Tuesday, June 19, 2018
ABOUT US CONTACT US ADVERTISE WITH US FOLLOW US ON    
 
Kashmir Times Logo www.kashmirtimes.com
Columnist
Column
Ethiopia's New Saviour
By Gwynne Dyer
Nobody outside the ruling party really knows much about Abiy Ahmed beyond his official Party biography, but Ethiopia's new prime minister looks a lot like Magic Man at the moment. Three years of mounting protests have suddenly stopped, the state of emergency has been lifted, and with a single dramatic announcement he has ended twenty years of hot and cold war with neighbouring Eritrea.

He did that on Tuesday by declaring (as only the leader of a tough authoritarian regime can) that Ethiopia now accepts the 2002 ruling of an international border commission and will pull its troops out of Badme, the market town at the centre of the quarrel with Eritrea.

At least eighty thousand soldiers and civilians were killed in the hot war with Eritrea (1998-2000), and several million soldiers wasted years of their lives on the border during the long cold war that followed (which briefly went hot again as recently as 2016). But Abiy Ahmed has ended all that with a wave of his hand.

That should have been done long ago, but Ethiopia found it hard to accept the border commission's ruling for two reasons. One was that Eritrea started the war by seizing Badme. That was incredibly stupid, since Ethiopia has twenty times as many people, but stupid things happen. The Georgians faced even longer odds in 2008, but they attacked Russia anyway. (Both the Eritreans and the Georgians lost.)

The other reason for the long cold war was that the territory around Badme used to be in Ethiopia's Tigre state, the home of the Tigrinya-speaking ethnic group who then dominated the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). They only make up 5% of Ethiopia's population, but they simply refused to hand Badme over - for sixteen years.

So something has clearly changed in Ethiopia, and Abiy Ahmed himself is a new phenomenon. He belongs to the Oromo ethnic group, the biggest in the country, but he is the first Oromo in all of Ethiopia's history to lead the government.

The growing protests of the past three years were strongest in Oromia, because the people there felt marginalised politically, culturally and economically. Hundreds of people have been killed in the demonstrations and the situation was getting out of hand, so the ruling party's solution was to put an Oromo in charge - but one has spent his whole adult life serving the EPRDF.

Abiy is such a man. He joined the army straight out of school, worked his way up to colonel's rank, then shifted to a senior position in the intelligence and security apparatus of what is, after all, a police state, and finally moved into politics.

He has been given power to deal with some of the biggest grievances of the population precisely because he is trusted not to let power slip away from the EPRDF. Maybe his appointment as prime minister` will calm things down, but don't mistake it for the start of a 'democratic transition'.

Ethiopia is the only one of sub-Saharan Africa's three economic giants that is not democratic. Unlike South Africa and Nigeria, it has a single ruling party that dominates everything.

The EPRDF is a permanent coalition of four parties representing the four biggest ethnic groups (Oromo, Amhara, Tigrinya and Somali), but all are part of a highly disciplined whole that has an almost Soviet ruling style. It is not encumbered by specifically Communist or even socialist ideological obsessions, but elections are no more meaningful than the old Soviet ones were.

Over the past decade, this hard-line approach has delivered an annual average of 10% economic growth in Ethiopia, far higher than in South Africa or Nigeria. And while there is clearly serious friction between the various Ethiopian ethnic groups that make up the EPRDF, it is not significantly worse than the ethnic rivalries that plague the politics of the two big democracies.

It's hardly surprising, therefore, that some people have been wondering aloud whether Ethiopia's model is better for African countries. People do end up in jail or in exile for opposing the regime, or simply disappear, but not all that many, and the system is delivering the goods economically. Maybe it's worth a try.

Maybe, but don't count on it. In the short run, authoritarian politics often produces better results than democracy. Orders are given and obeyed, and things get done. But over the long run the opposition builds up, and there is no democratic safety valve to let off the steam.

When the dam finally bursts, you can lose a lot.

Consider the quarter-century of lost growth in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The EPRDF will not last forever, because no system of that sort ever does, and when it goes it could be with an almighty crash. That may not happen for quite a long time, but Abiy Ahmed is probably not Magic Man.


News Updated at : Saturday, June 9, 2018
 
Comment on this Story 

 
 
Top Stories of the Day  
No amnesty for stone-pelters again: Rajnath
JAMMU, Jun 8: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh Friday stated that there would be no amnesty for stone-pelters in the Valley again and review was only restricted to the past announcements. He also stated that he had spoken to the Chief Minister with regard to withdrawal of FIRs filed against security personnel for their “acts in self-defence.” Though he remained evasive with regard to queries about the failure of “tit-for-tat policy” on borders yet stated all steps were being taken to minim
> Religious fervour marks Jumat-Ul-Vida in Kashmir
> CM congratulates forces for 'exercising restraint'
> Kakpora shopkeeper injured critically in attack by gunmen
> Not in a hurry to respond to Delhi’s assertions over dialogue: Mirwaiz
> Nirmala rules out review of India stand on CPEC
 
 
Other Stories from Web  
 
 
 
Find us on
 
 
Weather Report
 
Shridev Sharma
 
Mata Vaishnodevi | Matavaishnodevi | Mata Vaishno Devi
 
Electric Blanket | Electric Bed Warmers | Electric Under Blankets | Electric Heating Blanket
 
 
 
Web Design Jammu, Web Design Company, Ideogram Jammu
 
 
Home | Contact Us | Kashmir Times | Kashmir Times E-Paper - Jammu | Kashmir Times E-Paper - Srinagar | Dainik Kashmir Times | Jammu Prabhat
Copyright 2013 Kashmir Times Group. All rights reserved. Powered by Ideogram Technology Solutions Pvt. Ltd.