War and ethnic division cloud elections in Ethiopia

Ethiopia celebrates this Monday a complicated general elections marked by the war in the Tigray region, the increase in intercommunity violence and the boycott of some opposition parties in protest against the repression and the imprisonment of their leaders, which augurs a decline participation. The ruling Prosperity Party (PP) of the prime minister and 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Abiy Ahmed Ali, 44, starts as a great favorite in these elections, postponed in August 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic, and he aspires to revalidate a sufficient majority to allow him to remain in power for another five years.

“The whole world says that we are going to face each other on election day, but we are going to teach them a lesson,” Abiy Ahmed said last Wednesday at a massive rally held at the Jimma Stadium in his home region of Oromia. “I say to all Ethiopians to fight for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Ethiopia, if we unite in a common spirit and with one heart, no force on earth can stop us. Our problem is not to protect the unit of Ethiopia, but to make it the force of the Horn of Africa ”, he added, according to France Presse.

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However, the challenges to this dream of the prime minister are enormous: of the 110 million Ethiopians, only about 37 million have been registered in the census and in a fifth of the 547 constituencies the vote has been suspended or postponed until the next September due to violence, war or logistical problems. In addition, the two large parties that represent the Oromo ethnic group, one of the largest in the country, do not attend the elections to protest the imprisonment of their leaders.

Ahmed came to power in 2018 with an agenda of profound reforms and opening up of the second most populous country in Africa. After freeing thousands of political prisoners, allowing the return of exiles and signing peace with Eritrea, which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, the young prime minister dynamited from within the coalition of nationalist parties that had governed the country since the fall. of the communist Mengistu regime in 1991. In its place the PP in an attempt to bet on the concept of Ethiopian citizenship and overcome ethnic divisions. However, these increased and violence has been very present throughout his tenure.

Massacres and rapes

The rebellion of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (FPLT), which did not accept to join the PP due to its loss of power within the government coalition, led last November to a violent conflict in Tigray dotted with massacres and rapes. of human rights that has been a huge drain on Ahmed’s image. But it is not the only source of problems. There is an ongoing rebellion in the Oromia region and the Amhara lament being the target of ethnic-tinged massacres.

With popular Oromo businessman and activist Jawar Mohamed in jail, one of the few opposition figures threatening to subtract votes from Ahmed’s project is Berhanu Nega, a former mayor of Addis Ababa and leader of the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party. A mission of the African Union, a body that has just opened an investigation into human rights violations in Tigray, will ensure the cleanliness of a scrutiny that, according to experts, will not serve to reduce the enormous tensions that this country is going through.

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