In Ethiopia, revolution is a policy of making a new policy

Ethiopia is a no easy change country

The history of change in Ethiopia is the history of violence and bloodshed. Even peaceful protests that demand small policy change have been quarreled by merciless measures. Ethiopian rulers have difficulty making easy and smooth changes. Some argue it is the result of how Ethiopian were socialized to the concept of change while others say it is the result of having long lived oppressive political system in the country.

In general, uprooting the existing and replacing with its opposite is deep rooted in Ethiopian culture. Compromising, maintaining the good and changing the bad on the other hand is uncommon. Incremental policy change has little to no space in Ethiopian policy-making. Revolution on the other hand is considered a policy of making a new policy.

Ethiopian dictators have used revolution as an opportunity to destabilize the existing systems, to justify their achievements and excessively benefit themselves. That made the Ethiopian revolution the factory of greedy elites that are worse compared to their predecessors. And that is also how Ethiopian revolution force every other generation to revolt against the status quo and put the country in a vicious circle of revolutions.

Revolutionary names like Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara are popular names among ordinary Ethiopians.

Chain of violence and revolutions

Ethiopia was tied into a chain of violence where a ruler has to overthrow his/her predecessor in a bloody war to come to power since the country took its current shape. Even under the feudal era when the power transition was justified by bloodline - Solomonic dynasty, power transfer involved bloodshed and violence.

The power transfer between Zewditu, Iyasu V and Hailesellassie involved multiple wars and violences. The sagele war, the wollo war and finally the assassination of Iyasu V is recorded in history.

Similarly, the monarchy lived a chain of revolutionary attempts between 1941-1975. The Neway Brothers and the Tadesse coup d`etat attempts are examples. Finally, the Marxist-Leninist Derg staged a coup that abolished the monarchy in 1975. The aftermath of this revolution has left the country in a political darkness as many political elites lost their life. 



The frequency of coup attempts declined under the Derg and the EPRDF mainly because of the merciless measures. But in general, revolution is still considered as a viable transition in Ethiopia and many have difficulty accepting peaceful power transfer as transition. 

The reform options

The history of reform in Ethiopia has been the history of failure. Although all the successive dictators have tried reform, they all alike started it too late and delivered too little. That made the reform option a not significant option in the country so far. 

The sector review of the monarchy, the dialogues and agreements of the military junta with EPLF, TPLF and OLF, and the unfulfilled reform promises of the EPRDF have many similarities in common. The lesson one could draw from these experiences is that reform may not well suit the Ethiopian concept of change. But that doesn’t mean reform is impossible. But it definitely needs extra effort, good planning and implementation.

The Current Revolution

Ethiopia is undergoing another round of revolution. The movement that has started with simple demands in 2015 transformed itself into a revolutionary movement. Some government mouthpieces choose to call it a color revolution, others say it is a “state capture”. The name choice is simply to arrest the revolution. But the it has proved itself to be un-arrest-able. This revolution is fundamentally different from the historical revolutions in Ethiopia.

I would call it an information revolution. Unlike the previous revolutions, this is not led by elites. It is not about replacing a ruler with their opposite. It is a revolution that aims to empower the Ethiopian people. It is not only political; it is economic, social and cultural. It is a revolution that aims to take the country back from the few power and wealth greedy dictators and give it to the rightful owner-the Ethiopian people. It is the revolution that aims to make Ethiopia home for all Ethiopians. 

The way forward

Either greedy people led Ethiopian revolutions, or its aftermaths turn revolutionaries into greedy reactionaries. The revolutionaries understand and cherish their success backward while the mass understand and protests their oppression backward. That makes the biggest mismatch and throw seed for another round of revolution in Ethiopia.

This mismatch leaves the new generation in no better option than revolting against the status quo and creates a vicious circle of revolutions in the country. Change is quite expensive and revolution generation after generation is a disaster.

All revolutions devour their own children ~ Ernst Rohm

That is why the whole world is opting for incremental change. Integrating steady reforms into the ongoing revolution in Ethiopia can reduce the costs. Those reforms make the revolution not only less costly but also sustainable. The source of ongoing revolution in Ethiopia is the rotten political system in the country. For that the economic sector reform, institutional (military, intelligence, media and electoral board) reforms and judiciary system reforms are already suggested.

For this reform to happen and succeed and for our revolution to be sustainable, we need well-equipped change agents. Not just the prime minister but many people with the right vision and policy mindset. The how, the when and the where to create those change agents determine the success of our revolution as well as its sustainability.

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Read 5418 times Last modified on Friday, 03 August 2018 21:16

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EAPRI aims to fill the gap between research, policy and practice not only by providing objective policy research that influence policy agenda and choices but also by strengthening capacity in policy evidence utilization and political commitment for its implementation. 

At EAPRI, we believe in the power of critical information in building a brighter future. Our focus is on the opportunities and challenges of attaining the development visions and goals of the nations of East Africa region. Currently having our East African Office located in Addis Ababa, we are collaborating with governmental and non-governmental organizations to provide evidences that influence policy in the region. In Ethiopia, we are currently working on, among others, urban social reconstruction, youth development and employment, dialogue and reconciliation, and rural development and food safety.