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Department of Education and Special Education (Professor)
University of Gothenburg
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“Failed state” refers to a state whose government is unable to perform its two most fundamental functions: it cannot project any meaningful authority over its territory and it cannot protect its national boundaries.
Since 1991, Somalia has rightfully been regarded as the quintessential example of a modern failed state. That is not to say that Somalia had no government: far from it, in the chaotic 1990s it often had more than one, some of which could count on more than eighty ministers. But their impact on the ground was non-existent. Even now, thirty years into the stalemate, the recognized government of Somalia controls little more than the capital city, Mogadishu, and this with the help of thousands of well-armed foreign troops under the auspices of the African Union. Somalia, therefore, is a failed state because its government cannot perform any duties (tax collection, public services, law and order) in almost three-quarters of its territory: in Somaliland and Puntland, which together constitute almost half of the territory, and in all areas under control by the militants of Al-Shabaab.
But Somalia is not the only failed state. Haiti, in the Caribbean, has recently attracted attention, too, as criminal gangs have all but monopolized the functions traditionally allocated to a government: tax collection, law and order, public services. In the stand-off between government and armed gangs, it is the gangs who hold the upper hand: the government is no longer able to offer even a pretense of authority in the capital city, Port-au-Prince. Haiti – the world’s newest failed state.
In a failed state, citizens gradually understand that their government is illegitimate because the social contract has been broken. A state – any state, democratic or not, corrupt or not – is predicated on the simple idea that citizens obey and pay taxes in exchange for a degree of public order, safety and, hopefully, public services. When the government is unable to cater to any of these needs (careful: not unwilling, but physically unable too) there seems to be no point in citizens keeping their end of the bargain. As such, new actors take on these roles: gangs, warlords, whichever.
The international community can be more stubborn: they’ll insist, against all evidence, that indeed there still is such a thing as a government in Somalia or Haiti, and that Somalia or Haiti are therefore still to be regarded as fully-functioning states. They can even be trusted with millions of dollars of foreign aid, and can take out loans from international agencies. But in private, even they know that they are dealing with a bogus reality.
Ethiopia can also be described as failed state. Our observation is that the country is composed of feeble and flawed institutions. Often, the executive barely functions, while the legislature, judiciary, bureaucracy, and armed forces have lost their capacity and professional independence. A failed state suffers from crumbling infrastructures, faltering utility supplies and educational and health facilities, and deteriorating basic human-development indicators, such as infant mortality and literacy rates. Failed states create an environment of flourishing corruption and negative growth rates, where honest economic activity cannot flourish. In particular, the Ethiopian political establishment faces a considerable existential political challenge.
Based on his findings, Bayeh, E. (2022:8) concluded that
Ethiopia is a fragile state, as it exhibits the features of state fragility stipulated in the conceptual framework. As per the findings, we can also conclude that Ethiopia has started the process of descent into state failure as it has started manifesting some of the indicators of state failure mentioned. Moreover, though the state has started contracting, the expression of political power and monopoly of violence does not shrink to the capital as it happens in failed states. The state still exercises authority over a large part of its territory and remains the primary security and social service provider. Thus, it is a bit early to conclude that the state has failed. However, it is fair to say that it has started the process of descent into state failure. Obviously, it is not a collapsed state…However, if the current situation continues anymore, there is no reason why it will not fail like Somalia and South Sudan and descend into the worst case of failure, which is state collapse. Given the long-standing remarkable history of survival and statehood resilience, the country can be salvaged from the condition of complete failure. This, however, needs a concerted effort from all concerned bodies. Otherwise, not just Ethiopia but the entire region will be destabilized given, inter alia, the country’s previous stabilizing role in the region, large population, and border share with many of the regional states.
The US state department has just reissued with updates to security information on Travel advisory. “Reconsider travel to Ethiopia due to conflict, civil unrest, crime, communications disruptions, and the potential for terrorism and kidnapping in border areas .
A strong state provides core guarantees to its citizens and others under its jurisdiction in the three interrelated realms of security, economics, and politics. A state failure manifests itself in a number of ways. Consequently, understanding the dynamics of state failure and dealing with its major causes as in Ethiopia assumes new urgency. The following four sections are empirically based manifestations of the current state of Ethiopia or scenarios of fragile state.
Abiy Ahmed’s Twisted Priorities
The Prime Minister’s development priorities are shaped by his objective to dismantle Ethiopia and create an independent Oromo state. These goals cannot be stated openly, of course, but in the meantime much quiet work can be done in creating the structures that will make this possible. An obvious point in hand –and one that even the casual observer can attest to– is the extreme Oromization of the capital city, Addis Ababa.
This is a priority some may agree or disagree with, but it is equally striking how, in a country blighted with poverty and desperation, he affords such high priority to opening glossy parks, gardens and palaces over the more useful construction of affordable housing. As everybody almost certainly knows by now, his 500-billion-birr palace and forest dacha project has sparked a huge public controversy. His delusion of grandeur comes in handy in such white-elephant grand construction fantasies. Its fantastical manifestation has just come in the form of forcing banks to contribute up to 20 million birr each for the construction of parks and gardens! In similar fashion, he demolishes private and government -owned dwelling units for his building construction fancies without compensation or replacements. The recent such demolitions near Ambassador Theater which I myself witnessed with a lump of anger in my chest are part of Abiy’s bizarre development priorities.
A civil engineer in the bureaucracy recently lamented the absence of a country-wide land-use plan and revealed without fear of political retribution that physical structures have been put up on sites designated for groundwater drilling, seriously jeopardizing future water supplies to Addis Ababa, which is already facing a water shortage of nearly 300000 cubic meters of water.
By contrast, the development priorities in Ethiopia have long been well identified: water, food, affordable housing, clothing, transport, education and training and basic health care! Supplies of these basic necessities have dwindled and their prices have skyrocketed! At the same time, the latest Toyota models are running all day long in Addis Ababa and supermarkets are well-stocked with luxury goods of all kinds! It is still a mystery who is financing the almost 6-billion- dollar annual fuel import bill! It is obvious that the wealthy in Ethiopia, at any rate most of them, did not make their money by producing goods and services which are in short supply but by selling land, getting inheritance money, through corruption, substantial inward remittances in foreign currency and the like.
There is no way Abiy Ahmed would give my FOPA development model a chance to be utilized for his main focus is on dismantling Ethiopia and building imposing physical structures both to deceive Ethiopians and inspire his professed tribe towards building a new state on the ruins of old Ethiopia. It is certainly bizarre, by all accounts.
A Three-Day Stay -At- Home Strike in Addis Ababa: Will Addis Ababans Support it?!
Addis Ababans have been denied their constitutional right to form a Killil for self-administration; the city itself has been unconstitutionally divided into Addis Ababa and Sheger by diktat; the Oromia Killil police force has been deployed sidelining the city’s own police force ; people from Amhara killil have been barred from entering Addis Ababa; Adanech Abebe is an unelected Mayor of Addis Ababa handpicked and appointed by Abiy Ahmed. AMHARAs have been targeted for persecution and human rights violations, including demolition of homes without due compensation and replacements.
At a country-wide level, as Addis Ababans are biologically and culturally intermingled and have originated from all the 85 ethnicities of Ethiopia, the vast majority of them are vehemently opposed to ethnic segregation and separation. In the June 2021 general election, it was credibly reported that Balderas for Genuine Democracy won in Addis Ababa but BILTSIGENA overturned the vote in its favor by diktat.
At any rate, the current political situation in Ethiopia in general and in particular in Addis Ababa has worsened over and above the very severe and widespread economic hardships including high inflation, housing and transport problems and extremely high unemployment. More recently,
Adanech Abebe, the unelected Mayor of Addis, publicly announced that a great number of people from neighboring Killils have entered Addis Ababa with the intention to overthrow by force the duly elected Abiy government! This incendiary announcement has greatly angered the peaceful residents of Addis Ababa and have led them to believe that the worst is yet to come. They have come to think that this is a pretext for launching an ethnic cleansing campaign including genocide against mainly the Amharas.
Be that as it may, Addis Ababans have a sufficient cause to peacefully register their grievances to the government through the safest means of a three-day stay-at-home strike by all the residents of Addis Ababa. I would like to suggest that an independent platform hold a quick on-line survey of people in Addis Ababa who support or oppose such a peaceful and safe strike.
Abiy Ahmed and His OPDO Are Being Gradually ‘Surrounded’ by Pro-Ethiopia Forces
The Amhara/Fano self-defense resistance the, Gurage, Sidama, Welayeta, Gambella, Gedeo and other such opposition groups, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the pro-Haji Omar Idris Muslims, the majority of Ethiopian pupils and students, the majority of the Ethiopian diaspora and most opposition political parties including Balderas and Enat are massing together against the main anti-Ethiopia forces OPDO/OLF, TPLF and other pro-OPDO groups. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church can ally with the pro-Haji Omar Idris Muslim group against Abiy Ahmed regime’s intervention in religious matters and anti-Orthodox Christian crimes. Opposition ethnic groups may not have legal political parties; so, they may have to simply support legal parties like Balderas and Enat that are opposed to the disintegration of Ethiopia as propounded by OPDO/OLF and TPLF
All the above-cited pro-Ethiopia groups of Ethiopians who constitute the vast majority of the Ethiopian people may engage in peaceful political struggle to oust the genocidal, tribalist and corrupt Abiy regime and form a transitional government to amend and change the ethnic apartheid constitution written and implemented by the anti- Ethiopia armed groups of Tplf and OLF, the latter having been eliminated by TPLF before the implementation of the basic law.
The priority tasks to be performed are the following:
- Securing the release of some 12000 Fano’s including ZEMENE KASSE detained in Amhara killil on orders from Abiy Ahmed;
- Purging dishonest members of the Amhara BILTSIGENA leadership and replacing them by dedicated individuals;
- Unifying the Amhara special force, militia and uniformed Fano’s under the same central command;
4.Orthodox Christians should support pro-Haji Omar Idris peaceful Muslim rallies and protest demonstrations;
- Turning out in huge numbers for a possible call by opposition parties for a peaceful three-day stay-at -home strike by all the residents of Addis Ababa;
- Replicating the three-day stay -at-home peaceful protest in other Killils.
If the peaceful protests indicated above are conducted in a sustained and intelligent manner, it is almost a foregone conclusion that the people will triumph over Abiy Ahmed’s reign of terror and save the country from total collapse.
Who is Financing Abiy Ahmed and His Crazy Ethiopia Demolition Project?!
In Addis Ababa supermarkets are still well-stocked and cars are running 24/7. Prices are high, extremely high but money is no object for the ruling class and the nouveau riches. Adanech Abebe appears on stage with a four- million -birr jacket and a 45000-birr scarf. She is given to lecturing mostly the dispirited and downtrodden housewives, half-starved youngsters and the unemployed and homeless of Addis Ababa on anything from civic responsibilities to the quantum leap Addis Ababa is making in providing affordable housing for all the residents of the city! Of course, the reality on the ground tells a different story.
One thing is clear: Abiy Ahmed is a fantastic yarn-spinner and storyteller. He routinely lectures on esoteric recipes including boiling cabbages and sprinkling a little salt on them and having a decent meal for the day! His sci-fi fabrications and stories of lush meadows and fancy palaces and forest dachas and gardens of Eden are so regaling that his audiences, mainly well-fed and dressed officials and bureaucrats with heavily made-up faces, tend to fall into a fabulous reverie! But the point is, where does he get the money from to try and realize at least some of his dreams down on the ground?! He is building a fancy palace at the astronomically high cost of 500 billion birr! The rest of his white-elephant projects have included a science museum, an impressive public library, impressive parks and gardens, boarding schools, etc. He is using these non-priority projects to hoodwink the Ethiopian people into believing that he is constructing Ethiopia while in truth he is deconstructing not only her edifice but also its long and ancient history. Who is financing Abiy and his historical and physical demolition of Ethiopia?
The Inhuman Demolition of Homes and Shops of Ethiopians at Ambassador and Piazza area
Imagine your home being demolished over your head! Your shop of livelihood being dismantled in minutes by your own compatriots as the so-called Oromia police force triumphantly looks on! I felt devastated for the hard-working owners of the kiosks, shops, eateries, mini-supermarkets and butcheries in front of the Ambassador Theater close to Ethiopia Hotel which were being dismantled in front of hundreds of owners and onlookers including me! The security and police force presence was frightening. I approached one of the onlookers and asked him: ” Have they been given replacements?” ” I don’t think so!” he replied! I shook my head several times to protest against the wanton demolition! Valiantly, even if I say so myself, I uttered,” Why don’t they first drive out Sudan and South Sudan!” I then added,” That is the price we have to pay for remaining quiet when our human and democratic rights are violated!”
Secretary of State Blinken is Coming to Addis Ababa ! What Should We Tell the Great Man?
We should tell him: you have given us nearly one hundred billion dollars of aid and assistance over the last 50 years but there is nothing to show for it except more hunger, more political instability and more human and democratic rights violations. That is largely because of the ignorant and self-serving political leaders you have helped come to power and stay in power! Abiy Ahmed is arguably the worst of them all, who incidentally has been diagnosed by a professional psychiatrist with three types of mental disorder including bipolar disorder! He has descended so low into the abyss of infamy that nursing him back to political health is completely out of the question! He has been complicit in several genocidal massacres and has been found after the fact to have triggered the recent devastating civil war in which 1.2 million combatants and non-combatants perished! The list of crimes committed on his watch is very long.
Now Mr. Secretary, Abiy has blocked internet connections! He has banned peaceful political gatherings and rallies and duly registered parties cannot operate at all! We can’t breathe, Mr. Secretary. We are planning a peaceful three-day stay-at-home strike here in Addis Ababa to show our disapproval of his reign of terror! Just tell him “No lifting of sanctions; no aid other than humanitarian; I can give you political asylum if you can’t allow the planned strike in Addis!” Those words will not cost you a dime but they will set free 120 million Ethiopians from his genocidal reign of terror! Thank you in advance, Mr. Secretary! Remember, Mr. Secretary, the enormous global power you wield as the Foreign Minister of the most powerful nation on earth.
Abiy Unconstitutionally Cedes Federal Government Powers to Oromia Killil to Ensure His Objective of Dismembering Ethiopia
The Oromia Killil police force unconstitutionally barred the constitutionally and legally established Balderas for Genuine Democracy Party from holding its conference at Gambella Hotel in Addis Ababa on March 12, 2023. Adanech Abebe, a woman from Oromia Killil, appointed by Abiy Ahmed to kowtow to the wildly adventurous, high-testosterone warlord of Oromia Killil, Shimeles Abdisa ! The Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church successfully foiled Abiy’s attempt to form a separate synod for the Oromia Killil, which indicates Abiy’s not-so-hidden agenda of somehow breaking Ethiopia up. Also, Abiy Ahmed tried to hoist his regional flag and to force students to sing his regional anthem in Addis Ababa but the brave pupils and students of Addis Ababa scuttled the sinister act by boycotting classes for over three days. And now Abiy Ahmed is demolishing houses and kiosks of targeted groups in Addis Ababa using the police force unconstitutionally deployed from Oromia Killil.
Abiy Ahmed tried to scare the President of Amhara killil, Kefeyale, into paying homage to Shimeles Abdisa and indirectly to Abiy himself. Kefeyale has resisted the indignity so far perhaps because the next indignity would be to cede Welkait Plus to TPLF. The broad outline of Abiy’s grand strategy is clear enough! He is trying to weaken the federal government and the national military and gradually transfer their powers to the so-called Oromia government and the Oromia special force, which according to some reports, is already stronger than or as strong as the national military.
The bottom line is clear enough! Abiy is deliberately gradually ceding control of Addis Ababa to Shimeles. The intention is to control the whole country from Addis Ababa and then do as they please. What they are doing is totally illegal even according to their own ethnic apartheid constitution. They are apparently running out of time, which is why they don’t even honor their own constitution. They are now above the law because almost all the entire Ethiopian people are turning against them. We are also running out of time to save our lives and our country. Abiy will not hesitate to unleash a reign of terror in Addis Ababa as he did in Wellega and elsewhere through Desperado no. One, Shimeles Abdisa.
Ethiopians have never faced such a national crisis in their long history! Abiy Ahmed has been able to inflict such horrendous damage and hardship by controlling the military, unconstitutionally organizing his own republican guard, special forces, militias and federal police force, etc. through downright chicanery and duplicity and more recently by brute force. The question now is, what can citizens do to peacefully oppose such outrageous crimes being perpetrated by the regime? We have witnessed the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church almost bringing the regime to its knees peacefully simply by mobilizing its faithful.
Finally, the overall characteristics of a failed state can be discerned in the following five intertwined major areas, the empirical aspects of which are outlined above. These characteristics are prevalent in Ethiopia. Decreased ability to defend national boundaries — Territory can be taken over by criminal gangs, rebellious insurgents, or invading military forces from another state. Decreased ability to police its territory — Government no longer holds a monopoly on the use of physical force to deter crime and protect the public. Corruption, crime, and lawlessness often increase. Decreased public services — State-sponsored services deteriorate, including health care, public education, infrastructure such as roads and utilities, and police/fire departments. Decreased economic stability — Unemployment rises, inflation skyrockets, currency loses value both domestically and internationally, tax revenue is lost and economic crimes often go unpunished. Decreased legitimacy — Overall trust in the government and its ability diminishes, both domestically among the state’s citizens and internationally among other states.
(In collaboration with TG, Addis Ababa)
Bayeh, E. (2022). Post-2018 Ethiopia: state fragility, failure, or collapse?. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 9(1), 1-8.
Rameshshanker V, MacIntyre C, Stewart S (2020) Beyond the headlines: forgotten fragility in Ethiopia. Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University. https://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/beyond-headlines-forgotten-fragility-ethiopia. Accessed 10 Apr 2022
Yusuf S (2019) Drivers of ethnic conflict in contemporary Ethiopia. Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria