High-profile assassinations, intercommunal violence and the question of Sidama statehood have endangered Ethiopia’s transition to a multi-party democracy. In this excerpt from its Watch List 2019 – Second Update, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to support a parliamentary vote and assist with economic reforms.

This commentary is part of our Watch List 2019 – Second Update.

Ethiopia is being buffeted by deadly unrest as it attempts a rapid transition to multi-party democracy under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. His government has chalked up significant achievements during the last eighteen months of political and economic liberalisation. But the challenges it faces were laid bare on 22 June when the president of one of the country’s regional states, Amhara, and the Ethiopian military’s chief of staff were assassinated in concurrent events in separate cities.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ethiopian deacons stand by the coffin of the army's chief of staff, Gen. Seare Mekonnen, who was shot by his bodyguard on June 22. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

In Ethiopia, a wave of assassinations has renewed fears of political turmoil. On June 22, gunmen burst into a meeting, killing the president of the Amhara region, Ambachew Mekonnen and two aides. Shortly thereafter, a bodyguard killed the army chief of staff, Gen. Seare Mekonnen, along with retired Gen. Gezai Abera.

Two days later, Ethiopian special forces killed Gen. Asaminew Tsige on the outskirts of Bahir Dar. The government alleges that Asaminew was the ringleader of this violent conspiracy and released a tape recording of Asaminew saying, “we have taken measures . . . because the regional ruling party leaders have sabotaged the people’s demands.”

The political reforms Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed initiated in 2018 created an opening for liberalization but also provided opportunities for divisive ethnic politics.…  Seguir leyendo »

People walk past the gate of the Eastern Industrial Zone in Ethiopia in the town of Dukem near the capital, Addis Ababa, on March 21, 2018. (Elias Meseret/AP)

For years, the biggest names in apparel have had their clothing made in China, Bangladesh and other countries in East and South Asia. Now, with wages rising in Asia, companies such as Hanes and H&M have identified a new frontier for low-paid labor. The new destination is Ethiopia, to which Asian manufacturers are shifting some of their production capacity on the promise of low labor costs. Entry-level garment workers in Ethiopia typically receive a base salary worth only $26 a month — the lowest, by far, in the worldwide clothing supply chain.

Opened in June 2017, Hawassa Industrial Park (named after the southern lakeside city where it’s located) is one of five huge publicly owned complexes built for the Ethiopian government by Chinese construction companies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in January. Photo: Getty Images.

It has been a whirlwind year for Ethiopia since Abiy Ahmed became prime minister. He has initiated a raft of reforms to overhaul Ethiopia’s authoritarian government structure, significantly improved relations with neighbours and received widespread international acclaim, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. But the same period has seen a sharp increase in lawlessness, intensified domestic conflict, heightened identity-based violence and huge internal displacement.

The fervour of ‘Abiymania’ has waned in recent months, as the reality of the monumental tests that lie ahead hit home. Having created massive expectations among competing constituencies, there are growing fears that Abiy’s reforms might end up achieving neither good governance nor stability.…  Seguir leyendo »

En enero, el parlamento de Etiopía ratificó una legislación que les da a los refugiados derechos sin precedentes, incluido el derecho a buscar empleo y educación, y a moverse libremente fuera de los confines de los asentamientos de refugiados. El Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (ACNUR) elogió a Etiopía por tener “una de las políticas más progresistas para refugiados en África” –una política que podría servir de modelo para otros.

Los países que reciben refugiados en todo el mundo deberían seguir el ejemplo que marcan países como Etiopía y Uganda, en particular dándoles a los refugiados un mejor acceso a empleos formales y escolaridad, e intentando alojarlos en comunidades más que en campos.…  Seguir leyendo »

In 1974, Haile Mariam Mengistu (3rd-L), was the Ethiopian leader and the chairman of the Provisional Military Administration Council (1977-87). He will then become President of Ethiopia (1987-91).

The summer of 2018 visited a naturalized Ethiopian American with a twinge of pity. After about 40 years of anonymity, Nigussie Mergia, who is now 58 years old, could be facing a fatal intersection of time and space following his arrest on charges of multiple immigration offenses. The sealed indictment from the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) alleges that Mr. Nigussie lied in his immigration documents about his role in persecuting Ethiopian prisoners for their political opinions during the country’s so-called “Red Terror” period in 1977-78. His trial is to open on February 25 before a district court in Virginia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ethiopian army soldiers controlled protestors from the capital and those displaced by ethnic-based violence over the weekend in Burayu, as they demonstrated demanding justice from the government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last September.CreditMulugeta Ayene/Associated Press

Abiy Ahmed, the 42-year-old prime minister of Ethiopia, has dazzled Africa with a volley of political reforms since his appointment in April. Mr. Abiy ended the 20-year border war with Eritrea, released political prisoners, removed bans on dissident groups and allowed their members to return from exile, declared press freedom and granted diverse political groups the freedom to mobilize and organize.

Mr. Abiy has been celebrated as a reformer, but his transformative politics has come up against ethnic federalism enshrined in Ethiopia’s Constitution. The resulting clash threatens to exacerbate competitive ethnic politics further and push the country toward an interethnic conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

By almost any measure, 2018 has been a disastrous year for democracy. Authoritarian leaders have made decisive moves to tighten their grip on power by eroding practices indispensable to a functioning democracy, such as the rule of law and a free press, and blithely ignoring or violently suppressing mass protests in places such as Hungary, Nicaragua, the Philippines and elsewhere.

And yet, there are parts of the world where, quite unexpectedly, the struggle for democratic reform made giant strides — a reminder that the right mix of activism, leadership and circumstances can suddenly change the course of history. The good news came from starkly different countries, where undemocratic practices had been playing out in unique ways.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last month, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that he had appointed a new cabinet — and that half of its ministers were female. Particularly noteworthy are the appointments of Aisha Mohammed as minister of defense and Muferiat Kamil as the first minister of peace, prestigious ministries at a time when Ethiopia is beginning to soften relations with neighboring Eritrea.

Two days after Abiy’s announcement, Rwanda’s leader, Maj. Gen. Paul Kagame, announced that his country’s cabinet would also be 50 percent female; its members of parliament have been majority female since the genocide.

Some observers have argued that dictators undertake high-profile gender reforms such as these to improve their country’s image, hoping investors and lenders will look more favorably on a “modernizing autocrat.” But our research, published at Comparative Political Studies, shows that these reforms can also bolster domestic political stability.…  Seguir leyendo »

Le premier ministre éthiopien Abiy Ahmed (t-shirt vert) salue la foule lors d'une réunion de soutien en juin 2018. © AP / Mulugeta Ayene

Les mouvements de guérilla nés pendant la guerre froide ont gagné une notoriété internationale mais n’ont pas pu, à de rares exceptions, évoluer vers une solution politique. La guérilla tamoule a été défaite, l’OLP est marginalisée tandis que les groupes kurdes sont en phase de reflux. Un constat s’impose: les revendications culturelles, politiques et sociales sont rejetées par les gouvernements. Malgré leur marginalisation, ces mouvements se maintiennent et l’état de violence perdure.

Pourtant, l’une des plus anciennes guérillas éthiopiennes, le Front de libération oromo (FLO), vient de signer un accord de paix avec Addis-Abeba. En parallèle du rapprochement avec l’Erythrée, la fin de ce conflit est un signe encourageant pour la démocratisation et la stabilisation du pays.…  Seguir leyendo »

After a year of political upheaval and mass protests, Ethiopia’s autocratic government has been suggesting that it might be willing to transform its elections-for-show into elections that are genuinely free and fair. Within the past year, the government has freed its political prisoners. Its prime minister resigned. The ruling coalition held its first-ever contested elections to replace him — and selected the protesters’ choice of Abiy Ahmed, the first time that a prime minister had come from the Oromo ethnic group.

In July, while visiting Washington, Abiy told a group of thousands of expatriate Ethiopian dissidents that his “ultimate goal is to ensure that a democratic election takes place in Ethiopia.”

But many obstacles block that path.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians rallied in the famous Meskel Square, located at the heart of the capital city, Addis Ababa. Citizen groups and human rights activists had organized the event to show support for Ethiopia’s reformist leader, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed — to recognize Abiy’s commitment to democratic change and encourage implementation.

The demonstration was colorful. Many wore T-shirts bearing pictures of Abiy and his right-hand men. Others carried banners thanking Abiy for his agenda of togetherness. The prime minister wore a T-shirt with a picture of Nelson Mandela, which read, “We are not free until we all are free.” Abiy gave a rousing speech calling for national unity, and preaching love, coexistence, and democratic values.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Ethiopian military officer stands guard in the outskirts of Badme, a territorial dispute town between Eritrea and Ethiopia.CreditTiksa Negeri/Reuters

Early this month, the Ethiopian government declared that it was finally ready to implement a peace deal it signed with Eritrea nearly two decades ago. The Eritrean government didn’t respond to the announcement for over two weeks — until Wednesday, when President Isaias Afwerki said that “the positive direction that has been set in motion is crystal clear.” Mr. Isaias also promised to send a delegation to Ethiopia “to gauge current developments directly and in depth.”

For many years, however, even as Ethiopia declared its willingness to implement a 2002 judgment about the two states’ border, it refused to withdraw its troops from Eritrean territory until other issues — about armed groups, trade, access to Eritrea’s ports on the Red Sea — were settled.…  Seguir leyendo »

Abiy Ahmed, the newly elected chairman of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, in April.CreditMulugeta Ayene/Associated Press

If nature abhors a vacuum, politics abhors a military standoff, especially between two nations in one of the poorest, most volatile and most strategically sensitive regions of the world.

And so there was much excitement when the government of Ethiopia announced on Tuesday that it would fully accept the ruling of an international tribunal in the country’s boundary dispute with Eritrea — some 16 years after the judgment was issued.

In 2002, a special international commission delineated the border between the two countries, as they had agreed in the peace deal that ended their 1998-2000 war. Demarcation on the ground was expected to start swiftly, allowing cross-border trade and cooperation to resume.…  Seguir leyendo »

New prime minister Abiy Ahmed attends a rally in Ambo, Ethiopia. Photo by Zacharias Abubeker/AFP/Getty Images

After a turbulent three years for Ethiopia, including large-scale anti-government protests, new prime minister Dr Abiy Ahmed is likely to enjoy a honeymoon period – and seems early on to have persuaded many he can bring stability, unity and reform to the country.

Abiy – an Oromo leader in his early 40s with a mixed ethnic and religious background – is now the youngest leader of any African country, and heads up one of the four ethnically-based constituent parties, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO).

He faces significant long-term obstacles that will need to be confronted, and the pace of change will create tensions and significant resistance, especially considering Dr Abiy’s rise was partially a direct response to the popular protests which have gripped Ethiopia since 2014, particularly in the Oromia and Amhara regions, which account for almost 60 per cent of the population.…  Seguir leyendo »

L’Ethiopie, terre des opportunités, nouveau « Far East »… A Addis-Abeba, les autorités connaissent le bréviaire de l’attractivité sur le bout des doigts. « Dans les années 1990, nous étions une toute petite économie. Nous sommes maintenant l’une des plus grosses d’Afrique subsaharienne, une destination sérieuse pour les investissements et un futur hub industriel. » Ministre des finances, Abraham Tekeste s’adresse à un public sagement assis dans les rangées d’un amphithéâtre : les représentants d’une quarantaine d’entreprises françaises, venus, les 8 et 9 mars, en visite exploratoire. Avides d’en savoir plus sur le modèle d’un pays qui connaît depuis une décennie une croissance échevelée, la plus rapide du continent…

L’Ethiopie séduit et, pourtant, l’Ethiopie inquiète.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the latest twist in Ethiopia’s current political dramas, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn formally submitted his resignation from his position as the nation’s premier and as chairman of the ruling EPRDF coalition. That’s a dramatic development — and no one knows where it will lead. Dessalegn was elected as a compromise candidate who could balance the interests of various factions within the ruling coalition and maintain the status quo. He appeared to manage this well — until recently.

So how did autocratic Ethiopia, a U.S. ally and Africa’s second most populous country, end up in its current tumult? Here’s what you need to know.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters welcome Merera Gudina, leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress party, on Jan. 17, after his release from prison in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Tiksa Negeri/Reuters)

Is Ethiopia opening — ever so slightly — to democracy?

Some observers were cautiously optimistic after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s surprising Jan. 3 announcement that the government would release some political prisoners, including opposition leader Merera Gudina. Starting in mid-January, Gudina and hundreds of Ethiopians detained during a 2016 wave of anti-government protests were released from a federal prison.

That release, however, was partial. The government is still holding thousands of other opposition figures and protesters, along with journalists who have reported critically on the regime.

On Thursday the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corp. reported that 417 people serving sentences for terrorism, inciting violence and similar offenses to be freed.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ethiopia’s commitment to peace-making in South Sudan has been critical for regional stability. It has much to gain from continuing this engagement, including a secure border and trade with a stable neighbour. But achieving lasting peace after South Sudan’s two-year-long civil war is a long-term undertaking.

Ethiopia has shown strong leadership and a level of direct involvement in peace efforts in Sudan and South Sudan that few countries can match.

The African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) peace talks on the conflicts are held in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa led the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD, a regional body) peace process on South Sudan and is a guarantor of the August 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS).…  Seguir leyendo »

Nearly three months into the state of emergency declared by Ethiopia, the atmosphere on the streets of its bustling and impressively modern metropolis and capital, Addis Ababa, feels tense.

At 2,355m above sea level, the climate is pleasantly mild most of the year. Its broad thoroughfares are studded with magnificent cultural attractions. These are infused with the glow of an ancient yet resilient civilisation that could withstand both Jesuit and Wahhabi encroachment.

Yet, at present, tourists are understandably few and far between. There have been reports of hundreds of deaths in districts surrounding the capital in recent weeks. But these have been played down as an exaggeration by Prime Minister Heilemariam Desalegn.…  Seguir leyendo »