Ethiopia on the Edge of Democracy By Yonathan Wolde

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By Yonathan Wolde   September 05, 2018

Ethiopia seems to be welcoming democracy for its future elections. After decades of suppression, injustice, inequality and most importantly repression of freedom of expression, the country’s new reformist leader has brought the concept of unity, democracy, justice, freedom of expression and equality of every ethnicity and individual. Especially, in the last 27 years the government led by EPRDF has brought a sophisticated problem among various ethnic groups in the name of federalism. One good example can be the controversial erection of the “ANOLE” statue in Arsi that had caused tensions between the two major ethnic groups. The dispute among different ethnic groups in Ethiopia has been aggravating for the last 27 years.

Thus, different activist groups and political parties have widely emerged believing that they fight/stand for their ethnic groups’ right. Chaos is occurring in different regions of the country as a result of the reform sweeping some old administration’s dictators. As Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1856, “the most dangerous moment for a bad government is when it begins to reform.” Abiy has the public’s sentiment on his side, whatever the delivery, at least for a while. The chaos in Somali region is due to political elites use of ethnic tensions to further their political agendas.

If the reformist leaders, “Team Lemma” can institutionalize the concept of democracy, the ethnic tensions can fade away gradually.

The reformist group in power has proved its real intention to bring democracy in “all-inclusive” manner. It has reached out different rebel groups, political parties, prominent individuals and different civic organizations within the country and abroad that were neglected, labeled as enemies or ‘terrorists’ by TPLF led regime for that matter. This effort was successful that was accepted by all groups and brought positive outcome; to work together for rebuilding the nation.

Furthermore, the reform has been able to normalize ties with Eritrea, which gave access for different Ethiopian rebel groups to use as a military base, and Egypt, which was speculated to support those rebel groups financially to allegedly attack the mega dam project on the Blue Nile River. All these actions by the reformist leader Abiy Ahmed add up great value to resolve internal issues and build a strong democracy in the country.

The next most important two steps that should be taken within the next reform stages should be:

  1. Institutionalize the democracy that is being led by the reformist leaders.

This step is the next crucial step to have a sustainable democratic system in the country. In the previous regimes, because of dictatorship and the vicious circle, institutions were built to serve as tools of the party in power. Due to this, institutions such as the court, military, police, media and election board worked towards the interest of the body in power, instead of working towards the interest of the people based on equality and justice.

Creating virtuous circle-based Institutions has a big role for inclusive institutions to persist. And the legitimacy of these institutions must rest upon equality and justice. This is for both economic and political institutions. Inclusive economic institutions lead to the development of inclusive markets, induce a more efficient allocation of resources, encourage to acquire education and skills, and further innovations in technology. Inclusive political institutions will tackle and destroy the gains of elites that oppose greater democratization and greater inclusiveness.

  1. Institute a multi-party system. Ensuring the existence of a political spectrum that accommodates multiple political parties is also the most important next step. This should be done in a way that all political parties have the capacity to gain control of the power separately or in coalition. It will give guarantee for inclusiveness of all stakeholders and give equal opportunity. After this step is achieved the next step is going to be for the stakeholders to compete on a fair political spectrum.

At least, by taking these two crucial two steps, Ethiopia could take the step to go further from the edge of democracy and be able to implement irreversible and sustainable democratic system for its people.