From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Sep 08 2009 - 05:27:31 EDT
International Crisis Group Warns of Potential for 'Violent Eruption' in
By Peter Heinlein
08 September 2009
A new International Crisis Group report
opia___ethnic_federalism_and_its_discontents.pdf) says Ethiopia is becoming
an authoritarian one-party state, and warns that government policies there
could lead to a violent eruption ahead of next year's elections. The report
also faults the international community for downplaying Ethiopia's weak
The 40-page report by the International Crisis Group says that despite its
democratic rhetoric, the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
is unwilling to give up power. Moreover, it says the government's
cornerstone policy, known as "ethnic federalism," has heightened tensions
and sparked growing discontent in Ethiopia, with potentially explosive
The government says that its federalism policy is designed to give
Ethiopia's many ethnic groups equal power. But critics say that the
country's Tigrayan minority effectively controls most of the levers of power
at the expense of the larger Amhara and Oromo ethnic groups.
Government spokesman Bereket Simon declined immediate comment on the report,
saying he would schedule a news conference in a few days.
The Crisis Group report says authoritarianism in Ethiopia is a legacy of the
government's origin as the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front, or TPLF, that
ousted former dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in a 1991 coup.
The study notes that the decision-making and organizational principles of
Prime Minister Meles's ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic
Front, or EPRDF, reflect the Marxist-Leninist philosophy that has guided the
TPLF from its beginning.
Political scientist Merera Gudina at Addis Ababa University is an expert on
Ethiopia's competing ethnic nationalisms, a member of parliament and leader
of the Oromo People's Congress.
He accuses the government of using terms like "democracy," "federalism,"
"rule of law," and "free and fair elections" to satisfy Western donor
countries, while it tightens its grip on power.
"The EPRDF is not committed to multi-party democracy," said Merera Gudina.
"The multi-party democracy the EPRDF is doing is really to play American
music and to do their own dance. They play American music, multi-party
democracy, free and fair elections, rule of law. All that is good in the
Western books of democracy. They want to play it, but they never dance it,
that means implement it. So 'Revolutionary Democracy' is really the
hegemony of one, one group."
The Crisis Group report also has harsh words for Western countries that, it
says, consider food security more important than democracy. The United
States is the largest single donor of food assistance to Ethiopia, giving
hundreds of millions of dollars in aid last year.
The Crisis Group report calls on the international community to take
Ethiopia's governance problems more seriously and adopt a more principled
position toward the government of Meles Zenawi.
Merera Gudina warns that Ethiopia's outward calm could break down unless the
people's aspirations for democracy and federalism are fulfilled.
"In a modern sense, you can say there is no federalism without democracy,"
said Gudina. "In fact, you know what destroyed the USSR and Yugoslavia?
False federalism and false elections. The real danger in Ethiopia is false
federalism and false elections. You simply call people to elect, but you
deny people to elect whom they want. You say federalism and then deny it;
praise federalism, but the reality on the ground speaks differently. That
is the danger."
Merera says given Ethiopia's recent history of election-related violence,
the best outcome for next year's election might be a power sharing
agreement. He points to Zimbabwe and neighboring Kenya as examples.
The author of the report, the International Crisis Group, is an independent,
non-profit, non-governmental organization headquartered in Brussels. The
group is involved in 60 areas of conflict or potential conflict on four
Its board includes many prominent figures, including former U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It is co-chaired by former European
Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patton and former U.S. Ambassador to
the United Nations, Thomas Pickering. Its President and Chief Executive
Officer is the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and
International Criminal Tribunals Prosecutor, Louise Arbour.
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