Ethiopia: The greatest threat, "the next elections in 2015"

London (HAN) October 13, 2014. Expert Analysis, Your Power & Regional Influence Magazine, opinion page By, Ahmed Soliman is a researcher with the Africa Programme at the Chatham House think tank, in London.

Ahmed_Soliman
Ahmed Soliman is a researcher with the Africa Programme at the Chatham House

In Ethiopia, Since 2000 has registered some of the greatest gains in human development seen anywhere on the planet. It is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, with near double-digit GDP growth over the past decade and large-scale infrastructural development.

Meles Zenawi, in 2012; his death took Ethiopia into unknown territory

Ethiopia’s geostrategic significance is built on a base of relative stability in a volatile region, enabling it to foster international partnerships on development and regional security. But its largely rural population remains poor, and images of drought, famine, poverty and war from the 1970s and 1980s have endured in the popular imagination around the world.
The population has grown by more than a quarter since 2001; the UN says Ethiopia will be one of the world’s 10 most populous countries by 2050. This population pressure drives Addis Ababa’s “pro-poor” vision for national development.

The famine that hit the Horn of Africa in 2011 was a stark reminder that Ethiopia is still vulnerable to food insecurity. The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, in power since 1991, is acutely aware of the need to prevent mass starvation; it has institutionalised an early- warning system to reduce future risks.

In a country that likes to be known as a “democratic developmental state”, significant obstacles remain as central government keeps a grip on political and social freedoms. The death of Meles Zenawi, a visionary leader, in 2012 took Ethiopia into unknown territory. With no clear replacement, succession was a key issue in this federated country, where citizenship, politics and identity are based on ethnic representation. The new prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, is from a minority group; he is an acceptable compromise for the historically dominant and larger Tigray, Amhara and Oromo communities.

The next elections, due in 2015, will likely see another win for the ruling party, but Ethiopia’s western partners will be hoping for some opening up of a political space that has constricted since 2005. Restrictions on the media and NGOs come under the guise of protecting national security. A splintered opposition provides no alternative vision.

The government keeps a strong hand on the economy, with banking, telecommunications, power and shipping all tightly regulated. Ethiopia stands alone in Africa in terms of tapping into its vast green-energy potential. The focus is the country’s hydroelectric potential, but wind, solar and geothermal energy is also being harnessed.

In 2010 Ethiopia provided electricity to fewer than a quarter of its citizens, and blackouts and intermittent power were the norm. More than tripling energy capacity by 2017 should provide electricity across 75 per cent of the country. This is a huge leap: more supply will boost social development and increase job creation and trade, especially in rural areas. Equally impressive are plans for Ethiopia to become the top electricity supplier in Africa. It already exports power to Djibouti, Kenya and Sudan; linking to other grids will boost regional infrastructure and transport.

But Ethiopia will also have to be aware of the negative impact of its plans. The construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, on the Blue Nile, is potentially combustible politically, as Egypt sees any reduction to its current flow of water as a threat to its national security.

Perhaps the greatest threat to Ethiopia comes from within, as the government seeks to implement national-development initiatives in peripheral areas that bring it into conflict with its own people. An increasingly educated and diverse population will also make greater demands for political representation and the equitable distribution of goods and services.

The government must translate growth into higher living standards for its citizens.

Photo: Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn


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14 COMMENTS

  1. First of all i would like appreciate the writer of this commentary. As you are trying to point out; today the Horn African country Ethiopia is becoming one of the most promising country in the region in many aspects. With in the country money more extraordinary achievements are registered in economic, social & political ares; even though there are some groups who are blind enough to see the pluses. Ethiopia is among one of a few countries in the world that can registered consecutive double digit economic growth for more than a decade. Ethiopia is again among one of a few that can achieve the MDGs before the expected time. The country is the key ally of those all who are struggling to tackle terrorism. It can be the best exemplary who are doing all its best and a mother for those who are dying to bring peace and stability in the region; Somalia, south Sudan, Abbye, Rwanda, Birundy, Liberia, and many other countries in Africa. As the Government of Ethiopia & people believed; there is no enemy as equal as danger as “Poverty” & lack of democratization” for bringing the country in-stable so that the government and people of Ethiopia are paying all the necessary costs and Sweats to the most. Yes, we Ethiopian are believed democratization is a key for our existence but we don’t believe that democratization in Ethiopia is taken placed due to the fear of externals. Our past experience teach as we are now building our home by our efforts. Election in Ethiopia never been seen as threat of peace unless and otherwise the couler-revolutionaries are dreaming it of!!

  2. Some of the comments, I believe are rather shallow. The comments demonstrate how most avoid the truth and live in total denial. All the issues raised by the author are to be considered instead of just critized. Much is said about Meles being a visionary, he might have had visions, however one thing he was unable to see was giving people freedom. Is that not what Dictators do, all the time when they come to power by the barrel of gun and not the ballot?

  3. The title of the article does not match to what is put into the body of the article. Researchers, especially, think tank researchers that influence policy makers, should see both sides of the Issue at hand. You just can’t tell us about economic growth and hide the entire story behind the growth. You should have answered questions like what drives economic growth in Ethiopia, who are the economic actors and who benefits from the growth. You praised Meles Zenawi calling him “the visionary leader”, but do you know that more than 85% Ethiopians are happy that he is gone. So is he visionary to you or to them? After I finished your article, I concluded that you never read a single book to write this article. I can tell, and I’m sure you were at the funeral of Meles with Susan Rice, and you took a page or two from her passionate speech at the funeral. Ps do your homework before writing a piece of crap and give it to readers around the world. I personally don’t expect this kind of doodle from Chatham House think tank.

    • You talked about research but at the same time you talked unsupported finding. Where did you get the 85% are happy on melese death? Please this is 21st century where non supported analysis are not accepted. You blame researchers with locally generated results such as 85%

    • I totally agree with Madebo. What is the use of just talk of development, when the masses outside Addis Ababa are struggling on a daily basis.

      Ethiopia exports electricity to other countries, yet, I am still awaiting for an electricity connection to my newly constructed house in Adama, for the past 18 months. Internet is almost non existent, the telecom dept charges heavily, but provides band with that is worth nothing. Power cuts are an everyday occurrence.

      It seems that the writer has either never been to Ethiopia, or, even if he did, has never stepped out of his hotel to see and experience how 90% of the ethiopians survive.

      Ethiopians have been struggling hard, and facing tough & rough times. Looking at the internal situation, many choose to move out of the country & live abroad.

      Whats the use of this development & big talk, when the govt cannot do enough to retain all its citizens to stay and contribute towards notional growth.

    • Seems the Chinese have almost taken over the country, or maybe the govt is selling the country off to the Chinese, in bits & pieces…………!!

      Maybe one day the Chinese will take over completely, and rename Ethiopia……..!!

  4. It is amazing that some people like Mr. Andualem Adugnaw tries to think only the size of the benefit they get from the government when they try to comment on the articles written on a political situation of the country. Of course it won’t be easy for someone that lives in Ethiopia or get certain benefit from that government for the support he/she offers to comment any negativity about their government freely. Otherwise Mr. Andualem would have told us the details for the double digit economic growth that he tries to mention as Mr. Medebo said. He only focused on praising the government for the reason he carried on his back than telling the truth without hiding what clicks his mind and heart. Even if you are trying to hide the truth for now, the truth always remains truth and one day it takes you to the dream that you cannot interpret and you suffer from your nightmare at your own time.

  5. The article and the author have no substance what so ever. Articles without a clear argument or new empirical substance is the most annoying thing!

  6. ”The government must translate growth into higher living standards for its citizens”. Is this all about your findings? How higher is higher in this context? Do you think that Ethiopia doesn’t do SWOT analysis on building it’s Dam?
    This is for sure a kind of modified piece of research which is edited in the conclussion paragraph.

  7. It is quite good that I have saw it. At The same time we will be The one to boost This started dev’t to be continiued. Next to that I wish all the best for my country. May God bless Ethiopia.

  8. Ethiopians are allergic to colonialism. chances must live our country . unacceptable , power full repression applied to Ethiopian people .the development only the ruling class and their families .this is a political corruption ways to utilize Ethiopian wealthiness buy putting natives in prison .almost 1,000,000 are imprisoned non of them is from tigray .
    world support racism in Ethiopian remain unknown to the natives. Ethiopians do not need ethnic based transformation (racism ) only one etnic group as a master the others as a slaves
    this political and strategic failure turning nations individuals in to radicalization
    the next election 2015 already completed while people are waiting ahead . such corrupted government must remove from power ,if not horn of Africa turns to bloody pot

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