Though Prime Minister Abiy’s brief tenure thus far has been marked by a dramatic shift in the country’s rhetoric, an increased tolerance for political dissidents, the change in leadership has not put a halt to political violence in the country.

By Hilary Matfess (ACLED)

The swearing in of Abiy Ahmed as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister on April 2, 2018 has been regarded as a watershed moment in the country’s political development; Abiy took power after his predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn– who had been in office since 2012– unexpectedly left office. Hailemariam’s time in office was marked by states of emergency and widespread protests. PM Abiy’s brief tenure thus far has been marked by a dramatic shift in the country’s rhetoric, an increased tolerance for political dissidents, and a thawing of tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea over a long-standing border dispute (the Guardian, 8 July 2018). However, the change in leadership has not put a halt to political violence in the country.

There may have recently been a greater tolerance for protests and a decline in the number of demonstrations in Oromia, but in the same time period, long-standing conflicts have flared and intercommunal violence in the country has been on the rise. These are potentially encouraged by regional and local power-brokers who are eager to advance their own interests in this period of political flux. Selecting Prime Minister Abiy may have helped quell the crisis in Oromia and contributed to a more restrained security sector, but Ethiopian politics remain contentious. A number of local flashpoints for intercommunal violence — particularly border disputes between Oromia and Somali — are ignited, suggesting that Ethiopia can anticipate continued instability. .

Trends in Violence since April 2018

Government Tolerance of Protest

Though Abiy’s tenure has been heralded as a pacifying influence, the number of violent events and protests have actually increased by over 8% in the 6 months since he has taken office, relative to the 6 months prior (from 388 to 420 events). This has corresponded to an increase of over 48% in the number of reported fatalities from 644 fatalities in the 6 months before Abiy took office to 954 fatalities from April to October (see graph here).

Continue reading Change and Continuity in Protests and Political Violence PM Abiy’s Ethiopia at ACLED
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