Ethiopia: From State of Emergency to State of Optimism

Just three years ago, Ethiopia had been at a cusp of collapse. Many parts of the country were rocked by protests with public resentment reaching fever pitch. The crackdown on the press, ethnic oppression, corruption and other malpractices had almost pushed the country into unchartered territory inflicting fear in the international community of region-wide domino effect in the Horn.

As a result, the then administration had been imposing strings of state of emergency to quash the tense public grievances, the protests rather intensified though. The national disobedience also led to party room struggle among the members of EPRDF party. The public struggle coupled with the longtime friction inside the ruling party had resulted in the coming of new leadership under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on April 2, 2018. This development has almost salvaged the country from deep crisis and a bottomless pit.

The early times of the new leadership in particular were adorned with flying colors of a string of sweeping reforms. The release of thousands of political prisoners, the revocation of draconian laws such as terrorism and charities and civil society proclamations, the removal of political parties and media outlets from the lists of terrorism have been one of the groundbreaking achievements initiated by the young leader.

However, the new hope in the country has also reverberated across the region. With Abiy extending the olive branch to his Eritrean counterpart, Ethiopia and Eritrea have been able to achieve the unthinkable. This was indeed nothing short of a miracle. The two countries have come to terms after two decades of animosity and no peace no war situation. While receiving tremendous approval in his home, Abiy also played a central role in brokering a peace deal between Sudanese warring parties and conflicting groups in South Sudan.

These and other changes had earned him worldwide fame as he was crowned as a noble prize winner in 2019. The peace laureate had before and since received various accolades from international organizations.

However, Abiy's three years of leadership have also been marred with backlogs of challenges. As the saying goes by old habit dies hard, local and foreign anti-reform elements have been leaving no stone unturned to sow discord among Ethiopian people and ignite political crisis, ethnic displacements and other economic setbacks. These conspiracies have in fact brought unimaginable pain to the people.

Some of the problems have been an extension of old failures and problems. These challenges in fact cannot be washed away easily and overnight. It requires a hard work and a longtime to uproot the causes of the socioeconomic and political bottlenecks. But still, the country has many changes to cherish. Democratic institutions are increasingly becoming autonomous and the country is preparing a relatively free and fair poll this year.

This paves away for democratic transition and will leave an unfading mark in the history of democracy in the country. The stakes are high and the pitfalls are too many though. If the country is to continue marching on reforms, the people of Ethiopia and the government must throw their weight behind ensuring peace and stability in the country. After all, it is when peace is ensured that the economic, social and political demands are fulfilled. When everything is said and done, the future would be rosy despite the distracted past!

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