Ethiopia and the cost of domesticating the youth

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November 25,2016

Ethiopia ‘s total population is estimated to be about 100 million, which makes it the second most populous country in Africa, of which the youth constitutes more than 60 per cent of it.

Desire for change is obviously strong among the youth. And it is not, at least as far as the case of youth in Ethiopia is concerned, a matter of adventure. For a long time now, desire for and pursuit of change has rather been perceived,rightly, as a matter of survival.

Losing hope in the prospect for change in the country, thousands of Ethiopian youth opted for leaving the country behind not in search of “better lives” as is often depicted but to ensure survival. Unfortunately, thousands did not survive Mediterranean sea and African deserts which they had to cross as part of a journey to ensure their dreams ; surviving and help relatives back home survive. As a result of it and because of hostility to immigrants, there seem to be nascent form of consciousness that the struggle for survival had to be faced at home.

As is usually the case, the youth played a motor role in the recent country wide popular protest. The uproar and determination for change was powerful enough so much so that the appeared as if change is insight. On the contrary, Tigray People’s Liberation Front led administration was terrified by the protest and had to resort to extensive militarized response. In consequence, thousands of youth were killed in different parts of the country. An estimated 30,000 youth are reportedly led to concentration camps (regime admitted only 11600 arrests) and experiencing different forms of torture.

The administration,however,seem to believe that the heavy handed military response need to be supplemented with economic strategy of domesticating the youth in a way that it will no longer be pin in the throat for the men in power. After declaring six months long state of emergency to intensify military measure against peaceful protest, the regime announced a ten billion birr (that is less that $500,000 million US)project is in place for youth employment. Ministry of youth and sports is to coordinate the allocation of the fund, according to Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (Watch amharic clip above)

From experience, the cost of getting into government sponsored programs is political loyalty for Tigray People’s Liberation Front or one of its cliques in the “ruling coalition” EPRDF. Clearly, because of political and economic repression, the youth does not have the dignity of choosing what to think politically or other wise. It does not have the dignity of being consulted to and respected as a citizen of a country. The youth is made to feel as if it is a second class citizen.

Inorganically and politically engineered skyrocketing cost of living in towns denied millions of families the dignity of even having a meal. Then the regime emerges as a savior – with the ability to make financial arrangements to tackle youth unemployment. Members of the ruling TPLF folks think that the youth is not aware of how TPLF ravaged the country to enrich TPLFites and their relatives.

In fact, the very idea of reducing the youth to an economic being that can be manipulated and domesticated through employment programs, which is by the way is not funded by EFFORT – a multi-billion dollars TPLF investment, is somewhat dehumanizing. What the youth primarily wants is the honour of being a citizen of Ethiopia. Their dream is to make sure that Ethiopia belongs to all Ethiopians so much so that one does not need to have political loyalty for the ruling party in order to benefit from his country on the basis of merit. Domesticating the youth through measures of economic policy is tantamount to busting the desire of the youth to be free and that is where one of the biggest crimes of the regime in power lies.

By Dimetros Birku, Can be reached on twitter : @dimetros

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