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Addis Abeba, March 05/2019 – This has been an eventful year for Ethiopia’s politics. Under Abiy Ahmed Ali, who became Prime Minister in April 2018, the government has eased its previous authoritarian stance on various central issues. A national state of emergency imposed by Abiy’s predecessor has been lifted and thousands of prisoners have been released. Exiled opposition leaders and armed groups have been allowed back into the country; media outlets now operate relatively freely; rapprochement with Eritrea is in full swing; and initiatives for national reconciliation are underway. Women received half of the positions in the October 2018 Cabinet reshuffle and many others have been appointed to high office. In the light of the history of repression, human rights violations, decay and corruption of the ruling party EPRDF, the BBC remarked that it was “almost like observing a different country.” Hence, the dominant narrative has been that of an emerging openness and transformational leadership.

Of course, hope comes readily to mind as positive narrative floods the news outlets. Though there was positive general drift across the political elite, the nub is that now no single dominant narrative explains the recent developments. Granted their positive effects, the government’s transitional reforms should not, however, be allowed to obscure the critical challenges the country faces. If those problems come to be shrouded in a blanket of positive spin designed to reinforce the current dominant narrative, they may well return to haunt the country later.

It is true that transitions such as those now being implemented in Ethiopia are often characterized by bloody conflict; after all, their aim is to deliver a new era that represents a break with the past. But unless their birth is attended by professional midwifery, such reform programs can spell the death not simply of the reform program but of the very nation itself. Merely shaking the system without a clearly defined end, simply to bring about a clean break from the past regime, hardly constitutes a structured program. There therefore remains a concern as to whether or not the reform process is indeed informed by a conscious roadmap for the delivery of a new Ethiopia. Read more...

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