By Hanna Alemu
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Ethiopia has gone through a large scale of violence in the past five years, resulting in a bloodbath, mainly along ethnic lines. Despite all the hopes for democratization and good governance after the removal from power of TPLF in 2018, there have been countless missed opportunities for the ruling Prosperity Party to right the wrongs of 27 years of brutal rule under the TPLF-led EPRDF regime. It did not take long for many to question Prosperity leaders’ willingness and competency to maintain the nation’s peace and security after witnessing their appalling and unprovoked calls for the destruction of historical, social, cultural, and religious institutions that hold together the nation in unity. Furthermore, prosperity officials have been actively engaged in worrisome rhetoric of historical revisionism to reverse history and incite violence between various ethnic groups based on false narratives. The Oromo-led Prosperity Party also demonstrated its willingness to forfeit the peace and security of all Ethiopians in favor of pursuing a delusional Oromo-supremacy agenda, by all means. This dedication to anarchy on the side of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his Oromo officials has only led to the demise of state institutions, which are solid indicators of a fragile state well on track to be a failed state. Unless reversed as a matter of urgency, the current situation will threaten the stability of the greater Horn region, thereby affecting global peace and security.
What is a Fragile/Failed State?
The term “failed/fragile state” describes nations where governmental authority has completely or partially crumbled, such as Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. Although there are suggestions that the conceptual foundation for fragility may be misleading in that it may be misinterpreted to mis-tag non-Western states with misaligned policies, the criteria can still offer a realistic picture of the condition of a country’s volatility. Accordingly, a state that cannot consistently uphold its ideals, provide its citizens with fundamental rights like safety and security, or where the nation’s faces are rampant crime, inefficient and rigid bureaucracies, nepotism, ineffective legislation, and military involvement in politics can indicate that the state is failing or is already in danger of collapsing.
Fragile states have unreliable governments since they do not compile thorough crime and education records, which makes it challenging to pinpoint whether they are, in fact, fragile. However, these nations are marred by crises in one or more subsystems, and they are vulnerable to both internal and external unrest as well as local and international conflicts. Fragile nations are assessed in terms of their vulnerability, fragility, and risk so that policymakers can respond appropriately. On the other hand, the term ‘failed state,’ which refers to the complete collapse of a sovereign government, is used to describe the breakdown, failure, or collapse of a state. It is the most extreme form of state decline where authority and domestic order are essentially non-existent. An example for this category is Somalia.
Fragile states are primarily characterized by:
1) Conflict or war
2) A deteriorating government status
3) Slow economic performance
4) Long-term diplomatic instability or deadlocks.
Where does Ethiopia Stand in Relation to the Risk Factors?
According to the Fragile States Index 2023 annual report, Ethiopia has joined ‘high alert’ states such as Yemen, South Sudan, Sudan, and Afghanistan to become a failed/fragile/collapsed state, a category next to ‘very high alert,’ which includes only Somalia. To give a context, Ethiopia is in worse volatility conditions than nations like Libya and Ukraine.
Conflict/ War. Ever since Abiy Ahmed came to power, the nation has witnessed an unprecedented bloodbath, mainly along ethnic lines. To any reasonable person’s recollection, Ethiopia had never experienced the scale and atrocious nature of killings that it has experienced in the past five years. The prime minister’s party, Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), along with its ethnocentric allies such as the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), have been carrying out a coordinated campaign of killing, forced displacement, sexual assault, and abduction, which have become the norm of the day. These parties are responsible for armed attacks against civilians of other ethnic backgrounds both within Oromia and adjacent regions. Oromo officials of the Prosperity party are not shy playing grotesque politics in openly calling for the attack against Amhara civilians and sponsoring mass killings, rape, and abduction of Amhara children, women, elders, journalists, academia, and other professionals. There are reliable reports of thousands of Amhara civilians residing in the Oromia region being massacred in masses by OLA fighters, often supported by the ruling party. Furthermore, Oromo regional security forces have been in constant battle with the regional forces of adjacent regions, i.e., Somali, Gambella, Amhara, and Sidama, in an effort to expand the regional territory of Oromia. These conflicts have claimed the lives of thousands of civilians.
The war in northern Ethiopia that devastated the Afar, Amhara, and Tigray regions and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians is a recent undertaking that left lasting scars for millions. The ongoing war in the Amhara region where Abiy Ahmed’s defense forces have committed grave human rights violations, including rapes of children and women, mass and public executions, and extrajudicial killings are only a few of the crimes committed by the regime’s forces. The genocidal nature and scale of attack against the Amhara in the past five years, with the government giving the attackers carte blanche for such atrocities, only further intensified the crimes against humanity. In a typically tyrannical approach, the government opted for violence and fully engaged in silencing the public’s demand for peace and justice, which effectively caused and extended the conflict in the Amhara region.
A Deteriorating Government Status. In the 21st century, where nations strive to adopt democracy tailored to their national context, the current regime, by all means, is advocating for and enforcing oppression as a way of leading the nation, dragging the nation hundreds of years of civilization back. The regime’s ethnocentric Oromo officials have publicly declared on several occasions that every individual in the country must speak Oromiffa and accept and implement the Gada system, which is a flagrant violation of human rights and an outright forceful imposition of one’s value on others. Religious institutions are not spared from the oppressive system that publicly announced religions are not allowed to be above Oromummaa, a notion that stipulates Oromization of every aspect of individual and societal way of life. This effort, in addition to the prime minister’s notorious habit of lying to anyone and everyone, has significantly eroded the public’s trust in the government.
The regime’s poor and deteriorating status is further reflected in the limited control it has over various regions of the country. The Prosperity Party officials, including the prime minister, can barely move outside of Addis Ababa or are guarded by heavily armed personnel when moving around. The national defense forces have much less control across the nation. Regional forces and militia have more control over their respective regions and oftentimes clash with each other and with Oromo-run national defense forces. A case in point is the ENDF’s involvement in the random killings of Somali, Gambella, Amhara, and Sidama regional security forces. Ethnic-based random killings by armed groups such as Gumuz armed groups and OLA go unpunished, leading to a growing number of individual citizens taking up arms to safeguard the well-being of their families and communities.
Another indication of the regime’s loss of control over the nation is its lack of control over Ethiopia’s international boundaries. It is reported that Sudan and South Sudan forces have controlled several border towns within Ethiopia, and the Prosperity regime chose to remain silent about the occupations. In fact, there are reports that the regime threatened or attacked local militia that attempted to overturn the occupation by the foreign forces. There are similar developments in the Ethiopian border towns with Somalia, where Al-Shabab forces continue to engage in frequent clashes with Somali regional state security forces.
Slow Economic Performance. According to the report by the African Development Bank, both growth and inflation were adversely impacted by internal conflict and drought, and the fiscal deficit widened to 4.2% of GDP in 2022 from 2.8% in 2021 due to higher defense spending and weak revenue performance. Due to rising import costs for commodities, the current account deficit worsened to 4.0% of GDP in 2022 from 3.2% in 2021. From 2.2 months of import coverage in 2021, international reserves decreased to around one month in 2022. From 51.0% of GDP in 2021 to 50.1% of GDP in 2022 (with external debt at 23.6 percent of GDP), public and publicly insured debt decreased. In 2020–21, Ethiopia benefited from the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative. However, Fitch and S&P reduced Ethiopia’s sovereign rating from B to CCC when it applied for the G20 Common Framework for debt restructuring in 2021.
Long-term Diplomatic Instability or Deadlocks. Abiy’s government, time and again, miscalculated its regional and global roles and found itself stuck between a rock and a hard place. Several diplomatic stances taken by the regime left the government at odds with regional and international historical allies. On several occasions, Ethiopian and foreign diplomats reportedly allege the prime minister’s misguided ‘know-it-all’ self-perception as the cause of failed diplomatic efforts. This twisted self-perception influenced several decisions that had dire consequences. His random and sudden decision to close Ethiopian diplomatic missions abroad resulted in confusion among host nations, followed by a reversal of the decision after the damage was done, which indicates a lack of experience or willingness to learn. Furthermore, the on-and-off love affair with Eritrea and Sudan, the lack of understanding of the political dynamics in neighboring Somalia and South Sudan as well as the greater Horn region, and the arbitrary
and often embarrassing nature of the prime minister’s behaviors and actions in various platforms is resulting in a decline in Ethiopia’s global image. The shift of the US in seeking an alternate ally in the Horn of Africa instead of Ethiopia is one of the indications of the US and the West lowering their expectations for the regime and the country in its role of being a key player in maintaining regional stability.
Consequently, all evidence shows that under the tyranny of Abiy Ahmed and his Prosperity Party, Ethiopia has effectively drowned in a quagmire that makes a state collapse inevitable.
Repercussions for regional and global peace and the urgent need to reverse the current pattern.
What makes the prospect for peace dimmer is that ethnic-based killings have only increased over time, and the current regime is the single most responsible instigator of violence in the nation. Oromo officials are engaged in continuous inflammatory speeches cementing their Oromummaa agenda with hate-filled policies and a national defense force enforcing the toxic policies of the ethnic apartheid regime, which are all received with resistance by other ethnic groups. Neither is the prospect for economic growth bright, thanks to the incompetence of the current leadership that resulted in a record-high inflation rate of 48% a year.
The removal of Abiy Ahmed from his premiership and putting an end to the ideology of Oromummaa with an end result of a shift in the distribution of power should be the primary agenda of every individual and group in Ethiopia that is affected by the current regime, and by all means. In this regard, every peace loving Ethiopian should support the ongoing Amhara revolution, which is a result of decades-long oppression against the Amhara people and an apparent refusal to subjugate to 21st-century fascism. In fact, in a more nationally coordinated manner, the Amhara resistance should be replicated in other regional states such as Somali, where the Oromia regional forces conduct frequent attacks against Somali civilians with the goal of expanding the territories of Oromia. The same applies to Sidama, Guraghe, and Gambella people and regions who often go through violent attacks by the ruling party. There is no end in sight to the harrowing situation in the country except by removing Abiy and his fascist party from power.
On the other hand, external powers that have any vested interest in the Horn should stop underestimating the extent of damage Abiy and his party are causing to the region. The peace and security of Ethiopia are intrinsically related to the peace and security of the region and cannot be downplayed. It has been evident on multiple occasions that Abiy and his government cannot accept the responsibilities commensurate with their current position. As such, the US, African Union, and other major players in the region should seize the opportunity to abandon their lethargic diplomacy, arrange for Abiy’s departure, and encourage the formation of a transitional government that equally represents all Ethiopians. Failing to do so will only exacerbate the ongoing crises in the region, which can significantly create a safe haven for anti-peace elements, including Al-Shabab, and there is no reason to believe the world needs another Somalia.
Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com
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