16 October 2018

Ethiopia: Insiders Insight - Busy Times in Ethiopia, a Snapshot

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Busy times in Ethiopia

The breakneck speed of developments under Premier Abiy Ahmed, six months into his term, has continued, though not always according to his plans.

A analysis by ACLED has found that the number of conflict events and deaths has actually increased since Abiy took power. However, the location and actors have shifted markedly, away from the confrontation of federal security forces with Oromo protesters, to clashes between regional forces and civilians especially along the border of the Oromo and Somali regions. According to the researchers, this reflects Abiy's more lenient approach to public dissent as well as the intense struggle for influence by regional power brokers and the flaring of old grievances that weren't addressed by the compromise that brought Abiy into power.

Change and continuity in protests and political violence in PM Abiy's Ethiopia (ACLED)

Today, Abiy announced a reshuffle of his cabinet, slashing the number of ministries from 28 to 20, including a "Peace Ministry". Half the positions have gone to women, with Abiy saying women are "less corrupt than men" and will help restore peace.

Ethiopia's Abiy gives half of ministerial posts to women (BBC)

On Wednesday, more than 100 soldiers, some armed, marched to the office of the Prime Minister to demand better pay. While Abiy was taken by surprise, he managed to defuse the situation amicably, promising to look into the demands and then ordering those soldiers who brought their weapons to do push-ups as punishment, which he led by example (seriously!). After the soldiers returned to their barracks, the government said in a statement that they shouldn't expect to be paid better than other civil servants and has not proceeded to arrest the ring leaders. During the showdown, internet access was cut.

Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed does press-ups with protesting soldiers (BBC)

Ministry Detains Those Who Persuade Soldiers To Go To PM Office (FANABC)

Tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea were diffused under Abiy at a remarkable speed, the most obvious and emotional effect of which is the opening of the border and the reunification of families who hadn't heard from one another for decades. But the open border also poses challenges for Ethiopia, among them more than 10,000 refugees arriving per month. Because the Eritrean regime has so far not followed up the thawing of regional relations with domestic reform, but doesn't seem to stop people from leaving, this trend will likely continue. With many of the arrivals planning to join family members in Europe, the consequences for the larger migration debate will be interesting to follow.

'I was euphoric': Eritrea's joy becomes Ethiopia's burden amid huge exodus (The Guardian)

'It's just slavery': Eritrean conscripts wait in vain for freedom (The Guardian)

Compiled by @PeterDoerrie

This week's editorial team: @PeterDoerrie, @_andrew_green, @jamesjwan

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