Ethiopia is one of the ten “Conflicts to Watch in 2020” list by Crisis Group international. The report said that Ethiopia’s transition is a source of hope, but in the worst-case scenario, the country could be fractured like Yugoslavia.
The second most populous country has undergone a political transition since prime minister Abiy Ahmed took office in April 2018. Since then, the political atmosphere in Ethiopia started to change dramatically. The resolution of the three-decades-long standoff between Eritrea and Ethiopia considered by many as the key move of the transition. And the prime minister won the Nobel Peace Prize for the initiative he took to make peace with Eritrea.
Moreover, the success stories of the prime minister include he freed political prisoners, and returned rebel groups from exile, and opened up the political ground for groups which were considered as a terrorist.
But the real danger is crawling in Ethiopia following the transition, says the report published by Crisis Group on Friday. The mass protests between 2015 and 2018 have brought Abiy to power. According to the group, even though social and economic grievances motivated those protests, they had ethnic motives too. The leaders of the most populated regions, Amhara and Oromia, hoped to reduce the dominant influence of Tigray. Abiy’s liberalization adding to this caused the weakening of the central government, says the report.
The central government under Abiy couldn’t manage to control the ethnic conflict across the country. Because of that, Thousands died, millions internally displaced, and bitterness among political elites raised.
Additionally, the Crisis Group warned that the election scheduled for 2020 could be “violent and divisive, as candidates outbid each other in ethnic appeals for votes.”
The two groups debating over the country’s ethnic federal system added more tension. The supporters of the system believe that it protects the group right in this diverse country through “conquest and assimilation.” the other group, the system based on ethnicity, harms national unity and Ethiopianism.
The leader which was holding the middle ground sims moved to the unity group. Recently, He merged the ruling party, which was a coalition of regional parties.
The report considered the transition as hope and risk for Ethiopia. It suggested that it needs all support from international partners to do what they can, including ‘pressing all the country’s leaders to cut incendiary rhetoric, counseling the prime minister to proceed cautiously on his reform agenda, and offering multiyear financial aid to help Abiy avert such an outcome.’