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Yegna tube The current issue of Ethiopia and Somalia

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Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most-populous country, has suffered military rule, civil war, and catastrophic famine over the past half century. Yet in recent years it has emerged as a beacon of stability in the Horn of Africa, enjoying rapid economic growth and increasing strategic importance in the region. However, starting in 2015, a surge in political turmoil rooted in an increasingly repressive ruling party and disenfranchisement of various ethnic groups threatened the country’s progress.

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Since taking office in April 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has responded with promises of dramatic political and economic reforms and has shepherded a historic peace deal with neighboring Eritrea. The new leader’s aggressive approach to change has been met with exuberance among many Ethiopians, but experts warn that Abiy’s challenge to a decades-old political order faces major obstacles, and it is yet unclear whether he can follow through on his agenda.

Ethiopia Map
 

What is Ethiopia’s political backdrop?

More on:

Ethiopia

 

East Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa

 

Abiy Ahmed

Ethiopia was ruled under a single dynasty, the House of Solomon, from antiquity until the 1970s. One of just two African nations to avoid European colonization—Liberia being the other—it was nonetheless occupied by Italy in the 1930s, forcing Emperor Haile Selassie to flee. He was only able to return after British and Ethiopian forces expelled the Italian army in the course of World War II.

In 1974, a communist military junta known as the Derg, or “committee,” overthrew Haile Selassie, whose rule had been undermined by a failure to address an ongoing famine. During the resulting civil war, the military regime violently persecuted its rivals, real and suspected; a particularly deadly campaign, begun in 1976, was known as Qey Shibir, or the Red Terror. Tens of thousands of people died as a direct result of state violence, and hundreds of thousands more died in the 1983–85 famine.

In 1989, several opposition groups came together to form the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), led by Meles Zenawi Asres of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The government had been weakened after losing the support of the Soviet Union, itself on the verge of collapse, and the EPRDF forces defeated the Derg in 1991.

Meles led the country for more than two decades, during which he consolidated his party’s hold on power. He introduced ethnic federalism, or the reorganization of regional government along ethnic lines, and he oversaw an era of massive investment, both public and private, to which many observers attributed the country’s subsequent growth. Critics, however, say Meles was a strongman who suppressed dissent and favored the country’s Tigrayan minority. Following Meles’s death in 2012, his deputy prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, took over.

 

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Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most-populous country, has suffered military rule, civil war, and catastrophic famine over the past half century. Yet in recent years it has emerged as a beacon of stability in the Horn of Africa, enjoying rapid economic growth and increasing strategic importance in the region. However, starting in 2015, a surge in political turmoil rooted in an increasingly repressive ruling party and disenfranchisement of various ethnic groups threatened the country’s progress.

More From Our Experts

Since taking office in April 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has responded with promises of dramatic political and economic reforms and has shepherded a historic peace deal with neighboring Eritrea. The new leader’s aggressive approach to change has been met with exuberance among many Ethiopians, but experts warn that Abiy’s challenge to a decades-old political order faces major obstacles, and it is yet unclear whether he can follow through on his agenda.

Ethiopia Map
 

What is Ethiopia’s political backdrop?

More on:

Ethiopia

 

East Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa

 

Abiy Ahmed

Ethiopia was ruled under a single dynasty, the House of Solomon, from antiquity until the 1970s. One of just two African nations to avoid European colonization—Liberia being the other—it was nonetheless occupied by Italy in the 1930s, forcing Emperor Haile Selassie to flee. He was only able to return after British and Ethiopian forces expelled the Italian army in the course of World War II.

In 1974, a communist military junta known as the Derg, or “committee,” overthrew Haile Selassie, whose rule had been undermined by a failure to address an ongoing famine. During the resulting civil war, the military regime violently persecuted its rivals, real and suspected; a particularly deadly campaign, begun in 1976, was known as Qey Shibir, or the Red Terror. Tens of thousands of people died as a direct result of state violence, and hundreds of thousands more died in the 1983–85 famine.

In 1989, several opposition groups came together to form the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), led by Meles Zenawi Asres of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The government had been weakened after losing the support of the Soviet Union, itself on the verge of collapse, and the EPRDF forces defeated the Derg in 1991.

Meles led the country for more than two decades, during which he consolidated his party’s hold on power. He introduced ethnic federalism, or the reorganization of regional government along ethnic lines, and he oversaw an era of massive investment, both public and private, to which many observers attributed the country’s subsequent growth. Critics, however, say Meles was a strongman who suppressed dissent and favored the country’s Tigrayan minority. Following Meles’s death in 2012, his deputy prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, took over.

 

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