Policy Brief: Reform in Ethiopia – Turning Promise into Progress
Yoseph Badwaza & Jon Temin, Freedom House
Ethiopia has seen dramatic political changes this year, but significant challenges remain. The United States should seize this opportunity to support a genuine democratic transition in a pivotal country like Ethiopia.
- In January 2018, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) declared that it would pursue reforms in response to intensifying antigovernment protests that began in November 2015.
- In April, at the age of 42, Abiy Ahmed became one of Africa’s youngest leaders when he was selected by the EPRDF as prime minister following the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn.
- Abiy wasted little time in accelerating the reform agenda, which included lifting the state of emergency, releasing political prisoners, and announcing plans to revise repressive laws.
The EPRDF has ruled Ethiopia since 1991. Along with its affiliated ethnic based parties, the EPRDF currently holds all 547 seats in the parliament. Uncompetitive elections and repressive laws on antiterrorism, civil society, and the media have been used to entrench the EPRDF’s authoritarian rule, effectively eliminating opposition parties and independent news outlets and stifling all forms of dissent. Freedom House has rated Ethiopia as Not Free since 2011. Ethiopia is a country of genuine strategic importance. Home to more than 100 million people and with high population growth rates, it is projected to be among the world’s 10 most populous countries by 2050. The economy is a potential juggernaut, posting a 10 percent GDP growth rate in 2017, according to the World Bank. Ethiopian troops play critical roles in UN peacekeeping missions around the world. The country is poised to become an important power in the pivotal Red Sea region.