Ethiopia, a country of rich history and diverse population, has been has perennially been mired in one political crisis after another for the better part of the last several decades, but more so over the past five-and-half years since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) came to power. These crises have posed varying levels of threats to its stability and constrained its development. The root causes of the dire situation Ethiopia has always found itself in are complex, stemming from historical grievances, ethnic tensions, and struggles for power. Though the challenges engendered by the air of doom and gloom are testing, now is not the time to lose heart. From wars waged by foreign aggressors to internal power struggle there is no challenge, trial and tribulation Ethiopia has not overcome thanks to the bravery of its indomitable sons and daughters. As such, it should not be impossible the current generation of Ethiopians to extricate their beloved nation from the quagmire it is currently. This said, understanding the nature of the political crisis engulfing the country and exploring long-term solutions are crucial to enable it move towards peace, unity, and sustainable development.
The political crisis in Ethiopia can be traced back to decades of historical grievances and ethnic tensions. The country is ethnically diverse, with around 86 different ethnic groups calling it home. This diversity has, at times, precipitated tensions and competition for resources and representation. The federal system created in the 1990s following the adoption of the 1994 constitution aimed to address these challenges. Unfortunately, it has also inadvertently deepened ethnic divisions. The rise of ethno-nationalism and exclusionary politics has further exacerbated these divisions, culminating in the ongoing political crisis. The increased competition for power between the elites of different ethnic groups and the undemocratic tendencies of governments that have been in office, however, are arguably the major factor that is at the root of the political upheaval afflicting Ethiopia.
Power mongering is the gravest of challenges in contemporary Ethiopian politics. While it goes without saying that the ultimate goal of all political actor is to assume power, their action must at all times be guided by the principle that they exercise such power in the best interest of citizens and endeavor to occupy office in a peaceful and democratic manner. This requires of government leaders to stop paying lip service to the ideals the public aspires for and start to deliver on their pledges. Let alone at a time when a breakdown in law and order in considerable parts of the country has forced the declaration of a state of emergency, even during times of relative stability failure to heed public opinion has dire consequences. Although this generation of Ethiopians may be cognizant of the fact that its ancestors triumphed over adversities with farsightedness, what is the use of learning if does not draw inspiration and lessons from their accomplishments? Why can’t differences be resolved through civilized dialogues that beget win-win outcomes instead of resorting to violent means? How can we function as a cohesive polity in the absence of a genuine commitment to serve the public and mutual respect between fellow citizens? These are questions to which Ethiopians have been unable to find answer on which a broad consensus has been reached.
While Ethiopians are to collectively blame for the woeful state their country’s political environment, the responsibility primarily rests on successive rulers’ poor track record when it comes to enabling citizens enjoy basic freedoms and liberties including freedom of thought, opinion and expression; the right to assemble and demonstrate; as well as the right to protection against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The heavy-handed response to the mostly peaceful venting of frustration has not helped matters either. Although the administration of Prime Minister Abiy was lauded at the outset of its term for undertaking a host of measures that promised to usher in profound political reforms that citizens had always yearned for, the backslide witnessed not long into its tenure coupled with unprecedented level of internecine strife perpetrated by non-state actors has repeatedly brought the country to the edge of the precipice.
As Ethiopia continues to face the prospect of unending political instability, it’s incumbent on all stakeholders—the government, political parties, religious institutions, civil society organizations, and the media, among others— to undertake courageous steps to avert the specter of a collapse even if they may be unpalatable to some. To address the challenges of the political crisis in the immediate to the medium term, it’s vital to prioritize measures for stability. This includes establishing peace and reconciliation initiatives, ensuring the safety and well-being of all citizens, and providing humanitarian aid to those affected by conflicts. A comprehensive and inclusive dialogue among political stakeholders and ethnic groups is crucial for finding common ground and building trust. In addition, strengthening institutions that can ensure the rule of law, justice, and accountability is imperative to avoid further violence and foster long-term stability.
The more arduous task that is fraught with pitfalls is achieving lasting solutions, a mission that requires a multifaceted approach. First and foremost, it’s of the essence to foster national unity and bridge the deep divisions between the elites of ethnic groups. A comprehensive review of the federal system, addressing its shortcomings and potential reforms, should be undertaken with the aim of promoting equality, inclusivity, and effective governance. This needs to be complemented by investment in education, economic development, and infrastructure to reduce inequality and create opportunities for all Ethiopians, thereby mitigating the underlying tensions that fuel the political crisis. Finally, strengthening democracy, promoting press freedom, and ensuring an independent judiciary are critical components for building a resilient political system that respects human rights.
Resolving the political crisis engulfing Ethiopia requires a deep understanding of its underlying causes and a commitment to long-term solutions. By addressing historical grievances, promoting national unity, and investing in inclusive development, Ethiopia can move towards a more stable and prosperous future. International support and collaboration will play a crucial role in assisting Ethiopia on its path to reconciliation and sustainable peace, ensuring a brighter future for all its citizens..