Editorial: Ethiopia Chose Economic Growth Over Inclusion
Nearly a year since the Oromia protests began, and despite efforts by the Ethiopian government to hide the ugly suppression on its own citizens from the rest of the world, it has culminated into a state of emergency for the next six months to restore order in restive Oromia and Amhara regions.
The decision to put one of Africa’s fastest growing nation on lock-down came after three incidents that are likely to redefine one of the continent’s silent massacres where economic and political marginalization has for months been met with brutal force and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people.
In September, Dutch-owned florist, Esmeralda Farms BV shut down operations in the horn of Africa nation after protesters attacked its farm in Bahir Dar, causing at least $7.8 million of destruction. Last week, the protesters attacked a Dangote Cement plant in the Amhara region.
The government linked the two attacks to the Oromia protests that have rocked the country since November last year.
Prior to the attack on Dangote Cement plant, dozens of people died in a stampede in Bishoftu after helicopter gunship fired on nearly two million celebrants attending the Irreecha festival, an annual thanksgiving ceremony by the Oromo tribe.
The stampede is so far the darkest moment in the clashes. At least 250 people died in the melee, according to social activists quoted by TesfaNews.
Two weeks after the massacre, the government decreed a state of emergency, an uncomfortable admission that state machinery has failed to suppress protests by the two biggest tribes.
Foreign investors are already developing cold feet in a nation where cheap labor and electricity has wooed manufacturers to set up operations. Ethiopia is on course to become the continent’s manufacturing hub in coming years.
The authoritarian regime under Hailemariam Desalegn accused some foreign eyes of inciting the Oromo and Amhara people to the violence. It branded opposition politicians terrorists and dissidents.
This decision follows an all-too familiar tact by African governments that cannot tolerate objective opposition, choosing to label those involved as enemies of the state.
It accused neighboring Eritrea, Egypt and other countries of arming and training the groups that attacked the two plants in the months-long violence that is threatening to undo the nation’s economic gains, The Guardian reported.
Economic and political marginalization became the fire behind the protests that have seen investors leave the nation and others incur losses running into billions of dollars. The government can no longer hide it.
The declaration came days after Ethiopia opened Africa’s first electric railway linking it to Djibouti which will boost Ethiopia’s economy by reducing the transport of imports from the port of Djibouti from three days by road to about 12 hours.
It will handle nearly 90 percent of the nation’s imports currently transported by road, BBC reported.
The government however chose economic growth over the economic inclusion of its people, despite their persistent protests and now it is paying the price through the state of emergency.
After hundreds of deaths ignored by the international community and trampled upon by the government’s security forces, the next six-months are set to be key to the country.
It will be a testing period for the nation to maintain investor confidence on the back of the Oromia protests.
The self-defeating tactics adopted by the Ethiopian government to address genuine cries against lack of job opportunities, more political inclusion and more space to enjoy freedoms and rights in the Oromo and Amhara regions may scare away investors, according to the Embassy of the US.