The multitude of grave problems Ethiopia is presently mired in has once again brought into stark relief the fact that Ethiopia continues to be a fragile state. Although Ethiopia’s standing on the Fragile States Index, an annual report mainly published and supported by the United States think tank the Fund for Peace, had improved marginally soon after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) came to power in April 2018, it has slid back since then and figures among the countries most at risk of vulnerability. While there are several metrics by which state fragility is measured, the concept is widely understood to be a state’s inability to exercise a monopoly on violence, protect the safety and security of the public, defend the sovereignty of the nation, provide adequate public services, and maintain legitimacy. Many agree that the conditions warranting the classification of the country as a fragile state do exist and express fear that the exacerbation of these conditions may well push it over the precipice, thereby rendering it a failed state. Unless prompt action is taken to arrest the progressive decline witnessed over the past few years, the future will not bode well for it as well as the already unstable region of the Horn of Africa and beyond.
Ethiopia’s fragile state stems from a complex web of interconnected challenges. These conditions, which encompass political, social, and economic aspects, have created a combustible environment that has hindered Ethiopia’s development and stability. One major condition that has made Ethiopia fragile is its history of ethnic tensions and conflicts. The country is home to diverse ethnic groups, and historically, these differences have led to disputes over land, resources, and political power. These tensions have frequently escalated into violence, causing displacement and loss of life, and undermining the country’s social cohesion. The lack of inclusivity and political participation has further exacerbated the situation. Historically, power has been concentrated in the hands of a few elites, while marginalized groups, such as women and ethnic minorities, have been systematically excluded from decision-making processes. This exclusion, which has limited opportunities for representation, has led to deep-seated resentment and a sense of disenfranchisement.
Weak governance and a lack of institutional capacity is another contributing factor. Corruption is pervasive, and the rule of law is often disregarded, allowing those in power to exploit their positions for personal gain. The absence of transparent and accountable institutions has not only fostered a culture of impunity, but also hampered economic growth and trust in the government.
Agricultural dependence and food insecurity pose an additional challenge to Ethiopia’s fragility. The country heavily relies on agriculture, and recurrent droughts and land degradation have given rise to food insecurity and poverty. Competition for scarce resources has often fueled intercommunal conflicts and intensified political tensions, undermining the government’s ability to provide basic services and maintain social stability. Furthermore, Ethiopia faces significant economic challenges, including high unemployment rates, underdeveloped infrastructure, and a galloping inflation. These factors contribute to widespread poverty and inequality, particularly in rural areas where the majority of the population resides. The resulting economic disparities, coupled with political marginalization, have engendered grievances and social unrest.
Another factor that makes Ethiopia fragile is its vulnerability to external shocks and influences. The country is located in a volatile region, surrounded by countries experiencing conflicts and political instability. This proximity makes it susceptible to cross-border spillovers of violence and the influx of refugees, further straining limited resources and aggravating social tensions.
Addressing the fragility of the Ethiopian state necessarily involves a set of holistic measures that begets sustainable solutions. First and foremost, it is crucial to focus on inclusive governance and political representation. This can be done by ensuring that all ethnic groups and marginalized communities have a voice and are adequately represented in the government. It is important to promote dialogue and negotiation between different factions and to establish mechanisms for peaceful resolution of conflicts. Additionally, there should be a commitment to respect and protect human rights as well as freedom of speech and assembly so that all citizens feel empowered and included in the political process. Such political initiatives need to be complemented by steps aimed at enhancing economic development and poverty reduction. Tackling the underlying socio-economic disparities of the nation can help alleviate tensions and create a more stable environment. This can be achieved through investment in infrastructure, job creation, and equitable distribution of resources across the country. It is also crucial to promote education and skills training, particularly in marginalized regions, to ensure that all citizens have access to opportunities for social and economic advancement. By addressing poverty and promoting economic inclusivity, the Ethiopian state can strengthen its foundations and mitigate some of the factors contributing to its fragility. It’s only when all stakeholders unite to undertake these critical measures that Ethiopia may no longer be equated with fragility.