Commentators have referred to the recent uprisings in Ethiopia as an ‘upheaval’, but what this term implies, is that the violence and disruptions we have been witnessing in the country are somewhat sudden; something which is far removed from reality. What commentary has generally seemed to side-line is the reality which inspired these mass demonstrations, the state of Ethiopia is erupting and it was only a matter of time. Ethiopia has declared a six-month state of emergency in light of the deadly protests that have rocked the state during the past few months. These protests stem from the grievances of Ethiopians of various nations that have been subject to a system of governance whereby the Tigrayan people’s Liberation Front (TPLF) controls all key aspects of economic and political power. Key political institutions are owned and operated by and for the benefit of the ruling ethnic group. In order to fathom current events, understanding how successive Ethiopian governments have been instrumental in the persecution of its civilians and actively crushing any dissent is not only important, but necessary.

Though guaranteed by the constitution, freedom of assembly and association is in practice non-existent, the government resorts to its anti-terrorism law in order to stifle political dissent and to terrorise any party opposing its political agenda. The TPLF represent a mere 6% of Ethiopia’s population and have marginalised other ethnic groups treating them as second-class citizens by restricting their access to basic services such as Health care and Education. Moreover, Ethiopia ranks 103 out of 168 countries on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index, and has also lost about $25bn since 2000 to illicit financial outflows according to Global Financial Integrity. The majority of EU development funding to Ethiopia is financed by the European Development Fund, The cycle of 2014-2020 amounts to €745 million and under the previous cycle of funding from 2009-2013, the EU dedicated €674 million to programmes in Ethiopia. This is in addition to the large sums of money donated by the US and UK governments for development purposes. Despite this, preventable hunger is proliferating and Ethiopia is still among the world’s group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Inhabitants of the Ogaden region of Ethiopia share the grievances experienced by other civilians living under the brutal rule of the TPLF. Since the current Ethiopian government came to power in 1991, it has taken many steps and measures to starve out the civilian population in the Ogaden. They have imposed an economic blockade and a trade embargo on the entire region as well as closing the border between the Ogaden and Somalia. Furthermore, the Ethiopian armed forces indiscriminately mine areas, particularly around water wells and caravan routes which lead to neighbouring countries in order to restrict and stop trade movements. They burn down civilian food stores and confiscate Lorries carrying food supplies to the starving civilian population. As seen in the satellite images shown in HRW’s 2008 report, they also depopulated and razed entirely to the ground many villages and hamlets.

Advocates of Ogaden Liberation maintain that the optimal time has arrived for the TPLF to step down as its deteriorating reign takes its course, its perpetual cycle of terror and violence against innocent civilians in the Ogaden has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands during their time in power.

 

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