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Ethiopia’s Road to Dictatorship

Ethiopia’s Road to Dictatorship

Aynalem Sebhatu


Since the ascent of Abiy Ahmed to the highest office of the country, Ethiopia has gone from one of the fastest growing economies of the world to an economy of screeching halt. A two years of ethnic conflicts have left the country with one of the highest internally displaced people in the world. The country is gravely struggling to cope up with conflicts in the Oromia regional state, the Benishangul-Gumuz regional state, and the Southern regional states. In addition to these conflicts, the on-going war in Tigray is sucking in and consuming the blood and treasures of the entire region of the Horn of Africa. All these increasingly intractable problems of the country have left many with the sense that the country is heading to disintegration similar to that of Yugoslavia.  

The combined impact of the on-going conflicts, the pandemic, the locusts, and the mismanagement of the economy that have battered the country is leading to a widespread of poverty in rural and urban areas and to a feeling of desperation across all sections of the population. The situation in Tigray is worsening.  Around 7 million Tigrayans are starring starvation on the eye and humanitarian agencies are not doing enough to stop it.  As these problems are compounding, the well to do citizens of Addis Ababa have been spared and the city is boasting with its daily urban rhythmic pace trying to insulate itself from the rest of the country. Giving color to this illusive heart-beat of the city; the political, economic, diplomatic, and the media elites of the city are dining and winning as if nothing is happening in the rest of the country.

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A significant number of journalists are in jail and the Abiy regime is accused of intolerance of Tigrayans, installing intimidation and fear in its population to consolidate his political power. The political situation of the country is getting increasingly suffocating for the opposition parties. Most of the well-known politicians are either in jail or their parties have been barred from participating in the coming election in June of 2021.  

Given the oppressive political environment, most political observers think that the election will be a sham election leading the country falling under the mercy of one man.  This man is not going to hesitate to deploy Isaias Afewerki’s art of dictatorship to maintain his political power. This is not a far-fetched political scenario. Right now, he has allowed the secret services apparatus of Eritrea to freely roam around in every corner of the country. I happen to think that Abiy trusts the Eritreans more than the Amharas. The Amhara political elites are too close for comfort for consolidating his political power and Eritreans’ services will be handy whenever the power struggle starts with the Amhara political elites.

Parallel to all of these internal problems, Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afewerki are building an ambitious political rail-road connecting Dubai, Addis Ababa and Asmara.  The most notable visionary about this project is the UAE, which is no stranger to the monumental engineering schemes. It is no secret that the UAE is becoming the leading regional actor in search of a security blanket for its maritime activities in the Red Sea arena. This security blanket mainly requires monopolizing the management of ports in the Red Sea area and beyond using UAE’s multinational corporations such as Dubai Ports World (DP World). Part of this security equation is having loyal leaders (strong men) with strong standing armies to police the area. Abiy Ahmed and Isais Afewerki perfectly fit Dubai’s vision of future security plans. The leaders of these countries are incentivized by the ease they could access financial resources that allow them to lubricate their dictatorship in the Horn of Africa. In essence Ethiopians and Eritreans will stand by guarding the national interest of the Emiratis and the Saudis instead of building their own countries pillars of democracy and economic institutions.

By now it is clear to many of us that Abiy Ahmed’s infatuation with glittering objects and ideas. In light of such inclination, It would not be surprising that Abiy Ahmed’s shallow understanding of “development” plays a big role in sacrificing the county’s tradition of independence and sovereignty. His conception of prosperity is based on positive thinking and partly explains his euphoric enthusiasm for the Assab-Based Prosperity (ABP).  He thinks the economic miracles of Dubai could be imported via the Eritrean port of Assab. True, there are good reasons for Ethiopia to use and exploit neighboring ports to the full and Eritrean ports can help fuel the economic growth of the country. But Abiy (and his vision of ABP) is going about it in radically a different way from his predecessors.  

The fast broad-based economic growth (According to the World Bank: averaging around 9.8%) of the country for the last 15 years has been driven mainly by well thought out agricultural-based industrialization macroeconomic policy.  Contrary to such economic policy, Abiy’s economic policy seems to be based on outward-oriented trade policy, that is, exports and imports based on the vision of ABP.  His home-grown economic policy, mainly designed and supported by the IMF and World Bank, is tilted towards the interest of foreign corporations, not the interest of the Ethiopian people.

Alas, the hopes of Ethiopians are dashed, leaving Ethiopian reform and transition in a strange place. Thus far the Amhara elites and the Eritrean dictator have stood by Abiy Ahmed. The dangers of Abiy Ahmed’s vision of ABP mean that most Amhara elites and the Eritrean dictator are far more closed than they should be, and they enable the ascent of a man to a dictatorship.  

Tigray will Prevail!

Eternal glory to our martyrs!



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