Violence could derail Ethiopia’s step toward democracy
JIMMA, Ethiopia – On a busy back street in the hometown of Ethiopia’s prime minister, Nobel Prize-winner Abiy Ahmed, two men sipping coffee and chewing khat tried out a new pastime: having a heated political disagreement in public.
Max Bearak, The Washington Post|
(stamfordadvocate)–Africa’s second-most populous country is heading into its first multiparty campaign season after Abiy lifted a ban on opposition parties, dissolved his own ruling party that controlled life here with an iron fist for nearly three decades and scheduled elections for this August.
Abiy’s promise to transform Ethiopia into a full-fledged democracy has earned him widespread praise abroad – and is why some Ethiopians aren’t as worried as they once were that speaking critically of the government could lead to a knock on their door by the intelligence services.
The elections are a high-stakes gamble for Ethiopia’s future. Despite widespread poverty, unemployment and ethnic violence that has uprooted millions from their homes, Ethiopia remains stable enough to broker regional peace agreements – including with neighboring Eritrea – and Abiy’s promise of economic reforms has landed the country billions of promised dollars in foreign loans and investment. Major political violence would scuttle those ambitions.
In an attempt to preempt such violence, officials say, the government has begun to dispatch security forces to clamp down on opposition gatherings and restrict internet, phone access and physical movement across a vast opposition stronghold where people have been detained in droves and some killed in custody. Critics see the makings of a crackdown on dissent. Rights groups and journalists have reported cases of arrests and disappearances of vocal opposition leaders and supporters.
In speeches, Abiy has forcefully rejected ethnic politics and re-christened his party the Prosperity Party – an anomaly in a sea of coalition and opposition members whose names explicitly denote ethnicity. (Ethiopia is split into nine semiautonomous ethnic regions.)
The power of the Prosperity Party “in the coming election will draw on the fear of ethno-nationalism, for people’s personal well-being – and even the survival of the nation,” said Abel Abate, an Ethiopian political analyst. “But there is lots of nervousness, lots of tension, lots of suspicion toward the PP from all corners of the country.”
Abiy’s platform is particularly unpopular in two ethnic regions: Tigray, in the far north, where power was centered during previous governments before he wrested it away; and his own Oromia, home to the country’s biggest group, the Oromo, who make up at least a third of the national population and whose ethno-nationalist leaders helped Abiy gain power but now want Oromo interests to be put first.
Ethiopia: Arbitrary Arrest, Forced Disappearance and Harassment Rising Ahead of August Elections
HRLHA’s Dispatch pic.twitter.com/pQinSfgfWO
— Sagalee Qeerroo Bilisummaa Oromoo (@QeerrooSagalee) March 8, 2020
ODUU Hatattama guyya arra kan oromo Lamma magarsa mal tahe
OMN ODUU Hatattama Guyya arra March 7/2020
Ethio 360 Poletikachin የተጋለጠው የኦነግ ሚስጥራዊው ግንኙነት March 07, 2020
What is going on in that country????