut feelings, Ethiopia is not yet democratic country with free and parity elections since its existence. The disparity and miscarriage of justice are the underlining causes of this outstanding and blatant dispeace in Ethiopia. And the Somali region becomes soft target and susceptible community for any hetero and naked aggression from the ruling communities respectively. (4)

Currently, Ethiopia hosts the highest number of people displaced since World War II. Over 3.2 million people were displaced by conflict and drought in April last year. These unprecedented internally displacement caused by the disparity, the rising acrimony and communal violence among the different communities in the country. This appalling internally displacement is more than the refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen en masse as indicated Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

As presented Global Peace Index (GPI) in 2019, Ethiopia ranked 131st peaceful country out of 163 countries in 2019. In 2016, Ethiopia was 119 ranking. In Sub-Saharan Africa are 44 countries, Ethiopia becomes 33rd After Mali, Central Africa republic, DRC, Somalia and South-Sudan. Plenty of political analysts believe that, this dismay ranking and backward trajectory caused by weak leadership in the federal level and the regional levels as well. (5)

 

Demonstrations led Abiy to become the prime minister

 

On the other hand, mass protests had been going on Ethiopia since 2015, when anti-government demonstrations broke out among the Oromo, Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, and later spread to the Amhara, the second biggest group. The protests, which initially began over land rights but later broadened to include calls for greater political representation at the national level, were met with a harsh government response, and this led ultimately to step down former prime minister of Ethiopia and chairman of EPRDF Hailemariam Desalegn in 15 February 2018.

And his final word says at the time that he would be staying on as prime minister in a caretaker capacity, until the EPRDF named a successor. Hailemariam’s abrupt resignation prompted the government to declare a six-month state of emergency in a bid to stem political unrest amid long-standing demands for greater freedoms. (6)

In the meantime, in a meeting which was held the ruling party especially EPRDF council which comprises 45 members of each four parties united under this party which is total 180 members elected Abiy Ahmed a former minister of science and technology, as its new chairman 108 vote out of 180 to become the first Oromo prime minister in the 27 years EPRDF has been in power which paved the way a week later to nominate the prime minister of the country , because the chairman of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition has historically also taken on prime minister duties.

And finally, the newly elected prime minister was sworn on Monday April 2, 2018, a statement from the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). (7)

 

Oppositions and the Agreement with the Federal Government: Lucrative or not or in vain?

 

Though, Ethiopia, as a country tends and accustoms by repression against the dissenting voices and the oppositions, but there are still some political oppositions which became resilient with all these circumstances. The most prominent oppositions are: – (A) Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) which is the oldest opposition in Ethiopia and was formed in 1973. This opposition used to Advocate Self-determination for the Oromo people and against the Abyssinian colonial rule led by Amhara ethnic group. (B) Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) which is the second oldest opposition in Ethiopia and was established in 1984. This opposition tends looking for autonomy for this region. Because, they are marginalized and disregarded when it comes to the Federal political quota. Additionally, this region is the second largest region in Ethiopia after Oromia region, and is the third populous region in Ethiopia after Oromia and Amhara regions respectively. (C) Gimbot 7 which is the third oldest opposition in Ethiopia and was created in 2008. The aim of this opposition was the realization of a national political system in which government power and political authority is assumed through peaceful and democratic process based on the free and square elections with the choice of the citizens. Because, this opposition erupts after the election which was happened in 15 May 2005 and led into allegations related that, the ruling party EPRDF rigged the election. And enormous citizens demonstrated which led the killing of the over 200 people. (8)

 

When Abiy becomes the prime minister of Ethiopia in April 2018, he pioneers a negotiation with the opposition which led ultimately to release these three groups the country’s list of terrorist in July 5 2018. Since then, the oppositions’ members were returning back the country. And plenty of the talking heads were foretelling that, the country is going to the right direction. But what happened since then? The oppositions rebuked the federal government of Ethiopia doesn’t ready to implement the signed agreements between them. And the situation becomes startled and uncanny when the clash between OLF fighters and the federal troops occurred in the Oromia region in October 2018 after the federal government tried to disarm OLF’s fighters, and OLF’s leader Dawud Ibsa boycotted this offer. And additionally, Dawud Ibsa says disarming OLF’s fighters was not part of the agreement between the federal government and the OLF representatives. (9)

 

Shifting from EPRDF to EPP!

 

Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) was established in 1991. This party conglomerates the representatives of four of the ten regions in Ethiopia namely (1) Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), (2) Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), (3) Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) and (4) Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM). These four parties are eligible to hold the highest political positions in the country since the establishment of this party. Tigray ethnic was the longest runner of the country since this party was erupted. And this party tends as a “Political Dynasty” because, Amhara was the longest runner in the country under “Patrimonial Leadership” from Haile Selassie from 1916 to 1974 as an Emperor, and then Mengistu Haile Mariam from 1977 to 1991. So, Tigray and Amhara tended the “Political Dynasty” of the country. Which means, the remaining ethnics including the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia “Oromo” were despised. And this egregious and blatant disparity into the demonstrations which took place in 2015 and finally led to resign the former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn in February 2018. After two months of political unrest, disarray, haphazard and chaos, the first non-Amhara and Tigrayan leader who is from Oromo ethnic nominated as the new prime minster of the country Atto Abiy Ahmed in April 2018. At the beginning, enormous people welcomed with much kudos the youngest African leader. Briskly, Abiy released tremendous prisoners from Ethiopian jail, and he also unleashed the terrorist label the three oppositions OLF, ONLF and GIMBOT 7. Additionally, he fixed out the longest African bad blood between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Furthermore, Abiy visits Somalia in order to undergird the diplomatic tie among the two neighboring countries which their relationship remained love and hate. All these commendable, peerless and exquisite work that Abiy done in his first year led to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. (10)

 

The other side of the coin, the Abiy’s credit becomes blowback after he announced the creation of new political party, the so-called Ethiopian Prosperity Party (PP) in November last year. And plenty of his inner-circle and upper echelons boycotted this new party. This new party is the amalgamation of three of the four parties under EPRDF and other five parties. Only Tigray party TPLF is out of this union. This party erupts before months of the forthcoming election in the country May 2020. One of the Abiy’s closest people, Lemma Magersa the minister of defense, formerly the president of the Oromo region rebuked this new party which makes Abiy sickening.

 

Jawar Mohamed and Abiy: Former Ally and new Foes!

 

There are egregious and conspicuous demonstrations which were going on since October last year in Addis-Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia and several other regions. These protests against the incumbent government and its leader his Excellency Dr. Abiy Ahmed begun after the government declared its draconian action against the well-known Activist and Media Entrepreneur, the so-called (Jawar Mohamed).

This famous activist, who also has the American Citizenship has enormous clout in the country. Especially, he participates the demonstrations against the previous government which begun in 2015 and led to resign Haile Mariam Desalegn, the former prime minister. 

Abiy, the incumbent and Jawar were close friends during that demonstration, and plenty of talking heads believe that, Jawar was one of those enabled Abiy to become the prime minister.

But, the last months their relationship was deteriorating which leads finally to this dichotomy and loggerheads among them. Abiy and Jawar belong the same community, the so-called (OROMO) which is the largest community in Ethiopia closely 40 million. Additionally, Jawar has an extreme support from QEERROO who is a young Oromo movement who participated to end more than 20 years of rogue Tigray rule under iron fist.

The other side of the coin, when Abiy takes the office in April last year, he undermines his relationship with several politicians including Jawar Mohamed and Daud Ibsa. In the meantime, he uplifts and improves his relationship with Lemma Magersa, who is currently Minister of defense, formerly the president of Oromia region. As different media stations reported, several people have been killed since these demonstrations erupted. After the government was taken off Jawar’s escorts, a lot of people got angry against this reckless decision and temerity taken by the Abiy’s government.

 

Many people are asking themselves, why the government did give Jawar escorts at the beginning as longest he doesn’t have a political position?! (11)

Moreover, this January, Jawar organized a huge rally from Oromo ethnic, especially the youth. He delivered speech which regards his political ambition. So, Jawar who is old ally and new foe to Abiy becomes the biggest pet-peeve of the incumbent. 

 

New coalition CDF.

 

After a new blatant and ample strife becomes conspicuous between Abiy and his former allies, another political parties’ coalition erupted. Jawar, who has political clout in the country, especially Oromia region, and now joined OFC, Dawud Ibsa who leads OLF, Prof. Merera Gudina the leader of Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) and Brig. Gen. Kemal Gelchu, the leader of Oromo National Party (ONP) created a new coalition which is called Coalition for Democratic Federalism (CDF). These three parties’ coalition announced January 03 this year. The leaders of these parties evoked that, they are going to run the upcoming election in Ethiopia in May this year. Plenty of political commentators that, this is another challenge which is the incumbent Aby is encountering. Because, the leaders of this new coalition used to be his previous inner-circle. And this leads another gotcha, doom and gloom to Abiy. 

The other side of the table, enormous of the local people, especially the largest ethnic group (OROMO) which Abiy himself belongs believe that, Abiy is thin-skinned and lame-duck person. Because, he gives humongous favor to Amhara, and this group advocates to disband the federal system and impose unitary government under their leadership. And that is why, Tigray ethnic under TPLF party refuted to join the new coalition party EPP which superseded EPRDF. (12)

 

Somali region: The back of the back beyond

 

Colossal of people believe that, this region is the most neglected one. Because, if we immerse and mull over her situation, there are no conspicuous developmental projects, especially the infrastructure. The level of education service is very low. The humanitarian issue is so rampant, especially Qalooji IDPs hosts thousands of Somali people who fled from the border between Oromo and Somali regions. (13)

 

Apart from that, the regional administration in the Somali region is ineffective and lame-duck. Because, this administration is busy on phantom issues and lost almost epochal opportunities. Because, there is egregious unemployment, destitute and immense inter-clans conflict in the region. The leadership of the region is busy on teltaling and shaming his predecessor for the sake of loophole and scapegoating for his lip service. Additionally, the disparity within the community is so rife, and the accountability and transparent in the administration is out of the lexicon. Because, the Somali regional’s president feeds only his coterie and his inner-circle. And all government’s work is perturbed by hefty bribe, and the corruption level is peaked notoriously. Though, the Somali region obtains a shoestring budget from the federal level, they mismanage such little allocation for their vested-interest and their political mileage, and they don’t care about the gullible Somali community who had been suffering for several decades. 

 

Dam dispute: another kettle of fish.

 

Ethiopia as landlocked country used to depend on her neighbors when it comes to import and export activities. Because, all the countries under Horn of Africa bloc including Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti have seaports. This singular pity leads Ethiopia to overthink her future. And that is why, several times some of the Ethiopian high officials evoked that, remaining Ethiopia as a landlocked country while her neighbors are having seaports is impossible. As a result, Ethiopia plenty of times meddles the internal affairs of her neighbors, especially Somalia. 

On the other hand, Ethiopia was engaging for the last decade “The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam”. This dam was formerly known as “Millennium Dam” and is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia. Since 2011, this dam was under construction process. And as planned, this dam after its completion will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa, as well as the seventh largest in the world. But, the million dollars question is, how Ethiopia will reconcile the other two countries Sudan and Egypt which share with the border? In this regard, Abiy requested January 12 this year, the South African president to mediate his country, Sudan and Egypt about the issue of this dam. And this request comes before two-days of the forthcoming meeting in Washington between the foreign and waters ministers of these three countries which is about the dame discourse. Because, Ramaphosa is the upcoming president of the African Union. Apart from that, he is a good friend with the Ethiopia and Egypt leaders. The conflict between these three countries about the dam reached zenith. And several times they tried to solve this issue was ended in vain. (14)

Conclusions

It’s not easy to plainly say, Ethiopia’s on tenterhooks election will occur as it is planned in May this year before fixing out the egregious political disagreements between the incumbent, the oppositions, dissenting voices, Tigray region under TPLF party and long-standing border dispute between Somalis and Oromo. Furthermore, the young activist, Jawar Mohamed who has the highest magnanimous support from the largest ethnic group (OROMO), who is currently against Abiy and his government, it’s crystal clear admonish and caveat that, the forthcoming election in the country could be critical and tough moment. And it’s not anecdote and intuitive if we say notoriously, the ruling party’s likelihood to success about the upcoming election in the country is very narrow and ironic. Though, Abiy and his ally is trying to control the referees of the political game. Because, since Abiy takes the lead, the border conflicts among the different communities in Ethiopia, and the religious conflicts became inevitable, inexorable, invincible, ineluctable, intractable, amok, dumfounded and pandemonium. (15)

The other side of the coin, plenty of people including the president of United States Trump evoked that, Abiy didn’t deserve to receive noble peace prize. Because, his grandiose promises he announced and the situation on the ground is utterly and completely different. The number of IDPs in the country peaked, the religious conflict reached zenith. So, his winning the noble is a kind of fluke. (16)

References

  1. Abiy hailu “Ethiopia: ‘The New Ethiopia Is an Expression of the Mosaic of Cultures, Languages, Religions – It’s a Composite”, Ethiopian Press Agency, August, 30, 2012 https://allafrica.com/stories/201209030723.html

  2. Ethiovisit, “Ethiopia Administrative Regions, Cities and Population”, http://www.ethiovisit.com/ethiopia/ethiopia-regions-and-cities.html
  3. Wikepedia “Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_People%27s_Revolutionary_Democratic_Front
  4. Anwar Abdifatah Bashir “Horn of Africa Geopolitics, with especial consideration, the Somali region in Ethiopia” March, 2019
  5. Makonnen Tesfaye “Ethiopia’s Dismal Ranking in the Global Peace Index, June 12, 2019 http://www.aigaforum.com/article2019/Ethiopia-Dismal-Ranking-in-2019.htm
  6. Human rights watch, “Ethiopia: Lethal force against protesters”, December 18, 2015 https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/12/18/ethiopia-lethal-force-against-protesters
  7. Aljazeera, “Abiy Ahmed elected as chairman of the Ethiopia’s ruling coalition”, March 28, 2018 https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/03/abiy-ahmed-elected-chairman-ethiopia-ruling-coalition-180327201015850.html
  8. Wikipedia, “Ethiopian General Election Violence”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_Ethiopian_general_election_violence
  9. Africanews, “Ethiopia removes terrorist label from OLF, ONLF and Ginbot 7 opposition groups”, May 07, 2018 https://www.africanews.com/2018/07/05/ethiopia-removes-terrorist-label-from-olf-onlf-and-ginbot-7-opposition-groups//
  10. BBC news, “Noble Peace Prize: Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed wins “, October 11, 2019 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50013273
  11. Ayyaantuu News, “Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed from hero to zero” October 26, 2019, http://ayyaantuu.org/ethiopias-abiy-ahmed-from-hero-to-zero/
  12. Addis Standard, “News: OFC, OLF and ONP agree to form Coalition for Democratic Federalism”, January 04, 2020, https://addisstandard.com/news-ofc-olf-and-onp-agree-to-form-coalition-for-democratic-federalism/
  13. Sharmarke, “Plight of Somalis in Qalooji is dire”, February 21, 2019 https://twitter.com/hashtag/qalooji
  14. Samar Samir, “Ethiopia asks for South Africa’s mediation in Renaissance Dam talks “, Egypt today, January 12, 2020 https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/2/79575/Ethiopia-asks-for-South-Africa’s-mediation-in-Renaissance-Dam-talks
  15. Warren Reinsch, “Will Ethiopia survive 2020?”, January 2, 2020 https://www.thetrumpet.com/21729-will-ethiopia-survive-2020
  16. Donald Trump Speech in Toledo-Ohio, three days ago https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-ethiopia-nobel-peace-prize-abiy-ahmed-eritrea-war-crimes-a9279431.html

 

Anwar Abdifatah Bashir. Freelance Journalist, Horn of Africa Geopolitics Analyst, Independent Researcher and the Author of Four Books. The Author is currently undertaking his Fourth Post-Graduate Study in South-Korea. He specializes “Global Governance and Political Economy” at Korean Development Institute (KDI).

Email: anwarcade100@gmail.com