Yesterday’s decision by Ethiopia to designate the TPLF & OLA as terrorist entities is a clear demonstration of Addis Ababa’s intent to continue the path of war & violence to resolve country’s political crisis.

Yesterday’s decision by Ethiopia to designate the TPLF & OLA as terrorist entities is a clear demonstration of Addis Ababa’s intent to continue the path of war & violence to resolve country’s political crisis.
The decision would not make a substantial difference on the ground at least in the short term but it clarifies the assessment of the Prosperity Party regime about the current crisis and their thinking about the scope of a future political settlement they have in mind.
The proposal by the Council of Ministers is poorly thought through and reflects the chaotic and delusional thinking of key actors within the government. The regime knows that it cannot annihilate these organizations and the ideas for which they stand by enacting the same laws and policies they have tried and failed (when they were all EPRDF). Let me provide some context here, bear with me …
The tactical use of the global discourse on terrorism and anti-terrorism legislations to pursue domestic political adversaries was first introduced by Meles Zenawi in 2009 by way of the notorious anti-terrorism proclamation (Proc. 652/2009). Meles extensively mobilized the discourse around terrorism in Ethiopia at a time when the the war on terror came to be the defining principle in foreign policy and all consideration of justice and human rights were relegated to the margin, at a time when the mere accusation of terrorism was sufficient to justify torture and other murderous measures against those accused. Meles was quoted as saying the war on terror was ‘a god send’. It allowed him to do stuff in Somalia and the HOA region, but most importantly, it allowed him to delegitimize and denigrate his political foes at home – OLF, ONLF, Ginbot 7 were all designated as terrorists an their supporters pursued by security forces.
Although the strategy gave the government a vocabulary with which to justify repressive practices at home and silence the international community, and therefore seemed effective, the law and the practice introduced then was actually exposing the government and its deeply authoritarian instincts. Moreover, the policy did not succeed in subduing opposition and forcing people into capitulation. It only redirected the site of the struggle, gave the diaspora a greater say (people over whom gov’t has no control), and made the country a notable example of authoritarian regimes who abuse terrorism for cynical ends.
But that was in the second decade of the 21st century and at a time when authoritarian countries around the world jumped on the anti-terrorism band-wagon to deal with their internal political foes, and whe West simply turned a blind-eye.
A lot has changed since then in Ethiopia and beyond.
The fact that the government returns to that same tactic in 2021 after publicly denouncing it in 2018 shows how incompetent and unhinged the regime is.
The government says that the policy would apply to “organizations and individuals who collaborate, have links with or relate to the ideas and actions of” TPLF and OLA. Since the government is already doing this, it is not clear what this latest move would add, other than unconstitutionally legislating fascist practices into law. They could tie the hands of judges who are beginning to challenge the authorities.
This proposal represents a significant escalation in the already explosive political and humanitarian crisis facing Ethiopia. It shows that the regime does not regard these entities as stakeholders in Ethiopia’s future and therefore undermines any hope of a peaceful resolution. It suggests that significant voices will not have a seat at the table on any eventual political settlement in the country and therefore creates the conditions for prolonged violence. The country is on the brink of explosion and it is dangerous and irresponsible to adopt policies grounded in bravado and messianic reasoning.
The regime must abandon this policy and give a chance to voices of reason calling for calm, and dialogue, as a way to resolve the country’s multifaceted problems.
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