Ethiopia’s ethno-political mosaic showing fractures


Less than a month ago, Abiy Ahmed, prime minister of Ethiopia, won the Nobel Peace Prize. In Ethiopia, though, peace is in short supply, notes analyst David Pilling. In what is merely the latest in a string of violent incidents, nearly 70 people were killed in the Oromia region last week after a prominent Oromo activist Jawar Mohammed all but accused the prime minister of trying to have him assassinated, he writes for the Financial Times:

When Mr Abiy became leader of this mosaic-of-a-country, he released thousands of political prisoners, lifted bans on political parties (even the ones seeking the state’s violent overthrow) and loosened controls on the media. His push for liberal reform is one reason he won the Nobel. It has come at a cost. …. The disputes are too numerous to mention. Here are a few: the Amhara, with around 29m people, are at rhetorical war with the Tigrayans over territory. They also resent the Oromo narrative that Amaharans are oppressors who, under Emperor Menelik II in the 19th century, brutally conquered Oromo territory. Tigrayans blame Mr Abiy for purging them from power and are threatening to leave the EPRDF before the elections — which will supposedly be held in May. 

“As political space has opened and EPRDF control has weakened, all sorts of latent disputes over power, resources, identity and territory have surfaced,” says William Davison of Crisis Group.

At least sixty-seven people have died and another two hundred people have been injured in clashes during protests, CNN adds, in support of media mogul Jawar Mohammed, who has been critical of Abiy Ahmed’s government. This Council on Foreign Relations Backgrounder examines the challenges facing East Africa’s emerging giant.

At some point, Ethiopia will need a new political settlement that balances the competing forces of ethnic and national identity, Pilling adds. Ethiopia is Africa’s most optimistic story. It is also one of its most precarious. RTWT

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