Human Rights Watch has launched an eight-part series on changes in Ethiopia since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took power a year ago. While there’s been much progress, there also remain many challenges in an increasingly tense political atmosphere.
“With elections scheduled for May 2020, the next year will be a critical test of Abiy’s commitment to democracy and his ability to unite an increasingly fractured country, restore law and order, calm tensions, and build on his early reforms that showed so much promise,” the HRW report said in its first installment.
The international NGO praises the release of political prisoners and a new, more open government that suspended repressive laws at home while advancing peace in the Horn of Africa. Yet those very changes have created the opportunity for more ethnic and political divisions in Ethiopia, where the ruling Tigray minority long clashed with Oromo, Amhara, ethnic Somali and other groups – and they in turn clash with each other.
“Ethiopians were finally able to voice historic grievances that they bottled up for decades under an authoritarian government. Many of these grievances are related to access to land and complex questions of identity and governance,” the report said. “Many Ethiopians have settled these scores, often along ethnic lines, including by forcibly displacing people from land or engaging in violent conflict with rival groups. This has occurred across many parts of the country amidst a serious security breakdown and a vacuum in local governance.”
Some two million people have left their homes, and internal displacement is expected to rise.
The complete HRW report is available here.