This report is part of a broader research programme that explores the relations between elites, political power and the organization of security.
The continuing protests in Oromia, Ethiopia, highlight two issues. The first is that the sacrifice of civil liberties and political freedoms in exchange for economic growth and better livelihoods is not a trade-off that can be sustained indefinitely. Western countries – as well as China - should take note as they have happily invested in Ethiopia, as well as supported it in the global war on terror for over a decade now. The second issue is that the combination of ethnic political dominance with inequality of wealth and rights creates a recipe for greater violence than the present unrest in Ethiopia. The real risk for the rest of the world is that the country joins the regional quagmire of the Horn of Africa of civil wars and state failure.
This makes it of the essence that Western countries rebalance their approach to Ethiopia from focusing only on investment and terrorism to include greater support and advocacy to open up its political space and improve the rule of law. If violence is to be minimized, such an approach must be subtle and not require the ruling party (EPRDF) to surrender power in the short term.
Clingendael’s webpublication ‘Perpetuating power: Ethiopia’s political settlement and the organization of security’ by senior research fellow Erwin van Veen delves beyond the media headlines to analyze relations between the country’s history, its political system and how it has organized security. Such knowledge is essential for developing feasible engagement strategies.