One Big Thing: Ethiopia's Bumpy Road to Democracy
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What is it?
- Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous country and is set to hold democratic elections in August – the first in nearly three decades. Despite current Prime Minister and 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy Ahmed’s attempts to unify the country, there are still deep ethnic tensions.
- Abiy’s commitments to open elections have been overshadowed by political, logistical, and security concerns over the new election date. There are worries regarding the readiness of the electoral board.
- For the past two months, the Ethiopian government has shut down the internet in the Oromia province. The stated reason is over “security reasons” but many believe that it is to cover up human rights abuses in an ongoing government military operation.
Why is it important?
- If the August elections are successful, they will represent a historical step forward for Ethiopian democracy. Since taking office, Abiy has rolled out a series of political reforms including ending the ban on opposition parties and releasing political prisoners.
- The internet shutdown clearly violates international standards for freedom of expression and information. In 2019, the Ethiopian government shutdown the internet eight times – including a nationwide shutdown that lasted over four days.
- Ethiopia is a counterterrorism and economic pillar in the Horn of Africa. It is one the U.S.’s main counterterrorism partner in the fight against regional violent extremism like al Shabab in Somalia. The Horn’s regional economy is tightly intertwined and a decline in the Ethiopian economy will result similar drop regionally.
What can you do?
- Check out the Council on Foreign Relations for more on Abiy’s promised reforms and see what the U.S. Government should be doing to help Ethiopia prepare for elections
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