Whispers of rebellion: The revolution underway in Ethiopia

Whispers of rebellion: The revolution underway in Ethiopia

Whispers of rebellion: The revolution underway in Ethiopia

Isael Ze Etiel

For generations, Ethiopians suffered under an order that favored those in power rather than serving the needs of ordinary people, slowly stripping away their essential human and democratic freedoms. Leaders treated locals as if they were objects of their rule, silencing any dissenting opinions and denying them the ability to determine their own future. This system exclusively supported those at the highest levels, while the majority of Ethiopians lived under the weight of oppression and their voices were silenced. The nation witnessed a repeated pattern of repression, demonstrations, and persistent discontent that ultimately led to the current national unrest and the rise of Abiy Ahmed to leadership. Some felt crushed by the system without any representation, while others hoped that a new beginning could bring long-sought change. However, the promised transformation has proven elusive, leaving many to wonder if Ethiopia is truly on the path to a better future.

In Ethiopia, generations of Ethiopians have had to live without some of the most basic human and democratic rights. Through a well-oiled propaganda machine, successive holders of the Ethiopian throne have managed to suppress dissenting opinion, limit freedom of expression, and foster a culture of ambiguity around power. Citizens have become subjects, not stakeholders. Voices that speak out against injustice and demand rights have been silenced and have suffered harsh consequences. This has ultimately created what I call a “culture of tolerance for ambiguity,” a powerful tool of the regime that has helped it maintain its grip on power. It has also taught broader segments of the population to accept the system as a given and to internalize helplessness. The attribute of tolerance for ambiguity is loosely related to the popularized notion of “learned helplessness.” This oppressive system has created a culture of fear and silence, where people, while bearing the brunt of the nation’s struggles, were often unable to voice their concerns or demand accountability.

The 2005 national elections proved to be that moment. For the first time in decades, Ethiopians made public long-suppressed demands for rebellion, clearly demonstrating that the regime’s grip on power was increasingly tenuous. Hundreds of people were killed, and even more imprisoned, in the brutal crackdown on dissent that followed. One way to recognize the capacity of current regimes to terrorize seems to be for people to systematically make that terror public and unacceptable in some way. Such acts serve to reveal the “true” nature of particular regimes. While the smoldering flames of rebellion were quickly extinguished, so too was the long period of cowardly acquiescence to a regime that feared and attempted to control far more than was realistically possible. And after 2005, the seeds of resistance had been planted.

The death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in 2012 ushered in a period of political instability. His successor, Hailemariam Desalegn, struggled to maintain control of the regime, leading to a weakening of the regime. This, coupled with growing socio-economic grievances, fuelled a wave of protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions. The “Qeerroo, Fano and Zerema” movement, driven by a diverse coalition of activists, students and ordinary citizens, demanded fundamental change and an end to the repressive regime.

The movement, dubbed “Qeerroo, Fano and Zerema,” was the culmination of years of simmering discontent. It was fueled by a desire for fundamental change, a yearning for freedom and justice. The movement received support from a number of actors, including activists living abroad, such as prominent political figure Jewar Mohammed, and even elements within the ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

The rise of Abiy Ahmed, a man considered the epitome of reform, gave rise to hope for a new era that embraced democracy and justice. At first, gestures such as the release of political prisoners and the removal of restrictions on the media seemed like signs of change. However, this optimism was short-lived and these promises of change have mostly gone unfulfilled. In several respects, the circumstances of the Ethiopian people have deteriorated. His subsequent measures have led to extreme hostility among Ethiopians due to the ongoing conflicts in Amhara and Oromia, Tigray, Afar, Somali Ethiopia, Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, etc. With increasing instances of violence, displacement and disillusionment towards Ethiopians in particular were affected by his subsequent actions such as the ongoing wars taking place in different parts of the country including Amhara and Oromia, Tigray, Afar, Somali Ethiopia, Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz, etc.

The Ethiopian people continue to face numerous challenges, with the country’s economy struggling with high inflation, unemployment and limited opportunities for much of the population. The government has cracked down on dissent by muzzling critics and jailing activists, shattering its promise of change. Increasing numbers of people in Ethiopia are taking part in protests and other forms of activism, but many urban dwellers still appear reluctant to speak out for fear of a backlash from the authorities.

Ethiopia is at a crossroads. Despite the obstacles, the people’s yearning for freedom and justice prevails and the hope of overcoming them remains. Although Abiy’s promises of change have not been fully fulfilled, Ethiopians’ yearning for freedom and justice persists. The question remains whether their patience will be exhausted or whether they will rise again to fight for what they have always wanted but have been denied. A united Ethiopia, where citizens unite, demand accountability and follow the path towards genuine democracy and equity, will be vital in determining its destiny.

History repeats itself, proving that the people’s desire for freedom can never be oppressed indefinitely. They are now more determined and their voice can no longer be ignored. Leaders who fail to heed the genuine concerns and legitimate fears of citizens may inadvertently add fuel to the fire of discontent and end up destabilizing their countries. A democratic Ethiopia is the key to a stable and prosperous Ethiopia that respects human rights and allows its citizens to choose their own development path. The people must also realize the growing frustration of Ethiopians both at home and in the diaspora; therefore, they must modify their way of implementing reforms to produce permanent solutions regarding these disagreements.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com


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