DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION IN ABIY’S ETHIOPIA: MANAGING THE BAD, THE GOOD AND THE TROUBLING
The power relationship within the four-member ruling coalition party—the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)-which has ruled Ethiopia autocratically for 27 years, has been irreversibly changed. The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is no longer the kingmaker after suffering an ignominious defeat by the tactical alliance between the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) and the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM). The fourth member of the coalition, the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM), has largely been an inconsequential partner, unable to affect national politics, and remains a junior partner.
At the end of several months of internal power struggle, Abiy Ahmed emerged as the EPRDF party chairman on 27 March 2018, and on 2 April 2018, he was sworn in as the prime minister of a country on the brink of a major catastrophe. He immediately shocked the entire Horn of Africa region by undertaking astonishing reforms with breathtaking speed. His accomplishments and leadership style have earned him comparisons with Barack Obama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Justin Trudeau, and even Nelson Mandela.
However, beneath the optimism and euphoria sweeping the country, there are brewing concerns calling for attention. A confluence of several factors could potentially threaten the democratic transition of Ethiopia and could, perhaps, lead to a major political and security crisis. In this article, I will discuss four major factors that have the potential to collide, explode and stall Ethiopia’s transition to democracy. Absence of a structured transitional roadmap; uncertain roles for opposition politicians and activists in the democratic transition; empowered population with un-managed expectations; and counterrevolutionary forces