The regime in Ethiopia ensures an ever-tighter grip on society and the opposition, also at the May 2010 elections. Unresolved military conflicts with neighboring countries Eritrea and Somalia continue to pose a threat, as do a number of internal conflicts. Nevertheless, the country is experiencing strong economic growth, and several social indicators such as life expectancy and school attendance point in the right direction. However, most Ethiopians are still very poor.
Ethiopia is ruled by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The coalition was formed by the guerrilla group Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) from Tigray in northern Ethiopia, which occupied Addis Ababa after the fall of the former Marxist military dictatorship in 1991. administrations, courts and police.
Control over the opposition
Human rights violations are widespread, civil society is largely cowed and so is the media, except for some newspapers in Addis. At the end of 2009, the regime introduced new legislation for civil society organizations that could potentially squander almost all work on political rights, human rights and a number of other development issues.
Prior to the 2005 elections, the EPRDF allowed greater political leeway than before, and the opposition coalition won large majorities in Addis and other cities. When many votes were counted again, with the result that the EPRDF once again secured a solid, but questionable, victory in large parts of the country, it led to opposition protests that were turned down by the government. Opposition leaders, representatives of NGOs and some private newspapers were arrested. Most of these were released in 2007, but many leaders have gone into exile and the opposition coalition has split and weakened.
The government tightened its grip further in the local elections in 2008, when it won all but 3 of the 3.6 million seats. Most opposition parties withdrew before the election because they believed that the government had made electoral rules that made it impossible for others to win.
In the May 2010 election, the government secured yet another superior victory. The opposition ended up with 2 of 547 possible parliamentary seats, while the government and its allies took the rest. Several potentially strong opposition candidates had been imprisoned or exiled during the elections. Official and unofficial observers from organizations such as the European Union (EU) and Human Rights Watch reported numerous initiatives to silence opponents and suppress the media and civil society, including killings and threats. Government resources, such as public sector jobs, bank loans, matrices and educational opportunities, were manipulated to get people to join the government or to leave the opposition parties.
Ethnicity and conflicts
In 1996, Ethiopia was divided into ethnic regions, and ethnic groups were granted the right to self-government. Formerly oppressed groups have become more aware of their cultures and have been allowed to use their own languages in teaching and administration. However, this increased self-awareness has also led to increased conflicts between different ethnic groups over resources and political representation.
Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a war from 1998 to 2000 that took hundreds of thousands of lives and a border dispute remains unsolved with soldiers on both sides of the border. Both countries support resistance groups to weaken the other side.
In 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia’s old enemy to overthrow the partially-extremist Islamist government that had taken power there and had promised to recapture the Somali region of Ethiopia, which Britain gave to Ethiopia after World War II. With some help from the United States, Ethiopia installed a UN-supported government and eventually withdrew in January 2009. Ethiopia has crossed the border for shorter periods several times since, and is closely monitoring the situation.
According to CountryAah, the majority of the population in Ethiopia is engaged in the agricultural sector and the urban population is relatively low compared to many other countries in Africa. But the migration to the cities is increasing, including to the capital Addis Ababa. Many of the new urban areas are poor, and beggars and street children are a common sight. High living costs, unemployment, limited access to clean water, alcoholism, family structure disintegration and a building boom that focuses on expensive housing with unattainable prices for most are some of the challenges.
With almost 7 percent economic growth in the international economic crisis year 2009, the country performed relatively well. The British journal The Economist predicts that Ethiopia will have the world’s fastest growing economy in 2010 and that it will take over Kenya’s place as East Africa’s largest economy. Optimists will also point out that life expectancy in Ethiopia has increased from 45 to 55 years since the regime came to power in 1991, child mortality is halved, the proportion of extremely poor (those living for a dollar a day) dropped from 44 percent in 2000 to 33 percent in In 2007, school attendance has risen sharply since the government came to power in 1991, and a building boom that has become possible in part due to higher export revenues and international investment characterizes more cities.
The large agricultural sector accounts for 60 percent of the country’s export revenue. Western countries continue to support the regime financially, as does the International Monetary Fund (IMF). China is increasingly investing in Ethiopia and is building roads, bridges and prestige buildings, such as the airport and the renovated headquarters of the African Union in Addis. India is also increasing investment.
Despite the growth in the economy, the goods have not spread to most people. Inflation is relatively high, around 10 percent, and prices of various cereals increased dramatically from 2007. Around 5 million people in different parts of the country receive food in the form of crisis relief to survive due to drought, while 7 million people receive food assistance.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is playing an increasingly prominent role on the international stage, including as representative of Africa at the climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009. In February 2010, it was announced that he will sit in the lead of a UN climate panel to secure 100 billion USD per year by 2020 for climate measures in developing countries.
The idea of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s developing state means that the ruling party to sit in power of Ethiopia is up at the middle-income level, which is believed to take 10 to 30 years. Despite cautious criticism from abroad, Western countries are most concerned with maintaining stability in Ethiopia for security and development reasons. However, it goes without saying that today’s very dominant regime will lead to security or development in the long run.
Area: 1.1 million km2 (10th largest)
Population: 80.7 million
Population density: 73 per km2
Urban population: 17 percent
Largest city: Addis Ababa – approx. 3.1 million
GDP per capita: US $ 319
Economic growth: 11.3 percent
HDI Position: 171