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In Meskerem Abera’s Shadow: Debating the Viability of Negotiated Political Settlements in Ethiopia

Sisay _ Meskerem Abera _ politics _ Ethiopia
The author (file)

By Sisay Mulu (Amoraw)

In the shadow of Ethiopia’s towering political crises, a controversial proposition emerges from the pen of Meskerem Abera—or does it? As Ethiopia grapples with governance failures, an article under Abera’s byline presents a solution as fraught with complexity as the conflicts it seeks to resolve. “The Fate of Ethiopia: Negotiated or Brokered Peace?” published on this platform two days ago appears to advocate for a negotiated settlement to the ethnic turmoil that has long plagued the nation. However, the legitimacy of this authorship is under scrutiny, given Abera’s current status as a political prisoner under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s regime. This article, draped in controversy and skepticism, demands a closer examination not only of its authorship but also of its proposed panacea to Ethiopia’s deep-seated issues.

Delving into the content, the article critiques the Ethiopian government’s reliance on an ethnic-elite-centric governance model, pioneered by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and perpetuated by the current Oromo-led administration. It argues passionately against simplistic solutions to complex problems, challenging the effectiveness of the National Dialogue Commission and warning against superficial peace negotiations that fail to address the systemic roots of conflict.

Yet, one must question: Can Ethiopia’s intricate web of political and ethnic rivalries be untangled through dialogue alone, especially when proposed under a regime mired in accusations of genocide and repression? Proposing such a settlement might seem like prescribing a band-aid for a hemorrhage—a well-intentioned but ultimately inadequate attempt to heal a profoundly wounded nation.

As readers, we are compelled to look beyond the surface, to question the viability of proposed solutions, and to consider whether they are genuine paths to peace or merely illusory salves applied to deeper, festering wounds. This article beckons us to critically analyze the viability of negotiated peace in a landscape where historical grievances and contemporary atrocities cast long shadows.

Knowing Meskerem personally, and her adeptness at dissecting Ethiopia’s political landscape, I find it implausible that this article originated from her pen. Those familiar with Meskerem’s eloquent and incisive analysis of Ethiopia’s political strife might agree—it is implausible that this article reflects her genuine perspectives. Instead, it appears to be a calculated move by elements desperate to salvage Abiy Ahmed’s regime by promoting a façade of negotiated political settlement, using Meskerem’s influential voice within the Amhara politics as a puppet in their game.

The piece strongly criticizes the National Dialogue Commission, dismissing it as nothing more than a facade for Abiy Ahmed to cling to power, rather than a genuine conduit for peace. It calls for a negotiated political resolution that genuinely involves all vital stakeholders, criticizing the current peace negotiations as insufficient and likely to exacerbate existing conflicts. The piece appeals to the international community to foster a more inclusive and earnest dialogue to address the entrenched issues plaguing Ethiopia.

However, the article falls short in several critical respects. 

  • Confusing the symptoms of ethnic marginalization and subjugation with ethnic competition, thus misrepresenting the core dynamics at play.
  • Lacking depth in its exploration of the historical and systemic roots of these conflicts, opting instead to focus superficially on immediate issues.
  • Failing to demand the dismantling of the current oppressive system that has been the progenitor of these problems for over three decades.
  • Advocating for two implausible solutions—brokered peace and negotiated political settlement—without addressing the essential prerequisite of systemic change.

These missteps are not just academic errors but are dangerously misleading in the context of Ethiopia’s delicate political environment. They divert attention from the urgent need to dismantle a system that has, for over three decades, been the bedrock of the country’s strife. As proponents of democracy and human rights, we must demand more than just surface-level analysis and advocate for radical, systemic transformations that can truly heal and rebuild Ethiopia.

Ethnic Competition vs. Ethnic Subjugation: The Real Crisis Behind Ethiopia’s Political Scene

To understand the narrative that Ethiopia’s political struggles are primarily driven by ethnic-elite-based politics and irreconcilable ethnic interests, it is crucial to delve into the complexities and foundational causes of these conflicts. Such a narrative drastically simplifies the intricate dynamics at play and overlooks significant factors, particularly the systematic marginalization and subjugation of the Amhara ethnic group.

First, it is essential to differentiate between ethnic marginalization and ethnic competition. Genuine competition implies that all parties have access to the necessary resources and influence to pursue their interests equitably. This has not been the case for the Amhara, who, since 1991, have seen their political and economic powers systematically eroded. Rather than a landscape of healthy rivalry, the Amharas have endured subjugation and exclusion, initially by Tigray political elites for nearly three decades, and more recently under the governance of Abiy Ahmed and the Oromo political class for the past six years (Berhe, 2018); (International Crisis Group, 2020).

The ethnic marginalization of Amharas has severe ramifications, including forced displacements and genocidal massacres specifically targeting the Amhara under recent administrations, which indicates a policy approach that could be characterized as ethnic cleansing rather than mere political rivalry​ (Oxford Academic)​. Such actions reflect not a failure of ethnic politics per se, but a deliberate misuse of the system to suppress and eliminate the Amhara ethnic group. The Ethiopian constitutional framework, ostensibly designed to provide equal ethnic representation, has instead been manipulated to entrench division and perpetuate power imbalances, significantly disadvantaging the Amhara​ (Oxford Academic)​.

The primary issue plaguing Ethiopia is not simply corruption or economic decline as the author alluded, but a deliberate and ongoing ethnic cleansing against the Amharas. This systematic oppression has been both brutal and relentless, resulting in significant disenfranchisement of the Amhara on political and economic fronts (Human Rights Watch, 2019). The constitutional arrangement, which segments the nation along ethnic lines, has only served to deepen the marginalization and disempowerment of the Amhara, intensifying ethnic tensions and conflicts (Aalen, 2002)

The root of Ethiopia’s persistent problems lies in its constitutional framework, which not only fosters ethnic divisions but institutionalizes them, rendering genuine competition and reconciliation virtually unattainable. This system has not only disenfranchised the Amhara but also other minority groups, sowing seeds for continuous conflict and unrest (Young, 1999). The governance model adopted has not encouraged a healthy political ecosystem but has perpetuated a cycle of ethnic-based oppression and violence.

Hence, asserting that Ethiopia’s challenges stem solely from ethnic-elite-based politics and irreconcilable ethnic interests is an oversimplification that misleads the discourse. The real issue is the systemic and intentional marginalization and genocide of the Amhara, facilitated by a defective constitutional system. Addressing the problems in Ethiopia necessitates acknowledging and rectifying this systemic injustice. Only by addressing these foundational issues and ensuring a fair distribution of power can Ethiopia hope to resolve its deep-seated challenges (Lyons, 2006); (Tronvoll, 2009).

False Cures and Real Scars: Addressing Ethiopia’s True Ailments

The proposal by the author that a negotiated political settlement, involving all critical stakeholders, is the panacea for Ethiopia’s recurrent conflicts is akin to prescribing a band-aid for a hemorrhage. The suggestion is dangerously naive, particularly given the historical and current political climate under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s regime, described by the author himself/herself as genocidal and dictatorial. This naïve prescription grossly underestimates the malignant nature of the affliction that has taken hold of Ethiopia’s body politic, festering under the guise of ethnic competition while it’s truly a cancer of ethnic subjugation and systemic genocide.

The authors seem to envision a peace process as a simple gathering at a round table, where each party, in good faith, lays down their arms and grievances. However, this vision is nothing more than a mirage in the desert of Ethiopia’s tumultuous political landscape. To believe that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, described by the author himself/herself as a leader of a genocidal regime clinging to power through a facade of dialogue, would suddenly champion a genuine political negotiation process is to believe in fairy tales.

This proposed solution—negotiated political settlement—is a shallow remedy, much like using a flimsy umbrella to ward off a hurricane. The systemic issues ingrained in Ethiopia’s governance, bred from decades of ethnic animosity and exacerbated by the constitutional framework established in 1991, demand not a bandage but a surgical overhaul.

We need to dissect the problem from its historical roots, not just from the past three decades which have been riddled with targeted genocides and economic disenfranchisement, particularly of the Amharas. True resolution requires a scalpel, to excise the tumors of fascism and genocide, and potent antibiotics—in the form of accountability and justice—to cleanse the deep, festering wounds of ethnic violence and hatred.

Those who believe that such deep-seated issues can be resolved through superficial talks are using gauze to treat gangrene. The entire infected system needs debridement. The path to healing must include holding those who perpetuated these atrocities accountable, not inviting them to lead the reconciliation. This isn’t just about resetting the political board; it’s about rebuilding the entire table. Only then might we see the dawn of a truly new and equitable Ethiopia.

Real solutions require a radical rethinking and dismantling of the structures that perpetuate violence and division. Proposing a negotiated political settlement under the guise of inclusivity and peace while the same repressive system remains intact is akin to redecorating a house that is structurally unsound. It is an exercise in futility and, frankly, a dangerous diversion from the urgent reforms needed.

For Ethiopia, the road to healing and unity lies not through cosmetic changes to a fundamentally flawed system but through courageous, sweeping reforms that confront and dismantle the sources of its longstanding anguish.


In the crucible of Ethiopia’s political upheaval, the proposed solutions of negotiated settlements and brokered peace are but whispers against a storm. These approaches, while diplomatically appealing, are akin to planting flowers in a field scorched by decades of injustice and strife—they cannot take root in such barren soil. The plight of the Amhara and the systemic failures of Ethiopia’s governance require far more than superficial dialogue; they demand profound, structural change. 

True healing will begin not through orchestrated talks that serve the few, but through dismantling the very foundations of oppression that have silenced the many. We stand at a pivotal crossroads, where the choices we make today will echo through the annals of our nation’s history. The path forward should not be paved with the same stones that led us into the quagmire of genocidal violence, division, and strife. Instead, we must forge a new path—one laid with the bedrock of accountability, profound systemic reform, and an unwavering commitment to justice and equity for all ethnic groups.

It is time to call upon both national and international stakeholders to shift their focus from temporary fixes to enduring solutions that address the root causes of Ethiopia’s ailments. Only then can we hope to forge a future where all Ethiopian voices are heard, respected, and integrated into the fabric of a genuinely democratic society. 

Let this article serve as a clarion call to all who yearn for peace and justice in Ethiopia: the path forward is not through the illusory oasis of negotiated settlements but through the arduous yet necessary journey of systemic reform, justice, and reconciliation. 

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


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  1. I couldn’t agree more. There is nothing Ahara gains from Abiy through negotiations short of seizing power in Addis Ababa. Years of naivety have brought us this far.


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