22 Jun

Ethiopia needs to end the persecution of a key ethnic group

The political upheaval that Ethiopians have become accustomed to seems to be a thing of the past—for now.

Many have praised the new prime minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office in April 2018, for restoring calm to much of the country. Some have even dubbed his reform agenda a massive turn around for Ethiopia.

There has been progress on his watch. Ahmed has overseen the release of political prisoners, as was promised by former premier Hailemariam Desalegn.

Most recently he lifted the state of emergency that was imposed after Desalegn unexpectedly resigned in February 2018 after five years in power.

Ahmed has also promised to privatize state owned enterprises, and declared his readiness to stabilize Ethiopia’s tumultuous relations with neighbor Eritrea.

But it hasn’t all been rosy—especially when it comes to the ongoing eviction of ethnic groups in various regions in the country.

The targeted eviction of ethnic Amharas in the regional states of Benishangul Gumuz and Oromia is especially worrying.

Thousands of Amharas have been evicted, killed and tortured. Although cases of evictions have recently increased, the problem started in 2012 when thousands of Amharas were evicted from the Southern Region.

The Amharas are one of Ethiopia’s two largest ethnic groups; the other is the Oromo. Together the groups account for about 60% of Ethiopia’s population.

Mistreatment of Amharas has drawn the attention of several human rights organizations, including Amnesty International which has called out the pattern of ethnically motivated attacks and displacement.

To end such ethnic attacks and unfortunate instances of targeted evictions, Ahmed’s new administration must consider institutional reforms.

My research shows that Ethiopia’s regional states and their constitutions have been designed in a way that bestows ownership of regions on certain ethnic groups. So, for Ahmed’s reform agenda to take full effect such laws need to be amended.

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