Ethiopia Will Explode If It Does Not Move Beyond Ethnic- Based Politics

Oromo Nationalism played vital role in bringing to power Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed but this could be proven disastrous as the Prime Minister, in order to hold the country together must convince the various Ethnic groups that he and his new cabinet together with his party represent the interest of all Ethiopians. The Prime Minister received a Nobel Peace Prize award on 11th October for ending the long stalemate with neighboring country, Eritrea but this did not change the way Ethiopians saw his administration.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

In Ethiopia, Abiy enjoy only a fragmented amount of support from the citizens including his hometown Oromia where his leadership is seriously being contested by the ethno nationalist forces lead by the social media activist Jawar Mohammed. Jawar Mohammed through his Facebook post created tension in the country which lead to the killing of seventy civilians following the action taken by his supporters when they took to the streets. This lead to series of intercommunal conflicts resulting from an ethnic and religious diversity. This painful happenings is a typical example in showcasing the volatile nature of ethnic politics in Ethiopia which has cracked the foundation of the ruling party’s coalition.

The ruling party which has being in power since 1991 is a coalition of four parties representing the country’s major ethnic group ( Amhara, Oromo, Tigrayan and Southern groups) with the Tigrayan people’s Liberation Front being the most dominant until recent times when a widespread discontent sparked a series of protest over decades of authoritarian rule, force displacement and perceived dominance of Tigrayans within the coalition.

With the ruling party now under pressure, the chairman resigned thus leading to an internal reshuffle on ethnic base which saw Abiy to the chairmanship and became the first man from Oromo ever to hold the position. He represented a younger generation of reformists within the party and he immediately started with reconciliatory gestures and a promise to bridge the political space. He made peace with Eritrea, released thousands of political prisoners and equally welcomed back banished political parties and all these made him gain a significant popular support. The support was short-lived as Abiy was searching for compromises in a country where politics is severely polarized and this lead to him losing a large share of his supporters. Violence around the country especially in Oromia further divided his support base and weakened his plans in a unified coalition party. As the country prepares for a national election in May 2020 with a weakened ruling party and fragmented electorate, the risk of radical ethno national forces inciting violence is worse than ever.

Ironically speaking, Abiy found it less hard to make peace with another country than unifying his country and party.

More so, his peace mission in countries like Sudan and Eritrea can be seen as his effort to bolster his profile before actually embarking on the much harder mission of making peace in his country. Therefore, He must find a way to avoid the repetition of the perilous history of previous experiments in ethnic federalism in countries like Yugoslavia. This will require bringing in more order and transparency to political transition process because the present transition process is done without any consensus and a clear timeline.

The main causes of political crisis come from a system that imbibes ethnicity to electoral politics. A way should be devised to ensure greater participation and equality within the confine of democracy. Ethnic politics in an era of social media is inflaming ethnic extremism and undermines the very foundation of the federal system of government. An enduring solution should see to a constitutional reform that will establish new checks and balances that mitigates the risk of ethnic politics and the violence that comes with it. This will require an extensive process of consensus-building that reconciles the interest of all. Unfortunately, creating such mechanism that supports this kind of reform is impossible with the current political atmosphere which is highly polarized, fragmented and very unstable because the country had experienced decades of repression. Therefore, with things getting back to normal, there is an irreconcilable demands from various ethnic and interest groups.

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