Ethiopia facing unprecedented crisis: analyst

ESAT News (September 9, 2016)


Rene Lefort (File Photo)

The veteran French journalist and analyst on Sub-Saharan Africa, Rene Lefort, said in a lengthy article Friday that “there is every sign that Ethiopia is plunging into a crisis whose scale, intensity, and multiple and interdependent drivers are unprecedented since the founding of the regime in 1991.”

In the article published on the Open Democracy website, Lefort said,The Ethiopian leadership remains in denial” despite the scale of the crisis.

Lefort, who assesses in depth the ongoing unrest in Ethiopia, highlighted the significance of the simultaneous protests by Amharas and Oromos and said the protests by Oromo and Amhara, with largely shared reasons and objectives, break with their antagonism from the late nineteenth century onwards.”

This time, he said “a whole generation of young people is in the forefront of the protests” and “their anger derives from widespread discontent, focusing on three areas.”

Lefort noted that people are fed up not just with the regime’s authoritarianism, but also with the way it is exercised in terms of supervision and control that are “stifling, intrusive and infantilizing.”

He also pointed out that the implementation of a federalism that is in theory equitable, is in “reality profoundly unbalanced.”

Twenty-five years on, Lefort writes the Tigrayan elite remains “vastly overrepresented at the apex of political power, the army, the security services.”

Another focus of discontent, Lefort said “is the backlashes of the ‘developmental state’”. “This system centralizes revenues at the summit of power, which supremely decides on its optimal use for development across the country.” However, he said, the centralization it entails is evidently incompatible with authentic federalism.”


The scholar underscored that “ethnicisation of the political landscape is also apparent in the deterioration of relations between TPLF, ANDM and OPDO. According to him, there’s mutual distrust among the rank and file members.

“The growing number of leaks of documents and recordings of discussions at the highest level of government and the State-Party are testament to the fact that frontline leaders now have one foot in the government camp and one in the protesters’ camp”

“Every scenario remains possible, including the worst-case,” Lefort said. He added that the regime may decide to continue relying on repression and the acceleration of its recovery plan for the ruling party.

Lefort pointed out that repression may give the regime a period of respite but will eventually lead to “more devastating – surge of unrest.”

“’Killing is not an answer to our grievances’, cry the demonstrators. For the moment, however, no other genuine answers are to be heard or seen, unless basic common sense, not to mention democratic aspirations, were to prevail in the ruling power,” Lefort noted.

Lefort has been writing on Sub-Saharan Africa since the 1970s. He has worked for Le Monde diplomatique, Le Monde, Libération and Le Nouvel Observateur. His book ETHIOPIA: AN HERETICAL REVOLUTION is widely cited in academic circles.