PM Abiy, flip flopping on Ethnic federalism and the legacy of Ethiopia’s authoritarian system

#Yohannes Gedamu, Lecturer of Political Science, #Georgia Gwinnett College, expressed that #Ethiopians are losing faith in Prime Minister Abiy’s promises for peace
Having recalled that when Prime Minister #Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018, he had promised to address Ethiopia’s deteriorating ethnic relations, Yohannes pointed out that despite of the efforts to end the 20-year conflict with Eritrea which enabled him won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, Abiy’s Ethiopia continued to witness recurring incidents of violence within its borders. As a result, the reforms from the promise to release political prisoners, to the opening of the media space, now seem distant memories, he reiterated.

According to the lecturer, Abiy’s administration has failed to address the political wrangling within the federal government and recurring ethnic conflict. These factors are putting the country on the path to destruction.

As per the scholar, the ethnic federal government, which has divided the country along tribal lines, and the legacy of Ethiopia’s authoritarian system, are structural challenges that cannot be underestimated. These challenges have not been addressed by Abiy’s administration. It is understood that reform takes time, but the premier’s flip flopping on some of the issues has caused uneasiness with his leadership. One such issue is the creation of a non-ethnic federation.

Today, Ethiopia’s ethnic violence is costing thousands of lives and millions have been displaced due to Abiy’s muted response to the rising ethnic violence, he restated. This is worsening peace and security in the nation.

As said by Yohannes, the situation is also weakening the country’s economy. To make matters worse, the political leadership within the governing Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (#EPRDF) is divided. Over the past few months in particular, the political parties that make up the ruling coalition have been blaming each other for Ethiopia’s political dysfunction.

As the wrangling continues, EPRDF’s constituent parties from the #Oromia, #Amhara and #Tigray regions are asserting themselves more than ever.
Moreover, today, ethno-nationalists, as to the lecturer, are seizing the opportunity to gain the political upper hand. Abiy’s regime’s failure to stabilize the nation, and declining public trust in his administration has given them fresh political momentum.

Exhibiting the premier’s being in dilemma, Yohannes said that Abiy seems to be the prisoner of Ethiopia’s federal government, the very system that propped him up. This federal system draws its legitimacy from citizens maintaining a strong ethnic identity at the regional level. In light of this the new premier has two options.

As highlighted by him, one is to actively pursue the unifying agenda that made him popular, which would alienate his ethnic Oromo constituency. The other is to align with the interests of the Oromo ethno-nationalist movement. This would secure the electoral support of his political base in Oromia. But choosing the latter could deprive him of the non-Oromo support he has been enjoying.
If Abiy doesn’t take decisive steps to stabilize the country, chances are high that the Ethiopian state could crumble.

Indeed, Yohannes said, since Abiy was elected the nation has gone down a renewed path of violence. It is not only the Ethiopian people who are divided; it is also the political elites who had previously shown support for Abiy’s leadership.
The Oromia region has been the scene of recurrent violence where rallies against Abiy have recently erupted after Oromo activist #Jawar Mohammed accused security forces of trying to orchestrate an attack against him.

The political space that opened up with Abiy’s election is closing. As expressed by the lecturer, there are tortures and new jails and this throws the promise of a fair justice system into question.

Fortunately for the prime minister a section of the public still has faith that the newly minted Nobel Laureate can deliver on his promises, he signified.
Yohannes furthered that chances are high that the Ethiopian state could crumble. As to him, Abiy must negotiate with his adversaries and allies on the direction the country is taking. Importantly, unless he genuinely attempts to reinvigorate ties between the parties in the ruling coalition, the country’s violent trajectory might not be reversed.