Ethiopia: The Dangers Ahead By Yared Ayicheh
Ethiopia’s foreseeable future is slowly, but surely, getting into a dangerous and volatile state. The economic situation has gotten worst and it has made the daily life of Ethiopians unbearable. It is this unbearable factor that may push the submissive and tolerant Ethiopians, collectively, into an angry and aggressive state of mind.
If and when this state of mind does take hold of the masses, the outcome will be an uprising not ever seen in Ethiopia’s history. The revolution of the mid 1970s will not even compare to the fierceness and destructiveness of the approaching upheaval.
What are some of the possible dangers facing Ethiopians in the foreseeable future? Here are some of the dangers that I feel Ethiopians may face soon:
Danger #1 Leaderless Uprising
Although it is tempting for some in Diaspora to think they can ‘manage’ an impending uprising in Ethiopia, it is simply an impossible task to do so from abroad. The total control of the media in Ethiopia by the ruling party and the repression of the civilian population by government security personnel have made it difficult for a covert operation to be successful so far; however, these conditions in combination with the economic failures have created an unprecedented pressure on the population which is only waiting for a trigger to burst out. As a result of this, the upheaval will be leaderless, decentralized and untamed.
Danger #2 Opportunity to ‘Vent’
In the past 20 years, at various times and places, the ruling party has harassed, imprisoned, tortured and killed civilians, and that repressed hurt may be vented out at the right opportunity – an uprising is the best opportunity to release repressed anger. The recent Arab uprisings have shown that when people feel ‘free’ they attack those that kept the lid on them. That kind of venting will not be lead by a group or a committee; instead it will be impulsive, which is conducive for vigilante justice and ethnic violence due to perceived ethnic political power disparities.
Danger #3 Divided Military
Members of the Ethiopian National Defense Force, ENDF, know first hand the harsh condition of daily life Ethiopians are facing each day. It is simply foolishness to think the military will remain intact when a significant segment of the population starts to uprise due to the unbearable living conditions. Once an uprising is triggered, whatever is keeping the military ‘loyal’ to the ruling party will not pass the test of loyalty to the people vs. loyalty to the 20 years old regime. A worst scenario would be a military division along ethnic lines – that kind of division in the ENDF could possibly have an ominous consequence for the nation.
Danger #4 Opportunist ‘Vultures’
Post-uprising Ethiopia, with a weak, damaged, undermined or failed central government, would be vulnerable to elements that are waiting for such opportunity. Armed groups will specially find a power vacuum in Ethiopia highly attractive and may take advantage of it. If this happens, Ethiopia’s political power structure may morph and look more like the era prior to Emperor Theodros II – a fragmented Ethiopia without central government. Perhaps post-uprising Ethiopia would create a situation similar to Somalia were parts of Ethiopia will be administrated by warlords. A Somalia type of situation is what the international community will likely want to avoid in Ethiopia, but after what happened to the US soldiers in Mogadishu in 1993, will donor nations come to the rescue in Ethiopia?
Danger #5 Civil War
Another danger is a protracted civil war. It is nothing new for Ethiopians to fight with each other; nevertheless, what may be a new element of a new civil war in Ethiopia is the factor of the new generation of Ethiopians who grew up under the current ethnocentric political atmosphere. The new generation may have a deeper sense of ethnic identity, compared with older generations who strongly identify themselves as an Ethiopian nationalist instead of over emphasizing their ethnic identity. This new ethnic dimension could make a new civil war in Ethiopia to be easily defined as ethnic conflict, which would be unlike any major civil war in Ethiopia’s history.
These are just possibilities, but I feel they are more likely to happen given the recent turn of events in Ethiopia’s elections and economic failures, and the unprecedented uprisings in North Africa and Middle East. The uprisings have opened up a new horizon of possibilities for oppressed people all over the world to bring change in their nations.
The good news is Ethiopia does not have to go through an uprising. There is still time to avoid an uprising and step into a better future for our children, grand children and all future generations.
The EPRDF leadership needs to open up itself for a nationwide, all inclusive political reform, which must include all opposition parties from inside and outside Ethiopia.
Such comprehensive reform can and will save Ethiopia from a possibly looming, unprecedented and dangerous future. Its time we as a society learn from history, ours and other countries’, and embark on an era of sensible politics by overcoming the era of dead end politics.
The time for political compromise is now!
The writer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org