Tuesday, June 18, 2024
HomeOpinionIs Ethiopia on the verge of Collapse or Just a Failed State? ...

Is Ethiopia on the verge of Collapse or Just a Failed State?   

Ethiopia Failed State
Google map of Ethiopia and the region


By Abush Getaneh
Political analyst

Diverse scholars from various fields, including political science, governance, and leadership, lack common consensus on the definition of a state and the terms “fragile,” “failed,” and “collapsed” states. Therefore, it is imperative to establish a clear understanding of what constitutes a state and its functions before judging on its performance and determining its fragility, failure, or collapse.

Political theory consistently defines the state as the embodiment of a social contract. Essentially, this theory suggests that the existence of states is founded on a mutually beneficial agreement between rulers and the ruled, based on rights and obligations that both parties agree to uphold. While the ruled consent to be governed, pay taxes, and abide by the law, the rulers, in turn, provide various political goods, including security, education, healthcare systems, border control, a political structure, physical infrastructure, a judicial system, and commercial and banking systems.

State failure can be best described as the incapacity of a state to fulfil its obligations to its citizens and the international community. Generally, failed states are characterised by a dysfunctional state structure, which hampers the government’s ability to carry out its functions. State failure not only affects the effectiveness of the government but also undermines the fundamental pillars of the state, such as its population, territory, and capacity to fulfil both internal and international obligations.

Instances of state failure are not uncommon, and contemporary examples can be found worldwide. For instance, Somalia has been without a functioning government for over a decade, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been torn apart by internal rivalries and regional conflicts over its mineral resources, and Sudan has experienced a complete halt in economic activities for the past three months.

Over the past fifty years, Ethiopia has witnessed a tumultuous transformation in its social, economic, and political dynamics. The power of the government has shifted towards a more complex economic and social structure, particularly favouring the Oromo political elites. New national actors have emerged, and national security threats have undergone significant changes. These transformations have adversely affected all regional states thoughTigray, Amhara, and Afar have been experiencing the worst consequences.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government carries numerous obligations to serve all Ethiopians equally and meet the expectations of the international community. This is not only a legal requirement but also a necessity for his government. However, as the leader of a failed state, PM Abiy’s government has been marked by its inability to fulfil its social contract with the Ethiopian people and the international community. The social contract forms the foundation of its legitimacy to govern, and the government’s failure to fulfil this contract undermines its authority and power. In a failed state, it is not just the government’s functions that are at stake, but also the breakdown of social infrastructure and the collapse of society’s very foundations.

In Ethiopia, the rights of domestic populations have been systematically eroded, with inadequate provision of security, healthcare, and other basic necessities in many parts of the country. This alarming situation foreshadows a looming humanitarian crisis. Furthermore, the inefficiency of state structures in providing essential rights to Ethiopian citizens, particularly those outside the capital city, compounds the problem. 

Consequently, Ethiopians fear that escalating violence could plunge the nation into an all-out internal war, resulting in the loss of lives, a massive deterioration in living standards, the decay of essential infrastructure, and a complete abdication of government authorities’ responsibilities to improve the lives of the Ethiopian people.

As a consequence of its failure to deliver political goods, the government exhibits a range of unique characteristics, including social disharmony among communities, the inability to control borders and territories, ethnic and intercommunal hostility, predatory behaviour by ruling elites, a surge in criminal violence, flawed institutions, rising corruption, the absence of democratic debate, and the deterioration of infrastructure.

To assess the current status of the Ethiopian government within these three categories of governance, several multifaceted problems in the country must be considered. These include internal conflicts, forced displacement, mass arrests, security challenges, and the ongoing humanitarian crisis faced by Ethiopia and its people. These factors serve as major criteria in asserting that Ethiopia is a failed state.

Loss of physical control over its territory is a notable issue. For the past nine months, the government has engaged in battles with the Amhara Fano. According to international and local media reports, his government has lost control of 90% of the territories in the Amhara and Oromia regions, with a weak grip limited to zonal capitals where his troops are confined. The Fano freedom fighters, with their popular support from grassroots Amharas and other ethnic groups, currently pose a threat to capturing Addis Ababa, the federal capital.

Loss of legitimacy is another critical aspect. Legitimacy is earned when an actor, institution, or system gains recognition from social players within their sphere of political action. Legitimacy is crucial as it leads to voluntary obedience and the establishment of stable rules with relatively low levels of coercion and conflict. 

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has lost legitimacy for various reasons, including inconsistencies between promises and actions, lack of truth and convincing evidence to support most of his speeches, and failure to fulfil commitments in the interest of the Ethiopian public. Consequently, public trust in him has declined. Despite thePrime Minister’s denial, Ethiopia has experienced a devastating economic decline under his premiership, with political power shrinking to the capital, and public services and security provisions in most parts of the country being relinquished to groups like Fano and Shene. These concrete signs and evidence substantiate the claim that Ethiopia is a failed state, even on the brink of collapse.

In conclusion, Abiy’s rise to power in 2017 has further exacerbated Ethiopia’s descent into deep nationalism, dividing the nation along ethnic and regional fault lines. Over the past ten months, Ethiopia has been embroiled in a de facto civil war asAbiy’s forces continue to clash with Fano in Amhara and Shene in Oromia. 

Less than a year after the war in Tigray ended, another conflict erupted in the Amhara regional state due to Abiy’s desire to disarm the Amhara forces. The region has been witnessing political massacres, mass arrests, internal displacement, and arbitrary killings. Tensions between Prime Minister Abiy’s government and the Amhara elites, who played a pivotal role in bringing him to power, have simmered for years but intensified after the government issued orders to disarm the Amhara Special Forces and militias. It’s crucial for Ethiopians to understand that what happens in the Amhara regional state affects all other Ethiopian states and even extends beyond the nation’s borders.

Consequences and dangers of a failed State 

Common characteristics of Ethiopia as a failed state include a government incapability of tax collection, law enforcement, security assurance, territorial control, political or civil office staffing as it is current phenomena in Ethiopia.

State fragility, state failure, and state collapse are concepts related to the capacity and ability of the state to exercise a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence and perform its basic functions well. State fragility occurs if the state fails to exercise a monopoly on violence, protect its citizens, provide adequate public services, and maintain legitimacy. State failure, on the other hand, occurs when these problems become more critical, challenging the state’s existence. Finally, state collapse occurs when a state is completely disintegrated, leaving an authority vacuum. In his 2022 research dubbed ‘Post-2018 Ethiopia: state fragility, failure or collapse?’Endalkachew Bayeh concluded Ethiopia fulfilled the fragility condition and was descending to a failed state situation. 

Coupled with the protracted conflicts in Amhara and Oromia, which led 90 percent of these regions’ territories to fall under armed groups according to international media reports like The Guardian and France24 last month, it is evident Ethiopia is currently in the condition of a failed state. Most government officials in these regions have fled to towns and cities. The assertion of the federal government, including the federal security apparatus in these regions, is limited to regional towns and cities. 

Currently, in Ethiopia the government cannot project authority over its territory, citizens security, and it cannot protect its national boundaries. Most of its citizens no longer believe that their government is legitimate and the Ethiopian state becomes illegitimate in the eyes of the international community.

Ethiopia’s State Failure presents a grave danger to the well-being of its populations and to international stability. For instance, it can be a haven for terrorist organisations, a centre for the trade of drugs and arms and breeding ground for dangerous diseases. 

Ethiopia’s State Failure can spell an instability threat to its borders and create conflict dynamics affecting neighbouring countries. There is no doubt that Ethiopia’s state failure can create regional and international threats and requires regional and international interventions. The real dangers posed by Ethiopia’s state failure calls for each international intervention to address the shortcomings in the country before it leads to collapse and its consequences. The Main purpose of the diplomatic shuttle of the United State of America to Ethiopia and neighbouring countries is just to pre-empting this situation before happening. 

As a failed State the dynamics in Ethiopia may lead to many, varied and dangerous problems, including civil war, more ethnic violence, genocide and even nation disintegration.

While Ethiopian scholars bear historical responsibilities to save their beloved country, it is disheartening to observe a scarcity of articles, conferences and/or dialogues addressing these deadly wars unfolding within the country. Instead, foreign scholars, international media, and human rights organisations have become the primary sources of information on Ethiopia’s problems.

In general, all Ethiopians must recognize that once the nation collapses and spirals out of control, reversing the situation becomes exceedingly difficult. Therefore, I implore all Ethiopians to urgently seek immediate solutions before it is too late.

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com


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  1. Abush Getaneh the “Political analyst” does not even know the name of the liberation that control 90% of Oromia. He calls the group Shene, a derogatory word Abiy gave to the group. The liberation front that controls most of Oromia is OLF/OLA. Abush is not a political analyst, but Amhara political propagandist. Abush also hallucinates that “The Fano freedom fighters, with their popular support from grassroots Amharas and other ethnic groups, currently pose a threat to capturing Addis Ababa, the federal capital.”, while at the same time he’s pleading for the international intervention to save the country. If his fano is posed to control the capital, he should be celebrating not pleading to the international community to rescue Ethiopia (Ethiopia means Amhara for Amhara “political analysts”). Overall, objective political analysis of that country requires real knowledge and experience, not tired old Habasha propaganda.


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