On February 8, 2021, The Institute of World Politics hosted its latest lecture in The African Strategic Forum titled “Ethiopia in 2021: Tackling Challenges and Looking Forward to the Future.” This event was moderated by Professor Hashem Mekki, who teaches Arabic at IWP, and included five expert panelists, Mr. Jon Abbink, Ms. Bronwyn Burton, Mr. Besu Feleke, Mr. Yosef Badwaza, and Dr. Gideon Timothewos Hessebon.
The panelists discussed the major obstacles present in Ethiopia and the challenges facing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in his goal to establish Ethiopia as a middle-income nation by 2025. One of the major challenges he faces is the serious conflict between the Ethiopian government and the authoritarian rule of the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) in Tigray, which is the northernmost region of Ethiopia.
The military campaign of the TPLF in Tigray has caused a major humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia. The political and psychological impacts of this crisis are colossal. Tigray must be rebuilt both politically and economically. Professor John Abbink believes that Ethiopia can reinvent itself with new and more upstanding political leaders, a thorough reset of economic principles, and better agreements on federal, state, and local budgeting. Ms. Burton emphasized that this is not a “war of choice” on the part of the Ethiopian people. She added that the international community was also culpable in this crisis because it has watched the TPLF steal money from Ethiopians and has not always intervened.
As the panelists noted, the upcoming 2021 Ethiopian election is incredibly significant. Mr. Feleke discussed how Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed inherited a country on the verge of collapse, which led to major political reform. He also discussed how ethnic federalism did not achieve democracy. Prime Minister Ahmed, Mr. Feleke believes, needs to push for reforms, including government transparency and upholding the rule of law.
Mr. Badwaza discussed the sad reality of the humanitarian crisis and how the political space of the country needs to be re-examined due to the election. Dr. Giden Timothewos also highlighted the importance of the upcoming election and guiding Ethiopia towards democracy. Although there are some obstacles, he believes that reform in the country is still on track.
The panel concluded with a lively question and answer session.