Ethiopia is coming apart at the seams. In just in the last year, the country has suffered through a historic drought, a severe economic slowdown, and a series of clashes between citizens and government forces. Trace Dominguez has the details in today’s Seeker Daily report.
The country’s biggest problem is a political one, according to international observers. When the nation’s current ruling party — the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) — took power in 1991, it immediately segregated the country into nine regional districts, divided by ethnicity.
The EPRDF strongly favors the interests of the Tigrayans, of the Tigray region. Even though ethnic Tigrans make up only six percent of Ethiopia’s population, they have managed to secure 100 percent of the seats in the country’s parliamentary body. Predictably, the government is largely viewed as illegitimate and corrupt.
In order to retain power, the EPRDF has assumed near-total control over the press, the military, the legislature and the economy. In November 2015, the percolating protest movement finally boiled over into a series of major confrontations. Unrest has spread rapidly though the districts of Ethiopia’s two largest ethnics groups — the Oromos and the Amharas.
Government officials have responded by deploying military units as well as Ethiopia’s infamous anti-terrorism task force. Under recently drafted laws, Ethiopia’s government is granted sweeping powers to combat terrorism. The trouble, as always, is that the government also gets to decide who the terrorists are. Since the laws were adopted in 2009, they’ve been used to justify the kidnappings, torture and arbitrary detention of anyone who vocally opposes the government.
Ethiopia’s political crises have been further exacerbated by a severe drought — the worst in more than 50 years. El Nino is being blamed for rain shortages that have killed up to 90 percent of crops in some areas. Critics say the government, in an effort to keep up appearances, has moved slowly in requesting international aid. Meanwhile, officials have moved to suppress international media from reporting on events in the country.
It doesn’t look good. For more on Ethiopia’s troubled times, click over to our previous reporton government corruption.