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The Whispers of Rebellion: Ethiopia’s Unfolding Revolution

Ethiopia Unfolding Revolution _ News

Isael Ze Etiel

For generations, Ethiopians suffered under an order that favoured those in control rather than addressing the requirements of regular people, slowly taking away their essential human and democratic freedoms. Leaders addressed locals as items of their rule, muffling any dissenting opinions and denying them the capability to determine their own future. This system exclusively supported those at the highest levels while most Ethiopians lived under the weight of oppression, their voices silenced. The nation witnessed a repeating pattern of suppression, demonstration, and lingering unhappiness which ultimately led to current nationwide turmoil and the rise of Abiy Ahmed to leadership. Some felt crushed under the system without any representation, while others hoped a new beginning may bring long sought change. However, the promised transformation has proven elusive, leaving many questioning if Ethiopia is truly on the path to a brighter future.

And in Ethiopia, generations of Ethiopians have had to live without some of the most basic human and democratic rights. Through a well-oiled propaganda machine, successive incumbents of Ethiopia’s throne have successfully oppressed the dissenting opinion, curtailed freedom of expression, and fostered a culture of ambiguity of and around power. Citizens have come to be subjects, not stakeholders. Voices that speak up against injustice and demand rights have been silenced and have suffered harsh consequences. This eventually created what I refer to as a ‘culture of ambiguity tolerance’ , a powerful tool of the regime that has helped it maintain its grip on power. It has also taught the largest segments of the population to accept the system as given and to internalise powerlessness. The attribute of ambiguity tolerance is loosely related to the popularised notion of ‘learned helplessness’. This oppressive system has created a culture of fear and silence, where the people, while bearing the brunt of the nation’s struggles, were often unable to voice their concerns or demand accountability.

The 2005 national elections turned out to be that moment. For the first time in decades, Ethiopians made the long-suppressed demands of rebellion extraordinarily public, clearly demonstrating that the regime’s hold on power was increasingly tenuous. Hundreds were killed, even more imprisoned, in the brutal suppression of dissent that followed. One way to acknowledge the capacity of current regimes to terrorise seems to be for people to make that terror routinely public and unacceptable in some way. Such acts serve to reveal the ‘true’ nature of particular regimes. While the smouldering fires of rebellion were quickly extinguished, so was the long period of cowed acquiescence to a regime that feared and attempted to control much more than was actually possible. And after 2005, the seeds of resistance had been planted.

The death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in 2012 ushered in a period of political instability. His successor, Hailemariam Desalegn, struggled to maintain the iron grip of the regime, leading to a weakening of the regime’s control. Coupled with growing socio-economic grievances, this fueled a wave of protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions. The “Qeerroo, Fano, and Zerema” movement, propelled by a diverse coalition of activists, students, and ordinary citizens, demanded fundamental change and an end to the repressive regime.

The movement, dubbed “Qeerroo, Fano and Zerema,” was a culmination of years of simmering discontent. It was fueled by a desire for fundamental change, a yearning for freedom and justice. The movement received support from various actors, including activists living abroad, like prominent political figure Jewar Mohammed, and even elements within the ruling  Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party.

The rise of Abiy Ahmed, a man heralded as the epitome of reform, gave birth to hope for a new age that embraced democracy and justice. In the beginning, such gestures as releasing political prisoners and removing restrictions on the media looked like signs of change. Nevertheless, this optimism proved short-lived and these promises of change have mostly remained unfulfilled. In various aspects Ethiopian people’s circumstances have deteriorated. His subsequent steps have sparked off extreme hostility among Ethiopians due to ongoing conflicts in Amhara and Oromia, Tigray, Afar, Ethiopia Somali, Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz. With rising cases of violence, displacement and disillusionment towards those Ethiopians in particular were affected by his later actions like continuing wars taking place in different parts of the country including Amhara and Oromia; Tigray; Afar; Ethiopia Somali; Gambella; Benishangul-Gumuz etc..

A number of challenges still confront the Ethiopian people, while the country’s economy is grappling with high inflation, joblessness and limited opportunities for a large chunk of the population. The government has suppressed dissent by muzzling critics and imprisoning activists thereby shattering its promise of change. In Ethiopia, more people are participating in protests and other forms of activism however many inhabitants in the urban centres still seem reluctant to speak out fearing backlash from authorities.

Ethiopia is at a crossroads. In spite of the obstacles, the people’s yearning for freedom and justice prevail in their hope of overcoming them. Although Abiy’s change promises have not been fully acted upon, the yearning for freedom and justice by Ethiopians persists. The question still lingers as to whether their patience would be stretched or if they would once again rise to fight for what they have always wanted but denied the same. A united Ethiopia where citizens unite, demand responsibility and chase the road towards genuine democracy as well as equity will be vital in determining its destiny.

History repeats itself, showing that people’s desire for freedom can never be oppressed indefinitely. They are now more determined and their voice cannot be avoided any longer. Leaders who do not address the citizens’ genuine concerns and legitimate fears may inadvertently add fuel to the fire of discontent and eventually destabilize their countries. A democratic Ethiopia is the key towards a stable and prosperous one that respects human rights and enables its citizens to choose their own path developmentally. The people must also realize the increasing frustration of both Ethiopians at home and in the Diaspora; thus they should alter their way of implementing reforms so as to produce permanent solutions with regard to these disagreements.

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


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1 COMMENT

  1. Mr. Isael Ze Etiel,
    “Spark and fire” began well before PM came to power. Most Ethiopians memory is alive who lived through Ethiopian’s rise of populations like that of the “Qeerroo, Fano and Zerema… etc” movements that not only eventually kicked out the brutal, suffocating and polarizing rule of the TPLF but ended its dictatorship and violent repression carried out over its 27 years rule. It was this precondition that led to 2016 – 2018 rebellion. We can perfectly surmise the TPLF’s layout of Killils for Ethiopia and its divide and rule policy was a prelude for perennial conflicts in our country for certain, until eclipsed by the “Qeerroo, Fano and Zerema… etc”. Tigray’s war on PM Abiy’s government that ended in the TPLF’s surrender in November 2022 (advised by western powers to do so or perish ) was one of the major conflict the PM had to handle since he came to power. No conflict on that scale is currently ongoing, Yes, there are conflicts that have come as a result of extremist OLA and the current nascent Fano resistance movement that rebelled against the Killil’s disarmament of the regional Liyu Hayle. Neither of these conflicts are in scale and magnitude as the TPLF’s war waged against PM Abiy’s government. Furthermore nothing that is currently objectively ongoing foretells a revolution.

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