Tag Archives: Jan Abbink

Stable Instability: renewed turmoil in Ethiopia (part 2)

qilinto-burning2

Qilinto prison burning, Addis Ababa 3 September 2016.  Opposition voices state that not the fire but the prison guards killed more than 60 inmates, most of them political prisoners fleeing and trying to reach safety. © Ethiogrio

(This is the second part of an earlier published article)

By Jan Abbink        Next to the demands for more economic rights and protection, the wider background factors of the spreading protests were: mounting dissatisfaction with authoritarian party politics, the interfering presence of party cadres in local life, the lack of accountability of the government, unresolved land allocation issues, lack of proper compensation for those removed from the land, the dismantling of civil society organizations in the last decade, the lack of political and civic freedoms, and the lack of a well-working justice system (as people say, one cannot really bring complaints against the government and get one’s right in the courts).

There is also a longer-term social dynamic involved: large groups of youth are unemployed, and there is still a large urban underclass that is often excluded from high school or vocational education and from jobs. New cultural-political youth movements – in both the classical political sphere as well as in the cultural domain – are seen with suspicion by the government and under close scrutiny. Also, emerging local ethnic elites in the various regional states have been cautiously putting forward new demands – and, paradoxically, their emergence and assertiveness is an achievement of the ‘ethnic politics’ of empowerment that the Ethiopian ruling party and government instituted since 1991 and which has led to many smaller ethnic groups getting ‘special districts’. The ethno-regional rivalry is now also seen in the serious tensions within the ruling party, where the four branches, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM) are not always in agreement with the dominant Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).  Continue reading

Stable instability: renewed turmoil in Ethiopia (part 1)

qilinto-burning1By Jan Abbink    Ethiopia in 2016 is seeing a new round of major turmoil: massive protests and demonstrations have led to severe state repression, with more than 600 people killed by security forces, thousands injured, and tens of thousands arrested (as of September 2016). The story gets somewhat repetitive, as many rounds of political and ‘ethnic’ clashes have occurred in the country since 1991 when the current regime took power.

This time, the protests of masses of unarmed students, youths, peasants and others started peaceful – i.e. there was no agenda of armed insurrection ‘fed by diaspora Ethiopians and foreigners’, as the Ethiopian government likes to assert. But early this month, the protests turned into a full-blown revolt, notably in the northern Amhara Region, populated largely by Amharic-speaking people that have felt regionally and politically marginalized for many years. Continue reading