A Quiet Case of Ethnic Apartheid in Ethiopia: Internal Colonialism and Uneven Effects of Political, Social, and Economic Development on a Regional Basis
By Girma Berhanu
It is not an exaggeration to state that Ethiopia is at a dangerous crossroad. The overall situation is critical. The country has been engulfed by protests and clashes on a continuous basis since about 2 years ago. The general unrest and dismay by the general public is an accumulation of years of frustration from other ethnic groups who claim they have been marginalized by brutal Ethiopia’s governing coalition apparatus, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) , which is dominated by the party from the small Tigray region, the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The general public, and in particular the two major ethnic groups — the Amharas and the Oromos — have been almost effectively excluded from the country’s political process and the economic development. The current clashes and widespread demonstrations, which have cost thousands of lives and hindered the flow of goods and services across the nation, expose the underlying issues that are structural, political, and economic inequalities between the regions in Ethiopia. ‘Since seizing the government by force of arms in 1991, the TPLF-controlled Ethiopian regime has maintained monopolies over economic and political power ever since and has therefore dominated all other nationalities and ethnic groups. It is this refusal to share political power and wealth on the part of the TPLF that is causing the violent demonstrations of dissent within the Oromo and Amhara states’ (Ethiopia at an Ominous Crossroads, Jan. 02, 2018).
The past several months of 2017 have also been characterized by unabated political protests and clashes that have swept through Ethiopia causing growing concern about the ability of the government to rule. The power struggle within the governing party has intensified. Both the panic characterized by intense power struggles within the ruling party, as well as between the ruling political coalition and the nationwide protests, are a serious threat for the regime’s survival. The government seems to be seriously worried about loss of control, in particular, be-cause the Amhara and Oromo opposition has coalesced. In addition, the unrest and protests are mass-based and anchored at grass root levels and the political landscape is shifting beneath them fast, resulting in a serious threat to the regime. According to Western observers, “the situation could get worse if it’s not addressed – sooner rather than later.” This could be seen in the recent chain of events in which the government has admitted to arresting tens of thousands of protesters during its crackdown on dissent and has announced plans to release all its political prisoners, close a notorious jail where prisoners were allegedly tortured, and “widen the democratic space” in what it said was an attempt to “foster national reconciliation.” This is yet to be seen. It is unclear exactly who will be released – or when it will take place. At the time of writing this article (Jan 8/2018) a lot of confusion has emerged as to who is a political prisoner. The state machinery is full of contradictions, dirty tricks and underhand activities and machinations in political and government affairs. Many informed observers characterize the behavior and action of the government as malicious and contemptible.
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