National reform brought momentous political change

BY ALAZAR SHIFERAW

Three years have been passed since Ethiopia has started its prosperity journey following the coming of the reformist leader Prime Minister Abiy Ahimed to the power. Since 2018, dramatic political changes and promising reform activities have been registered. Besides to this, commendable political and economic progress has also been registered.

Democratic institutions are being institutionalized and established. The government has also widened the country’s political landscape. One ethnic group domination which was the root cause of the previous violence parallel with political questions of the society have got due attention during this period.

But some challenges are still remaining which have to be the basic home task for the current government. Some internal and external factors are becoming the nation’s bottlenecking activities that are trying to hinder the reform. However, Ethiopians are trying the best solution to solve every problem across the country peacefully rather than choosing war as a problem solving mechanism like the Juntas.

Therefore Ethiopians can easily pass this difficult period in harmony and wisely. Although, the then Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) declared that it would interrupt the reform activity brought to Ethiopia, the National Defense Force coupled with the people of Ethiopia have shown their strong unity in their motivation to strive for the country’s peace and stability.

Of course, youths from different parts of the country were asking for a question of justice and equality at the era of the then EPRDF. Once Unrepresented Nations and Peoples 0rganization (UNPO) in 2017 reported that in the past years, the peoples of Ethiopian and the outside world have witnessed the EPRDF Government’s incarceration of hundreds of thousands of youths from all walks of life in jails, unofficial detention centers and concentration camps simply for allegedly being members or supporters of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), whom the ruling party has deemed a terrorist group, and some other opposition political organizations.

Due to the inappropriate and inhuman treatments by the government security members, hundreds of Oromos died, suffered from physical disabilities resulting from tortures, and most of those who were taken to court were given harsh sentences including life in prison and capital punishments or death penalty. Oromo intellectuals, Businessmen, and the members of legally operating Oromo parties (for example the Oromo People`s Congress (OPC) and Oromo Federalist Democratic, the report addressed.

Moreover, International Peace Institute (IPI) Global Observatory said that the protests in the Oromia state were generally seen as part of a movement that began in April-May 2014. At the time, students across several locations protested a plan to expand Addis Ababa. This expansion aimed to accommodate the demands for residential, commercial, and industrial properties by a growing middle class in the capital as a result of an economic boom.

The plan was also perceived as violating constitutionally enshrined territorial rights attributed to the state. Finally, it came against the backdrop of social tensions fed by sentiments of economic marginalization, particularly among non-Tigrayan people. Strong economic growth in Ethiopia is accompanied by growing inequalities. The economic gap between rich and poor appears to be widening. In parallel, unemployment and underemployment have risen, particularly among educated youth in urban areas, and allegations of public corruption have spread.

However, the protests continued and spread. In February 2016, there was still an average of 26 per week. While the number sharply dropped to seven per week between March and April 2016 due to the onset of the sowing season, large-scale demonstrations resumed in May 2016 and continued over the summer. Fresh protests also occurred in the Amhara State from the end of July 2016. The continuation

According to it, the Amhara community joined the Oromo protests in August 2016, after a fatal clash between security forces and Amhara residents over the Wolkayt issue ignited regionalist grievances. Amhara protesters displayed an unprecedented level of solidarity with the Oromos, organizing joint marches, sit-ins, boycotts, and stay-at-home protests, as well as using other non-violent tactics, such as head shaving and crossing arms above the head. Long-standing historical tensions, as well as differing political agendas had previously prevented similar forms of union between the two groups.

The government’s violent response to the Oromo protests also prompted populations in other regions to demonstrate their solidarity with the Oromo protesters or to be more vocal about their own grievances; this is the case for the Konso, Quemant, and Surma communities, for instance.

From the onset, the government has accused the protest movement of being infiltrated by rebel groups, such as the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Patriotic Ginbot 7 for Unity and Democratic Movement (AGUDM). The government considers these groups to be terrorist organizations supported by external forces, including Eritrea and Egypt. The label has been used to discredit the protesters and justify the deployment of the Anti-Terror Task Force to the region, starting on December 15, 2015.

Available data collected from international and local media since November 2015 points to more than 1,200 people reported killed during protests. Approximately 660 fatalities are from state violence against peaceful protesters, 250 from state engagement against rioters, and more than 380 people were killed by security forces following the declaration of the state of emergency in October 2016.

This compares to 842 deaths acknowledged by the government-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in unrest across Oromia and other regions since November 2015. Tens of thousands of people have also been arrested and charged with terrorism offenses.

Therefore most scholars agreed that the coming of the Laureate Abiy Ahimed to the power was a golden opportunity for Ethiopia to rise its hope and a sign of love, freedom and prosperity as well.

The pace of change in Ethiopia has been so fast since Abiy Ahmed became prime minister in April 2018 that it is almost like observing a different country, and this is why he has been also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In a net, the country could achieve momentous political change through the national reform made by the Reformist government.

The Ethiopian Herald April 3/2021

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