Ethiopian higher education institutions have been a hotbed of protest and resistance to political power since the 1960s.

By Ayenachew Woldegiyorgis  (Inside Higher Ed) |

For a year now, Ethiopia has confronted protests in Oromia, the largest regional state. The protest started in opposition to the expansion plan of the capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromia towns and villages. Then the protest engaged the second largest regional state, Amhara, contributing to further political tensions.

Following a stampede that took place during the celebration of thanksgiving by the Oromo people on October 2nd that left dozens of people dead, the protest intensified. The country descended into turmoil it has not seen in over a decade.On October 9th, the government of Ethiopia declared a six-month state of emergency that imposed restrictions on a wide array of rights while granting the prime minister a sweeping power.

The detailed directive for the execution of the state of emergency contained 31 articles. Three of the 31 articles refer to education institutions. Article 5 prohibits “conducting strikes that disturb the learning and teaching process, shutting down educational institutions or causing damage to these institutions”. Article 28 gives unprecedented authority to law enforcement officers, to detain and conduct search and seizure without a court warrant, and monitor and restrict any communication (radio, television, writings, images, photograph, theater and film). Sub-article 7 specifically grants power to legal officers to take measures against students and employees who participate in the disturbance of academic institutions; and to order the institutions themselves to take administrative measures. Finally, Article 30 states that, as for other private and government institutions, law enforcement “may enter schools, universities, [or] other higher education institutions, and take necessary measures to stop disturbances and detain the persons involved”.

These provisions underscore the current gloomy environment of Ethiopian higher education. Ethiopian higher education institutions have been a hotbed of protest and resistance to political power since the 1960s. Therefore, the relationship between universities and government has always been a precarious one.

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