The Ethiopian crisis

 

Ethiopia, the most historically important country in Africa has been plagued by serious political crisis eventuating in cruel civil war in which Tigray, a rebellious state is fighting against the federal government of Ethiopia. Unfortunately, it is the common people of Ethiopia who are paying the price. Ethiopia is in the volatile Horn of Africa where people of different cultures are lumped together and where the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam were to be found in the past. Ethiopia is an ancient country that existed millennia before the birth of Christ. It was founded according to its myth of origin by King Menelik1, the son of Queen of Sheba and the Israeli King Solomon. Some part of it like Axum and Cush were well known in ancient times as centres of civilizations belonging to the same cultural area that produced the great civilization of Ancient Egypt.

In medieval Europe, the place used to be referred to as the land of Prester John, a mythical Christian king in Africa. The country before the disastrous attempted colonization by Italy which ended when Ethiopia inflicted a military defeat on Italy in 1896 was ruled by emperors descended from the Solomonic dynasty. This dynasty provided a rallying point for Ethiopia in times of foreign invasion or national implosion. In modern times, Emperor Haile Selassie who ruled as regent from 1916 to 1930 when he was Ras Tafari Makonnen and as emperor from 1930 to 1974 was able to mobilize his people to resist the forces of Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy in 1935 when he tried to wipe out the humiliation Italy suffered from the Ethiopian military defeat of Adowa in 1896. The free world aided the emperor who escaped to Britain but returned to the country in 1941. Since the end of the Second World war, the country has been held together in spite of the fissiparous tendencies pulling the country apart by the strong government provided by the emperor and after the emperor was overthrown in 1974, by the military which continued the era of strong central government.

The country has passed through various military governments which of course lacked the kind of legitimacy the Solomonic dynasty had. There was an attempt during the brutal rule of Colonel Haile Mariam Mengitsu from 1977 to 1991 to build a socialist ideology around the military regime when he was General Secretary of Ethiopian Workers Party. Many opponents were murdered and all opposition was suppressed. People’s homes were seized and given to the poor under the guise of proletarian revolution. Eventually the regime was toppled by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and Mengitsu fled the country to Mugabe’s Harare and possibly now to South Africa for political asylum. After some period of instability, a democratic left wing government under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi from Tigray as leader of Tigray Peoples Liberation Front ( TPLF) was installed in 1991and 9191. He ruled the country with the traditional Ethiopian harsh rule brooking no opposition until he died in office in 2012. He introduced the idea of ethnic federalism into Ethiopia, an idea pregnant with future problems as we can see today. He brought a lot of economic development to the country and began building the mega dam on the White Nile whose origin is in Ethiopia with the idea of generating immense hydroelectric power to industrialize the country.

This great development plan could possibly bring Ethiopia into future war with Sudan and Egypt whose very lives depend on the uninterrupted flow of the Nile into their countries. It was during his regime that Eritrea which had been fighting to secede from Ethiopia was granted independence and the new Ethiopian constitution granted full autonomy to all the country’s provinces with the power to secede if any wanted to do so. Apparently, the framers of the constitution never imagined any group would like to take up the option. The secession of Eritrea, the former Italian colony from Ethiopia turned the country into a landlocked country with serious implication for its economic development because for years Ethiopia and Eritrea remained in state of belligerency. Ethiopia and Eritrea are peopled by same people separated by colonialism.

 

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