It is tempting to start an analysis of how power is organized and exercised in Ethiopia by going back to 1991, when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) overthrew the military junta (‘Derg’) under Mengistu Haile Mariam and brought 17 years of rebellion-cum-liberation struggle to an end. It was a watershed moment that ended a prolonged period of harsh oppression in which tens of thousands of Ethiopians disappeared, perished, fled or were imprisoned.‍[11] It was also the start of the period 1991–95 in which Ethiopia’s current political settlement was forged between the different political parties that make up the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

However, taking 1991 as a starting point risks putting too much emphasis on contemporary factors that influence Ethiopia’s political settlement, and too little on historical ones, producing an unbalanced understanding of its evolution. Indeed, a more appropriate historical marker is the reign of Menelik II (1889–1913) as it was under his rule that the Ethiopian empire was consolidated administratively and became a lasting political fixture of modern East Africa after the defeat of Italian colonial forces at the battle of Adowa (1896). It acquired more or less its present form through a series of campaigns resulting in the conquest of both the highland periphery of the Ethiopean plateau and the lowlands surrounding it.‍[12] Ethiopia’s ability to avoid all but a very short period of direct colonial rule has enabled its rulers to chart an autonomous path of national development, which has involved dealing with friction between its diverse social forces, and experimenting with various modes of governance and the organization of security.

Box 1. Contemporary Ethiopia at a glance


c. 74 million (2007 census); c. 90 million (2015 estimate)

Main cities:

Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Mekele, Nazret


Ethiopian Orthodox (43%+), Muslim (34%+), Protestant (c. 18%) (2007 census)

Key ethnicities:

Oromia (36%+), Amhara (23%+), Somali (c. 6%), Tigray (c. 6%) (2007 census)

Urban vs. rural:

16% vs. 84% (2007 census); 20% vs. 80% (2014 estimate)


c. 25% of population (national poverty line)

Road network:

45,000 km of which 6,000 paved (2007)


Federal republic


Sudan (civil war), Eritrea (‘no war, no peace’), Djibouti, Somalia (civil war), Kenya, South Sudan (civil war)

HDI rank:

173rd out of 187 (2014)


USD 55 billion (current, 2014)

Sources: 2007 population census of Ethiopia’s Central Statistical Agency, IMF, World Bank database, UNDP, Geohive

An examination of Ethiopia’s history since 1889 suggests a number of historical (between 1889 and 1991) and contemporary (between 1991 and 2015) factors that have influenced the evolution of the country’s political settlement. Table 1 provides a brief summary of these factors, which are then analysed to generate the basic political parameters of the organization of security in Ethiopia.

Table 1
Factors influencing the evolution of Ethiopia’s political settlement
Historical (1889–1991) Contemporary (1991–2015)
A legacy of centralization, control and coercion continues to influence styles of rule and administrative approaches
The partial transition of the TPLF/EPRDF from movement to political party creates strong leadership structures that rest partly on internal control and a lack of external transparency
A legacy of exclusionary rule with ethnic undertones limits broader distribution of power and risks counter-mobilization(s)
The expectation that TPLF/EPRDF rule will continue perpetuates a single-party monopoly
The volatility and insecurity of the region requires and perpetuates securitized approaches to (political) conflict
Political power and economic interests are fused and harnessed to a national strategy of state-led economic development

Historical factors (1889–1991)

The Tigrayan/Amharan polities situated on the northern side of the Ethiopean plateau form the historical core of present-day Ethiopia. Traditionally, these polities were run in authoritarian fashion, their rulers infused by religious legitimacy through the Christian Orthodox church and their wealth derived from the extraction of surplus from agricultural produce. Their societies were stratified and hierarchical, featuring both social inequality and opportunities for social mobility through successful military performance.‍[13] Since land was the most valuable resource in these densely populated societies, its acquisition became the key driver of the process of imperial expansion from c. 1889 to 1913.‍[14]

Centralization, control and coercion

A first historical factor that influences the evolution of Ethiopia’s political settlement is the centralization, control and coercion that characterized both the process of imperial expansion and the governance of the country afterwards. Historically, the Amhara-dominated core of the empire gradually annexed the highland periphery of the Ethiopian plateau and then its surrounding lowlands, in a classic pattern of empire-building that imposed different modes of governance on annexed territorities.‍[15] The generally fertile and productive areas of the Ethiopian plateau were largely integrated into the empire and administered through a centralized bureaucracy that sought to maintain control and extract rents via a feudal system of land management, military mobilization and political loyalty. The local peasantry was subjected to serfdom and tied to its land by an elaborate mechanism of taxes and services, while local elites were either suppressed or co-opted into the existing feudal Amharan hierarchy, depending on the level of resistance they had offered in the process of their subjugation. In contrast, the lowland areas, which generated much less revenue, were typically administered through local elites that served as proxies for their Amharan overlords.‍[16] Both modalities were underpinned by the cultural sense of superiority felt by the core Amharan/Tigrayan highland population – its leadership in particular – vis-à-vis other inhabitants of the empire.‍[17]

Unsurprisingly, coercion has been used extensively to establish and maintain centralized administration and political control. In the process of imperial expansion and consolidation, entire sultanates, principalities and even population groups were eliminated as need dictated. The groups that were forcibly incorporated into the Ethiopian empire are now citizens of today’s Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.‍[18] The collective memory of violence‍[19] that certain groups suffered in this process has remained fresh in a number of cases, owing to the continued perception or experience of central political control and targeted use of coercion.‍[20]

Indirect and direct control and centralization have continued as modes of governance since Imperial Ethiopia ceased to exist in 1974. Significant aspects of this approach were reproduced in varying forms by the military junta between 1974 and 1991 and some aspects by the EPRDF between 1991 and 2015, in particular the continuation of top-down decision-making and implementation, especially in the realms of ‘high politics’ and security, with little scope for dissent or adaptation to local circumstances.‍[21] Even today, decision-making takes a ‘committee-style’ form, usually involving small groups of well-connected individuals who, by and large, are not representative of the population at large.‍[22] That said, it should be noted that this centralized approach to governance seems to have served Ethiopia’s ruling elites well in terms of resisting colonization, facilitating significant surplus extraction from vast areas with diverse populations and enabling a focused mobilization of resources for economic growth today.‍[23]

Exclusionary rule with ethnic undertones

A second historical factor that infuences the evolution of Ethiopia’s political settlement is a legacy of exclusionary rule with ethnic undertones. More specifically, Ethiopia’s ruling elites have largely come from two ethnic groups – Amharan and Tigrayan – which represent respectively a sizeable and a small fraction of the total population (see Box 1). While the Ethiopian empire of the past was dominated by Amharans, the contemporary Ethiopian federal state has been dominated by Tigrayans for most of the time.‍[24] The origins of rule by the Amharan-Tigrayan imperial core can be understood through the power dynamics of the growth of the empire. In short, rapid expansion meant that a growing diversity of populations needed to be administered and governed. Because land ownership was vital to political control and wealth, land acquired through conquest was typically allocated to elites from the core if it was sufficiently valuable, so that it could be used as a resource to perpetuate their rule. This helped create a legacy of not only central but also elite-cum-ethnic dominance over key resources, which in certain respects still prevails today.‍[25]

Rule by Amharan or Tigrayan groups nevertheless cannot be equated with ethnic dominance, for two reasons. First, with the exception of the period during its rebellion-cum-liberation struggle in which the TPLF was closely connected to the Tigrayan rural population, the Amharic and Tigrayan leadership in control of the Ethiopian state marginalized the rural population of their own ethnic groups just as much as lower classes of other ethnic groups. Moreover, as already noted, leaders beyond the political core typically have been incorporated to some extent into the ruling elite.‍[26] This has endowed central rule with greater legitimacy while at the same time creating functional channels for implementing decisions made at the political centre. The EPRDF is a good contemporary example of this dynamic (discussed below). In short, while there is an ethnic dimension to rule in Ethiopia, it is partial and somewhat diluted through measures that give a larger number of groups a stake in governance. It is nevertheless not surprising that this situation has continued to generate criticism as well as resistance from those who feel politically and economically excluded. Given the country’s diversity, it is remarkable that the Ethiopian state has not just survived such centrifugal dynamics, it has also enjoyed relative stability since 2000, as well as making substantial economic progress. Nevertheless, two recent developments are making ethnicity more prominent as a future source of strife.

To start with, ethnicity was more or less inadvertedly politicized by the military junta as a by-product of its large-scale repression of national movements, such as student associations and trade unions, that were considered political risks. This effectively meant that other groups that were more territorially and ethnically based became key channels of resistance. The ‘profile of ethnicity’ was further reinforced by the 1995 Constitution which explicitly turned Ethiopia into a federation of nine ethnic nations but, as some have argued, without a corresponding devolution of authority and resources in real terms.‍[27] A consequence of this situation of partial federalization is that a number of states are not yet equipped with the capacities or funds they need to deliver more than limited social services (such as housing, water and electricity) of variable quality.‍[28] The resulting discontent serves as a driver for identity-based mobilization, despite a generally shared sense of ‘Ethiopian-ness’.

Moreover, feedback across all categories of respondents indicated a degree of disillusionment among the other political parties-cum-powerful groups incorporated in the EPRDF (the ANDM, OPDO and SEPDF) because of their limited role in the country’s government compared with that enjoyed by the TPLF.‍[29] At the same time, elements of the population in Ethiopia’s periphery are dissatisfied with the dominance of the country’s core. These issues suggest that political incentives for mobilizing ethnicity as a resource in struggles for power already exist.‍[30]

A volatile and insecure region

A third and final historical factor influencing the evolution of Ethiopia’s political settlement is the volatile and insecure nature of the region in which the country is situated. This both requires and perpetuates securitized approaches to (political) conflict. The origins of this volatility are too complex to discuss here in detail, but they include decades of cross-border violent activity, competing cross-border claims on resources, territory, loyalty and legitimacy, the quest for greater autonomy by some ethnic groups, the seasonal migration of the region’s sizeable nomadic populations, and the illicit movement of people and goods across porous borders.‍[31] Given its size, location and interests, Ethiopia is at the heart of a ‘regional conflict complex’.‍[32] It could be argued that many of the drivers of this complex have been situated outside of the country since the start of EPRDF rule in 1991. Although Ethiopia is no mere spectator or passive victim of regional insecurity, recognizing this state of affairs helps to understand the need to keep political power and state security organizations centralized and under control. Any departure from this model could unintentionally jeopardize national security.‍[33] In such circumstances, the number of political dialogues Ethiopia is engaged in actually represents a positive sign of its willingness to search for peaceful resolutions to the region’s troubles. It is worth noting, for example, the country’s role in the Nile Basin Initiative dialogue and in the Sudanese national dialogue, and its mediation efforts in the South Sudan power struggle.

However, it can also be argued that the combination of Ethiopia’s political culture of militarism, history of violence and its control-oriented approach to power tends to prioritize the use of force in response to regional insecurity over softer conflict resolution methods, such as negotiation and dialogue.‍[34] Here, one could point to Ethiopia’s bilateral interventions in Somalia and its training of Somali militia along its border, which is separate from its engagement with the Somali National Army through AMISOM.‍[35]

The ‘global war on terror’ has added another layer to this conflict complex over the past 15 years, arguably with three major effects. The first is that additional, mostly US, resources have become available to countries in the region in the form of diplomatic support and funding. This has generally resulted in the regression of civil liberties and prioritized security concerns over quality-of-governance concerns.‍[36] The second effect is that that countries in the region, Ethiopia included, have been enabled to brand as ‘terrorists’ groups that have domestic grievances but do use violent methods. This branding has happened mainly through associating such groups with the transnationalism, radicalism and extreme violence of Al-Qaeda’s jihad, which was the central theme of the war on terror. This makes it difficult to engage in more open and introspective reflection on the source of these groups’ domestic grievances, their objectives and the nature of their underlying conflict with the state. Examples in the case of Ethiopia include the suppression of the Oromo Liberation Front, the Ogaden National Liberation Front‍[37] and the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Oromia, which has played a role in cutting off alternative conflict-resolution channels such as peace talks.‍[38] The third effect, noted by a number of interviewees, is that the ‘war on terror’ has increased the feeling of marginalization among some groups within Ethiopia’s Muslim community. They observed that the country’s security forces had recently made a number of mistakes in their dealings with this community, including interference in the elections of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, and a disproportionate response to the resulting demonstrations.‍[39] It is often overlooked that over 30% of Ethiopians are Muslim who, to date, have mostly lived in peaceful coexistence with Ethiopia’s other nations, nationalities and peoples.

In short, while regional insecurity has historically required strong centralization and control over power and security, the resulting use of force also perpetuates regional insecurity.‍[40] Both centralization and use of force simultaneoulsy also strengthen perceptions that historical patterns of central dominance continue, which generates both grievances and demands for change.‍[41]

Historical political parameters for the organization of security

The historical factors that influence Ethiopia’s political settlement point to the following broad parameters for the organization of security:

The historical use of centralization, control and coercion as methods of governance over a vast space with complex terrain and a diversity of peoples indicates a tradition of political use of state security organizations as instruments to project central authority.

A legacy of exclusionary rule with ethnic undertones suggests that partisan control over state security organizations is a long-standing characteristic of governance and a necessity for maintaining existing power and privileges.

A volatile and violent neighbourhood has historically required the maintenance of a strong state security apparatus to ensure Ethiopia’s continued safety and to defend its interests. At the same time, this has perpetuated a securitized outlook and risks prioritizing militarized responses.

Contemporary factors (1991–2015)

Contemporary Ethiopia emerged from the rebellion-cum-liberation struggle that toppled the military junta in 1991. This event heralded a period of 25 years of unbroken EPRDF rule. It will be argued that three aspects of the nature and style of EPRDF governance have shaped the evolution of Ethiopia’s political settlement over this period in particular. These contemporary factors provide a more recent understanding of the country’s present political situation and its implications for how security in Ethiopia is organized. Given the TPLF’s historical role in shaping the EPRDF, and the number of respondents who commented on the continued influence of the TPLF within the EPRDF, the section that follows focuses primarily on the TPLF.‍[42]

The transition of the TPLF to political party

The first contemporary factor influencing Ethiopia´s political settlement is the partial and ongoing transition of the TPLF from ‘liberation movement’ to political party. A brief excursion into history shows that the TPLF emerged in 1975 as a military-movement-cum-party that sought to liberate Ethiopia from its military junta. The overthrow of the junta has been described as an “intellectually-led and ideology-driven revolution”, and in this light the TPLF can be classified as an “integrated insurgent organization”, characterized by strong central leadership, unity/cohesion and high levels of local support/compliance among the Tigrayan people.‍[43] These characteristics made the TPLF a formidable adversary for the military junta which, lacking the sophisticated means necessary for a comprehensive counter-insurgency campaign,‍[44] actually boosted the TPLF’s initial strengths by resorting to indiscriminate counter-population warfare.‍[45] The TPLF’s organizational characteristics also made it a movement/party with strong internal discipline and the ability to retain popular support.‍[46] Existing research offers a four-point general framework for understanding the transition of the TPLF from liberation movement to political party post-1991:‍[47]

The extent to which a political party structure has been developed: After 1991 the TPLF/EPDRF expanded its already formidable (though all-Tigray) party organization to achieve national scale. It has successfully developed into a national party whose structure today extends far into many Ethiopian communities. This greatly facilitates party outreach, campaigning and understanding of local needs. At the same time, however, such outreach also appears to serve the purpose of maintaining control and political alignment.‍[48]

The degree to which military structures have been dissolved: According to some observers, the TPLF’s military structures were not really disbanded after 1991, but rather they replaced the army of the junta to be reincarnated as the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF).‍[49] A complex process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration followed, a feat that had to be repeated once more after the 1999 war with Eritrea. In short, the TPLF’s military structures and forces were in in a constant state of transition for at least the first decade after the overthrow of the junta. An army in the modern sense started to emerge in the early 2000s and is still in the process of professionalization and transformation in terms of the representativeness of its composition.‍[50]

The extent to which decision-making has been internally democratized: Despite the adoption of a federal governance model and a new constitution (1995), efforts to increase internal democratization of EPRDF decision-making since 1991 have been limited. Some reports and a number of interviews actually suggest increased centralization of power and a growing dominance of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi within the party after its restructuring in 2001, following the resolution of the divergence within the TPLF that had appeared on the conclusion of the Ethiopian–Eritrean war.‍[51] According to a number of interviewees, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's dominance appears to have persisted until his death in 2012, after which the TPLF’s internal cohesion weakened, with several factions emerging.

The level to which a political/civilian strategy has been developed: The TPLF has been partially successful in replacing its military philosophy and securitized approach to governance as liberation movement with more civilian, pro-development strategies. The forward-looking policies that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his inner circles crafted in areas like agriculture, education and foreign and security affairs stand out, in a positive way. Such policies explain much of the party’s enduring support from (parts of) the Ethiopian population. However, their implementation has not been uncontested.

On the basis of this ‘transition framework’ it can be observed that the TPLF espoused a clear vision for governance and development in Ethiopia after 1991 while retaining a closed hierarchical culture, firm internal control, and control over key security levers. This vision has been driven forward with determination and varying degrees of success, but without much transparency or public accountability.‍[52]

The above notwithstanding, the new ‘People’s Forum’ that Prime Minister Hailemariam’s (who succeeded Meles Zenawi in 2012) has convened, arguably represents a positive step towards enhanced transparency. This Forum has gathered together leaders of sectors such as health, transport and construction throughout 2015 and 2016 with the aim of getting senior policy-makers to listen and hear from sectoral leaders about the impact of government policies on the functioning of their particular sector. Although feedback obtained through interviews suggests that the government has shown commitment to follow-up meetings and policy amendments in some areas, the programme is still new and will need to be monitored. A Forum dedicated to discussing more sensitive issues such as security, justice and human rights has yet to be formed.‍[53]

TPLF/EPRDF dominance of the Ethiopian state

A second contemporary factor influencing Ethiopia’s current political settlement can be captured succinctly: the continuous dominance of the Ethiopian state by the TPLF/EPRDF since 1991. This has by and large created a monopoly of power that has excluded political competition and makes the government difficult to distinguish from the party, with the consequence that the state becomes partly an instrument of the party. A political opposition exists, but remains powerless. Opposition leaders have been subjected to abuse and their parties prevented from operating as such through an array of restricting laws and regulations.‍[54]

Some analysts portray a model of concentric circles, with the TLPF at the core of power and dominating the EPRDF coalition, followed by a second ring, composed of the ANMD, OPDO and SEPDF, which act as more junior partners of the EPDRF,‍[55] and a third ring made up of EPRDF satellite parties, such as the Afar People’s Democratic Organization and Beni Shangul-Gumuz People’s Democratic Party. The second and third rings are said to enhance ethnic representation and government authority, but to enjoy a decreasing measure of status, representation and influence in how Ethiopia is ruled.‍[56]

Reality is more complex than a model of conveniently ‘layered’ influence, as some of these layers overlap and some connections will be more prominent than others, but it does suggest that a number of historical patterns of co-optation continue to operate. Some interviewees suggested that the dynamics of co-operation and dominance have become less TPLF-directed and more competitive (within the EPRDF, that is) since the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in 2012, with the result that TPLF’s historically mentored satellite parties are developing a more assertive stance of their own.

A statist approach to economic governance with mixed methods

A final contemporary factor that influences Ethiopia’s political settlement is the fusion of political power and economic interests in a governance model in which both state and economy are led by the party ‘for the people’ through the state. The Ethiopian approach to its economy is not unique, and is modelled on that of countries such as China, South Korea (under its dictatorship) and Singapore, which mixes statist, planning and quasi-liberal features that are welded together in a long-term, state-led effort to stimulate economic growth and development out of poverty.‍[57] A number of analysts argue that a significant feature of this model is that resources and rents are centralized in the hands of either business leaders with political connections, or senior party officials themselves.‍[58]

On the positive side, such continuity of rule and effort has created regulatory stability, enabled long-term investment and generated a productive version of patrimonialism in which rents appear to be used largely for developmental purposes.‍[59] This approach has been instrumental in stabilizing poverty, increasing education and maintaining high overall growth rates.‍[60] On the negative side, the fusion of political power and economic interests gives the country’s leading figures privileged access to resources that can also be used to further the interests of selected constituencies‍[61] and/or their own.‍[62] This exacerbates existing tension between those included in and those excluded from present governance arrangements. As the former seek to maintain the status quo, the latter push for change.‍[63]

The point here is not to discuss whether this approach to economic governance is efficient or sustainable, but to underline the fact that Ethiopia’s leading groups use economic resources and rents to create output legitimacy. The approach is akin to that taken by China and some of the Gulf states, and the EPRDF/TPLF’s popular political support is in part dependent on its ability to raise standards of living and to provide a growing range of economic opportunities to its citizens. At the same time, the party also uses the ability to withhold such opportunities as a tool of control, in part to limit and discourage its citizens from political engagement.

Contemporary political parameters for the organization of security

These contemporary factors that influence Ethiopia’s political settlement point to the following broad parameters for the organization of security:

The partial transition from liberation movement to political party indicate that security principles, policies and initiatives still lack transparency and are set by a small group of insiders whose background is one of military struggle and strong party loyalties.

The conflation of government – and to some extent the state – with the party indicates that instruments of state, such as security institutions, are used in pursuit of partisan objectives. While these may be developmentally oriented and positive for the country, they also reflect and maintain existing structures of power and authority, and can be used for less benign purposes.

The fusion of political power and economic interests in a mixed approach to economic governance and development compounds the challenge of effective control and inclusive oversight over security institutions, the army in particular, since these organizations serve political and security as well as economic purposes.

The period of the ‘Red Terror’ (1977–78) stands out in particular, i.e. the violent campaign of the military junta against Ethiopia’s civilian population and its various rebel-cum-liberation movements.
International Crisis Group, Ethiopia: Ethnic Federalism and its Discontents, Africa report no. 153, Brussels, ICG, 2009; Markakis (2011), op.cit.; Pankhurst, R., ‘Menelik and the Foundation of Addis Ababa’, The Journal of African History, vol. 2, no. 1, 1961, pp 103-117. Addis Ababa became the empire’s permanent capital in around 1890–91, and this stimulated administrative consolidation, central taxation and a programme of road construction.
Markakis (2011), op.cit.; Tronvoll, K., War and the Politics of Identity in Ethiopia: The Making of Enemies and Allies in the Horn of Africa, Suffolk, James Currey, 2009.
On the importance of land: Vaughan, S. and K. Tronvoll, The Culture of Power in Contemporary Ethiopian Political Life, Sida Studies no. 10, Stockholm, Sida, 2002; Markakis (2011), op.cit. Timewise, this process of expansion happened more or less in parallel with the European ‘scramble for Africa’. The clash of these parallel developments in the form of the battle of Adowa (1896) is well described in: Pakenham, T., The Scramble for Africa, New York, Abacus, 1991.
The highland periphery of the Ethiopian plateau consists of parts of the present-day ‘nations’ (the Ethiopian term for federal states) of Oromia and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples. The lowlands consist of the present-day nations of Somali, Afar, Benishangul-Gumuz and Gambela, as well as parts of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples and Oromia. Plates 85 and 91 of the Times Atlas of the World provide an arresting visual of highland–lowland boundaries (Times Books, The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, 14th edition, London, 2014). See also: Markakis (2011), op.cit.
Markakis (2011), op.cit., see also: Clapham, C., ‘Ethiopean Development: The Politics of Emulation’, Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, vol. 44, no. 1, 2006, pp 108-118.
Tronvoll (2009), op.cit.
While this is by no means dissimilar from the behaviour of Western colonizing powers during the same period, the latters’ use of violence occurred largely in overseas territories away from their domestic populations. Tronvoll (2009), op.cit.; Markakis (2011), op.cit.
For example, the ‘red terror’ under the military junta or the repression of the Ogaden and Oromo Liberation Fronts.
Such as electoral violence in 2005 or the recent violence associated with the government’s decision to expand the city limits of Addis Ababa into the state of Oromia. See: Pausewang (2004), op.cit.; Tronvoll (2009), op.cit., Abbink (2015), op.cit. The general trend is that the use of violence has shifted from indiscriminate application against large groups to more selective targeting of smaller groups and individuals. See also: See: Keller, J., Identity, Citizenship and Political Conflict in Africa, Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 2014.
On concepts and styles of rule between 1991 and 2012: Abbink, J. and T. Hagmann (eds), Reconfiguring Ethiopia: The Politics of Authoritarian Reform, London, Routledge, 2013.
Usually, there is scope for internal discussion and dissent; however, once a decision is taken there are few or no opportunities for reconsideration, adjustment based on additional (popular) input, or recourse. Markakis (2011), op.cit.; Clapham (2006), op.cit. For an anecdotal account of the imperial period: Kapuscinski, R., The Emperor, London, Penguin Books, 2006.
Leslie, P., Chapman-Andrews and the Emperor, London, Leo Cooper Ltd, 2005.
Vaughan and Tronvoll (2002), op.cit.; Markakis (2011), op.cit.
Keller, for example, argues that the persistence of strong central policy guidance, limited fiscal decentralization and variable capacity at different levels of the administration have imposed limits on the extent to which the federal model truly empowers its constituent states – meaning that power continues to reside in the TPLF/EPRDF-dominated centre. Keller (2014), op.cit.; Keller, E., ‘Ethnic federalism, fiscal reform, development and democracy in Ethiopia’, African Journal of Political Science, vol. 7, no. 1, 2002.
Markakis (2011), op.cit.
Clapham (2006), op.cit.; Keller (2002), op.cit.
See for example: ICG (2009), op.cit.; Abbink, J., ‘Ethnic-based federalism and ethnicity in Ethiopia: reassessing the experiment after 20 years’, in: Abbink and Hagmann (2013), op.cit. See also: Keller (2014), op.cit.
On this point, see also: Vaughan, S., ‘Revolutionary democratic statebuilding: party, state and people in the EPRDF’s Ethiopia’, in: Abbink and Hagmann (2013), op.cit.
See for example: Hagmann, T., Talking Peace in the Ogaden: The search for an end to conflict in the Somali Regional State in Ethiopia, Nairobi, Rift Valley Institute, 2014; Tronvoll (2009), op.cit.; Abbink, J., ‘Ethnic-based federalism and ethnicity in Ethiopia: reassessing the experiment after 20 years’, in: Abbink and Hagman (2013), op.cit.
The Ethiopian–Somali war of 1977–78 is a high-profile example of such cross-border claims. Somalia sought to annex Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State in pursuit of the ‘Greater Somalia’ notion. After the Somali defeat, the government of Siad Barre was overthrown and the Somali state effectively collapsed, which further complicated the situation. See for instance: Dehéz, D. and B. Gebrewold, ‘When Things Fall Apart – Conflict Dynamics and an Order Besides the State in Post-collapse Somalia’,:African Security, vol. 3, 2010, pp 1-20. On these themes, see also: Debiel, T., ‘Introduction’, in: Debiel, T. with A. Klein (eds), Fragile peace: State failure, violence and development in fragile regions, London, Zed Books, 2002. For analysis that focuses more on the positions and relations between the key states of the region (such as Egypt, Somalia and Saudi Arabia): De Waal, A., ‘Africa’s $700 billion problem waiting to happen’, Foreign Policy, 17 March 2016; Barnes, C., A wake-up call for Eritrea and Ethiopia, Brussels, International Crisis Group, 15 June 2016.
A conflict complex is understood analogous to a security complex, meaning: ‘a set of units whose major processes of securitization, desecuritization, or both are so interlinked that their security problems cannot reasonably be analysed or resolved apart from one another.’ Buzan, B. and O. Waever, Regions and power: The structures of international security, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Indicative of this are, for example, the various reports of the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, online (accessed 12 November 2015). More pointedly, the United Nation’s Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, Report S/2011/433 of 18 July 2011, outlines a plan by Eritrean intelligence to detonate an explosive device during a 2011 African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
Tadesse, M., ‘Overcoming challenges for Security Sector Reform in the Horn of Africa’, in: Le Roux, L. and Y. Kidane (eds), Challenges to Security Sector Reform in the Horn of Africa, (Monograph Series no. 135), Pretoria, ISS, 2007. Histories of violence and cultures of militarism echo across the region: Gebrewold, B., ‘Civil Militias and Militarisation of Society in the Horn of Africa’, in: Francis, D. (ed.), Civil Militia: Africa’s Intractable Security Menace?, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2005.
The most significant being the Ethiopian military’s crossing into Somalia in 2006 to oust the UIC. This, however, triggered a protracted insurgency by the UIC’s youth wing, Al-Shabaab, that thrived on projecting Ethiopia as foreign occupier to justify counter-violence and radicalization. See: International Crisis Group, Ethiopia: Prospects for Peace in Ogaden, Africa Report no. 207, Nairobi/Brussels, ICG, 2013; Albrecht, P., Fragmented Peacekeeping: Regional Interests Define the African Union Mission in Somalia, Copenhagen, Policy Brief, DIIS, 2015; Dersso, S., The Somalia Conflict: Implications for peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts, ISS Paper no. 198, Pretoria, Institute for Security Studies, 2009; Civins, B., ‘Ethiopia’s Intervention in Somalia, 2006-2009’, Yonsei Journal of International Studies, vol. 2, issue 2, 2010. For a brief overview of Ethiopia’s various military engagements in Somalia: here (accessed 12 November 2015).
See for example: Kassa, W., ‘Examining Some of the Raisons d’Être for the Ethiopian Anti-Terrorism Law’, Mizan Law Review, vol. 7, no. 1, 2013.; Tadesse (2007), op.cit.
For example, the Ethiopian state brought the uprising in the region under control between 2007 and 2012 through a combination of a political ‘divide and rule’ approach to different Ogaden elite and opposition groups and a tough counter-insurgency campaign against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). This has included arbitrary arrests, blockages of movement and trade, and cutting villages off from water and food supplies. Such tactics, largely applied by locally recruited paramilitary police forces, but also the Ethiopian military, proved to be effective. Hagmann (2014), op.cit. provides a range of supporting sources. See also: International Crisis Group, Ethiopia: Prospects for Peace in Ogaden, Africa Report no. 207, Brussels/Nairobi, 2013.
Kagwanja, P., ‘Counter-terrorism in the Horn of Africa: New security frontiers, old Strategies’, Africa Security Review, vol. 15, no.:3, 2006, pp 72-86.
For example: here (accessed 12 November 2015); International Crisis Group, Ethiopia: Governing the Faithful, Brussels/Nairobi, ICG Africa Briefing No. 117, 2016.
For example, Ethiopia is one of the lead contributors to the AU Mission in Somalia and has acquired a reputation as respected and engaged troop contributing nation to UN missions. Such missions generally act as a temporary conflict stabilizer. This engagement continues a longer Ethiopian track record of intermittently fielding a sizeable military presence in Somalia on the basis of national security interests, both with and without UN or AU mandate. Dehéz and Gebrewold (2010), op.cit.
On this point see: Pausewang, S., ‘Ethiopia: Crisis of State, Good Governance and the Reform of the Security Sector’, in: Debiel, T. with A. Klein (2002), op.cit.; Hagmann (2014), op.cit.
Tronvoll (2009), op.cit.; Markakis (2011), op.cit. For a deeper analysis of relations between the TPLF and the other EPRDF parties: Vaughan, S., ‘Revolutionary democratic statebuilding: party, state and people in the EPRDF’s Ethiopia’, in: Abbink and Hagmann (2013), op.cit. Despite the justification offered, this approach is somewhat reductionist in the sense that the EPRDF is a coalition of parties and therefore subject to coalition dynamics and negotiations. The matter is in need of further research.
The first quotation is taken from Tronvoll (2009), op.cit. Staniland differentiates between four types of insurgent organizations, namely 1) integrated, 2) vanguard, 3) parochial and 4) fragmented on the basis of two criteria: a) the extent of central control that such organizations are able to exercise (horizontal leadership ties and cohesion), and b) the extent of their local control (vertical ties of trust and support between leadership and communities). Staniland, P., Networks of Rebellion: Explaining Insurgent Cohesion and Collapse, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2014.
Following Staniland’s (2014), op.cit. views on this matter, a comprehensive counter-insurgency campaign would have simultaneously targeted the TPLF’s leadership through military means while also weakening its popular support base through mostly non-military means (such as social programmes).
Tronvoll (2009), op.cit.
See for example: Vaughan, in: Abbink and Hagmann (2013), op.cit.
The framework is derived from: De Zeeuw, J. (ed.), From soldiers to politicians: Transforming rebel movements after civil war, London, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2008.
For example, the large TPLF/EPRDF recruitment drive in the wake of the 2005 elections was primarily an effort to shore up the party’s support base. Various accounts suggest, however, that this was not an entirely voluntary process. Although it was not necessarily the case that direct pressure was used to get households to affiliate themselves with the party, in a poor society like rural Ethiopia, when party membership gives access to particular services and preferential treatment, such as greater security of land tenure, cheaper/better access to fertilizer and better administrative treatment, does create indirect pressure. See: Markakis (2011), op.cit.; Vaughan, in: Abbink and Hagman (2013), op.cit. Yet, according to the 1995 Constitution, all Ethiopians are already entitled to such services on the basis of their citizenship (see e.g. articles 25 (right to equality) and 41 (economic, social and cultural rights).
For example: Markakis (2011), op.cit.
For an interesting analysis of the historical development of the Ethiopian army and some of its current challenges: Gebrehiwot Berhe, M., ‘The Ethiopian Post-Transition SSR Experience: Building a National Army from a Revolutionary Democratic Army’, February 2016, unpublished.
In essence, parts of the TPLF favoured continuing the successful Ethiopian offensive, which in all likelihood would have led to the conquest of Eritrea, while others favoured restraint and a cessation of the military advance. The latter faction prevailed. For instance: Markakis (2011), op.cit.
For example: Abbink (2009), op.cit.; Abbink (2015), op.cit.
The existing ‘justice sector cluster’ involves government departments only and has the objective of promoting a more ‘joined-up’ government discussion on justice-related issues.
For example: Gebrewold (2005), op.cit.; Abbink and Hagman (2013), op.cit.; Bach, J-N., ‘Élections sans démocratisation dans la corne de l’Afrique: Ethiopie, Kenya, Djibouti, Soudan’, in: Ferras, P. (ed.), La corne de l’Afrique, Évolutions politiques et sécuritaires (tome 1), e-book: Observatoire de la corne de l’Afrique, 2015.
Vaughan and Tronvoll (2002), op.cit.; ICG (2009), op.cit. The ANMD, OPDO and SEPDF were partially created by the TPLF through the recruitment of prisoners of war from Amhara, Oromia and South Ethiopia and by making them the nucleus of party cadres that were then sent back to their home areas and coached by the TPLF.
Markakis (2011), op.cit.; Vaughan, in: Abbink and Hagmann (2013), op.cit.; Tronvoll (2009), op.cit.. For a more in-depth analysis of such EPRDF allies: Vaughan and Tronvoll (2002), op.cit.; see also: Kefale, in: Abbink and Hagmann (2013), op.cit.
Statist elements include direct government control over key sectors of the economy, as well as a prominent economic role for party-established endowment funds, parastatal companies and the military. Planning elements include multi-year year development plans to stimulate growth through major infrastructure initiatives (such as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam) and by organizing the economy in accordance with ideological concepts. Quasi-liberal elements include large land leases to multinational companies. For illustrations of these different aspects of Ethiopia’s economic management: see: Verhoeven, H., ‘Africa’s Next Hegemon: Behind Ethiopia’s Power Plays’, Foreign Affairs, April 2015; Lefort, R., The great Ethiopian land-grab: feudalism, Leninism, neo-liberalism... plus ça change, openDemocracy, December 2011, online: see here; Davison, W., ‘Ethiopian Military-Run Company Seeks More Foreign Partners’, Bloomberg, February 2013, online: see here (both accessed 31 August 2016).
See: Jones, W., R. de Oliveira and H. Verhoeven, Africa’s illiberal state-builders, Working Paper Series no. 89, Oxford, Refugee Studies Centre, 2013. For example, Azeb Mesfin, the wife of Meles Zenawi, became CEO of EFFORT (an endowment fund for Tigray) in 2011, only to be removed from this position in 2013 shortly after her husband’s demise. Her appointment as CEO coincided with her entry into the TPLF’s executive committee, a position she has, however, managed to retain. See: Africa Intelligence, The rise and rise of Azeb Mesfin, Ethiopia business circles, no. 1320,12 November 2011, online: see here (accessed 18 November 2015).
Vaughan, S. and M. Gebremichael, Rethinking business and politics in Ethiopia: The role of EFFORT, the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray, Research Report no. 2, London, Overseas Development Institute, Africa Power and Politics Programme, 2011; Jones et al. (2013), op.cit. On the notion of ‘developmental patrimonialism’: Booth, D., Development as a collective action problem: Addressing the real challenges of African governance, London, Overseas Development Institute, Africa Power and Politics Programme, 2012.
Lenhardt, A. et al., One foot on the ground, one foot in the air: Ethiopia’s delivery on an ambitious development agenda, London, ODI Development Progress and ECDPM, 2015.
It is remarkable, for example, that Tigray is the only region in Ethiopia that scores well above the national average on the Human Development Index: UNDP (2014), op.cit. (see in particular the map on page 31). Jones, de Oliveira and Verhoeven (2013), op.cit. also suggest that economic growth has been concentrated in the core of the former Ethiopian empire (Amhara and Tigray), leading to rising inequalities between the core and the country’s rural periphery.
Corruption is reported to be growing in volume and salience as it extends beyond small-scale individual self-enrichment to acquire larger proportions. Especially land acquisition, (non)payment of tax and government procurement have been mentioned. See: Vaughan and Gebremichael (2011), op.cit.; Lefort (2011), op.cit.
For example, the Oromo constitute over 30% of Ethiopia’s population but have little influence. See also Box 1.