The Ethiopian government is facing its biggest political crisis since it came into power in 1991. In the face of nonstop protests, the government has released thousands of political prisoners. The prime minister has resigned. And for the second time in less than two years, the government has declared a state of emergency.
By Eyder Peralta (NPR) |
The Ethiopian government is facing its biggest political crisis since it came into power in 1991. In the face of nonstop protests, the government has released thousands of political prisoners. The prime minister has resigned. And for the second time in less than two years, the government has declared a state of emergency. What happens next could be a defining moment for one of Africa’s most powerful nations.
Back in January, thousands of Ethiopians hit the streets in celebration. Shaky cellphone video posted online shows throngs of young men running through the streets to welcome back Merera Gudina.
The dissident leader had spent a little more than a year in jail, accused of trying to overthrow the government. But while he was in detention, protests never stopped. And his release was a first sign that maybe an authoritarian regime had begun to crack. I meet Merera at his home a few days after that celebration.
“Without real change, you cannot stop these millions of young people on the move demanding change, real change.“ Merera Gudina
The protests in Ethiopia started about three years ago when the federal government announced plans to expand the capital, Addis Ababa. It was a protest about land, yet the government reacted as it has historically with repression and violence. Since then, the protests have spread and become about equality for all ethnic groups, about jobs and about the freedom to elect one’s own government and to speak one’s mind. The government said it was releasing Merera to facilitate a national dialogue and to end the protests. At that moment, Merera, who spent part of his time in detention at one of Ethiopia’s most notorious torture chambers, was conciliatory.
“If they start to walk their talk, then I think the opposition also should positively respond to that. I’m cautiously – very cautiously optimistic – very cautiously.“ Merera Gudina
After our interview, the government continued releasing prisoners. They freed thousands and also announced they would turn the notorious Maekelawi prison into a museum. Kassahun Berhanu, a professor of political science at Addis Ababa University, says it’s clear this is a pivotal moment for Ethiopia.
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- Crisis in Ethiopia: elections, and fast! ― Open Democracy
- Will Ethiopia’s new leader, from EPRDF, be able to stabilize the country?
- Ethiopia’s Model of Ethnic Federalism Buckles Under Internal Tensions ― WPR
- Ethiopians protesting state of emergency shut down capital, Oromia Region
- Ethiopia: New State of Emergency Risks Renewed Abuses ― Human Rights Watch