Ethiopia: The generation that shook the mountains

Thursday 13th, September 2012 / 17:21 Written by

 (eufrika) – Dr. Solomon Ayele Dersso is senior researcher with the Peace and Security Council Report Programme at the Addis Ababa Office of the Institute for Security Studies. In his analysis he discusses the considerations which have been voiced internationally with regard to the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi – and concludes self-confidently: “The death of Meles Zenawi has put Ethiopia in a palpable state of public reflection. It is a reflection for clarity both on the good that Ethiopians of all political and ideological persuasions need to keep and defend and on the peril that they should fight against. This is the challenge those of us in the generation coming after Meles’ – the so called ‘generation that shook the mountains’ – should assume responsibility to face.”

Ethiopia's Awakening

Ethiopia after the death of Premier Meles Zenawi: opportunity for changes? (Ethiopia’s Awakening, author unknown; source: wiki commons)


Dersso identifies three aspects, on which the discussion basically focused: internal power struggles, Ethiopia’s geo-strategic role and Meles’ political legacy.

With regard to the concern of many commentators on Meles’ succession – in terms of the danger of a political vacuum and erupting ethnic clashes –, Dersso points out the relative strength of Ethiopia’s key institutions. The stability is, despite of tensions within the ruling coalition, mainly based on a succession plan the members of the coalition agreed upon. The plan, which has been implemented since 2010, contains the appointment of Hailemariam Desalegn for both the position of Prime Minister as well as Foreign Minister. Furthermore, security services as well as the army, the police and intelligence remain largely intact, as Dersso states. At the same time, he regards the likelihood of out breaking troubles because of the population’s discontent with the government’s authoritarian tendencies relatively low in the light of Meles’ natural, but sudden withdrawal.


A complex situation

On the other hand, Dersso defines Ethiopia’s important role in a troubled region. Whereas almost all neighboring countries face political crises and serious conflicts, Ethiopia has become an influential power in facilitating the negotiations in Sudan respective between Sudan and South Sudan. With regard to increasing terroristic challenges in Somalia, Ethiopia’s efforts of fighting terroristic activities of Al-Shabaab permitted the disbandment of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and established a new political order, advancing the formation of a new parliament, the adoption of a new constitution and the upcoming election of a new president. Dersso emphases that the observers’ doubts, whether Ethiopia’s involvement leads to stabilization, do not cope with the complexity of the situation; under Meles’ leadership, Ethiopia similarly used those measures, which have often been called “carrying out the dirty work of the US in the war against terror” for advancing its own interests.

Meles Zenawi

Debates about Ethiopia’s future after the death of Premier Meles Zenawi continue (source: wiki commons)

Finally, Dersso refuses the oversimplification of the portrays drawn of Meles in the discussion about his legacy. Rather than being simply a tyrant or a visionary, he was outstandingly successful, he also failed spectacularly. Thus, the author appoints increasing corruption and on-holding inflation as well as constant inequalities as examples of the government’s outage. The lack of political freedom and repeated breach of fundamental human rights are two other grave issues. However, Dersso considers the high level of economic growth for a long period of time as Meles’ greatest achievement, echoing international acclamation.


More resolve as before

Dersso concludes that of all “narratives” after Meles’ death the calls for changes are the most subtle and dangerous. Unwittingly or openly speculations on impending chances in the security balance do not only presume Meles’ resistance against the pressure from external powers but also ignore, that fundamental structures remain unchanged in large parts. From Dersso’s point of view, the greatest risk derives from the tendency to push Ethopia into abandoning the development model established under Meles.

Thus, Post-Meles government is to continue these policies “with as much, if not more, resolve as before”.

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