A strong opposition is Ethiopia’s only hope for democracy. A coalition between the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization and the Amhara National Democratic Movement might be just what the country needs.
By Yohannes Gedamu (The Conversation) |
The political protests that destabilized Ethiopia’s two largest regional states in 2016 have become a major test for Ethiopia’s ruling People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front.
The protests were triggered by years of accumulated frustration among ethnic groups, particularly the Oromos and Amharas, who say they have been marginalized by the government. The coalition’s response has been to crush them with brute force.
The coalition is made up of four parties: the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization, Amhara National Democratic Movement, Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement, and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. Strict party discipline during its 26-year rule has helped it survive. But things changed in 2016 when the Oromo People’s Democratic Front and Amhara National Democratic Movement publicly sided with protesters. This led to the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization emerging as one of the ruling party’s most influential political forces.
By reaching out to the Amhara National Democratic Movement, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization seems determined to displace the powerful Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front from dominating the coalition’s decision making process. It is also hoping to force the ruling coalition to make reforms.
As a result of this political pressure, sharp divisions have begun to emerge within the coalition. This was made clear recently when four coalition luminaries led by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn held a press conference to announce that political prisoners would be released. The announcement raised hopes that Ethiopia was taking a more democratic route. But the regime quickly retracted the statement, claiming that Desalegn had been misunderstood.
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