Ethiopia's Politics in the Rabbit Hole

Jan 25 , 2020
By Hintsa Andebrhan

Unsurprisingly, everyone has opinions about Ethiopia's politics. Surprisingly, even with that discernable overconfidence of Ethiopians, no one is able to say just what exactly we believe would happen as early as next year. For better or worse, we do not even know if it is going to be good or bad. It is complete uncertainty.

Our current predicament can best be explained through the allegory of the rabbit hole. Like Alice in Lewis Caroll’s 1865 classic, we are heading for the rabbit hole. What there is on the other end, we have absolutely no idea.

And yet all had seemed clear just under two years ago. A political transition was underway and most of us were under the impression that although this would be challenging, the end goal would be a state that is just to its people.

But before we were able to put a handle on the matter, it had become clear that we were heading into confusion. Today, the rabbit’s hole continues to be dug by politicians of all creeds and a government that was unprepared for nationwide instability.

It is hard to deny that there is an opportunity within the nation for growth and stability. There have been few administrations as this one with the goodwill to see fair and free elections take place. That the media and the opposition party are bold enough to raise their voices the way they do now is an indication of this.

The positive image the international community has come to attach to our name is also not something to baulk at. We may not be seen as a nation that is stable or developed, but few are now able to deny the potential for growth and prosperity that lies within.

This though is the light at the end of the tunnel. The path to it is actually filled with obstacles the likes of which we will never be able to recover from once we have been tripped.

We have unemployment, conflicts, climate change hazards, disease outbreaks and youth homelessness. The inequality that exists in urban areas is threatening to break apart social bonds.

These are just the problems we face on even a good day. To that fire, we have added extreme political polarisation. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's (PhD) administration is doing its fair share to bring political transformation, but his administration has consistently failed in its effort to arrest growing instability.

The growing unrest and instability, shrouded by mystery as a result of the government's lack of transparency, serves as a sign to many of how complicated multiparty democracy is going to be.

As most of us insisted on seeing a nation with multiparty democracy, it never occurred to us how competitive it was going to get and how hard it was going to be to police everyone to play by the rules. We also never anticipated the extent to which the ruling party would be challenged to keep its promises once it vowed to allow democracy to flourish.

"The record of Ethiopia's prime minister remains incomplete, at home and abroad," said The Economistin its recent edition, a description that is pretty hard to beat.

It is this incompleteness that leaves us in complete uncertainty. With the national elections expected to take place in August, we have flipped a coin and are already waiting to see just which side it will land.

It does not have to be this way though. We do not have to sit back and see what it is at the other end of the rabbit hole. We can control our own destiny if only we manage to sit around a table and discuss how we can build a better future.

Politicians will always insist on creating noise and digging that rabbit hole deeper. But we can stand our ground and ensure that such parties and individuals fade into irrelevance. The key to our future is in our hands. All we have to do is not give it to power-hungry politicians.

PUBLISHED ON Jan 25,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1030]

Hintsa Andebrhan ( worked as a researcher with the United Nations Population Fund and IPAS International Ethiopia. Interested in history and politics, his work was on social affairs.

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