Is it Time to Make Ethiopia-America Partnership Great Again?

12 mins read

So what we’re looking to do is refashion our engagement with Ethiopia… You know historically we’ve had a strong partnership with Ethiopia… Molly McPhee, US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs.

I am a MEGA-MAGA Republican.

That is a Make Ethiopia Great Again-Make America Great Again Republican.

I would very much like to see relations between Ethiopia and the US thaw out, warm up and surge to new heights.

In other words, I would like to see a détente in bilateral relations in which the Biden administration and the Ethiopian government can sit down and respectfully exchange ideas to advance their mutual interests.

I have spent much of my time over the past two years slicing, dicing and mincing US foreign policy in Ethiopia with acerbic polemic.

I was pleasantly surprised by the outward appearances in US-Ethiopia relations during the US-Africa Summit in mid-December 2022.

I had expected rhetorical pyrotechnics from the US with a lot of finger pointing, teeth-gnashing and table pounding.

President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken showed amity and cordiality and treated Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his delegation with dignity.

Much to the astonishment of many observers, PM Abiy Ahmed and President Joe Biden appeared in informal settings and exhibited sociability, good will, rapport and manifest comfort in each other’s presence.

Dignity, sovereignty, unity and other related values are big deals to me.

In fact, I railed against the Biden administration for the last two years because I believed the administration treated Ethiopia with great contempt and indignity.

That led me to write my commentary “Clash of Civilizations,” in which I tried to teach the Biden administration “Ethiopia is a civilization, not a country.”

The Good Book teaches, “there is a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together.”

It is time to heal the wounds of the past two years between Ethiopia and the US. Time to patch up the battered partnership. Time to  beat the swords into plowshares and the spears into pruning hooks. Time to cast away the sticks and stones and pick up the chalice of peace and diplomacy.

Over the last three months since the US-Africa Summit, I have noticed what appears to be efforts on the part of the Biden administration to refrain from openly denigrating, vilifying and humiliating Ethiopia for its alleged failures to keep its house in order.

The Biden administration at least in public has shown respect for Ethiopian sovereignty by refraining from from inflammatory rhetoric which smacked of blatant interference in Ethiopia’s internal affairs.

The Biden administration now seems to uphold the anchoring principle of Africa’s foreign relations: “African solutions to African problems.” Indeed, “Ethiopian solutions to Ethiopian problems.”

Blinken’s Ethiopia visit

On March 10, 2023, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Molly Phee announced Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Ethiopia and Niger:

In Ethiopia, the Secretary has been devoted since he assumed office to finding a way to restore peace and stability… So this visit will be part of our ongoing and dynamic engagement with the Ethiopians to help consolidate that peace. So what we’re looking to do is refashion our engagement with Ethiopia… You know historically we’ve had a strong partnership with Ethiopia… We will continue to need steps by Ethiopia to help break the cycle of ethnic political violence that has set the country back for so many decades, including most acutely in this recent conflict.

Normally, I view any statement issued on Ethiopia by the Biden administration in a negative light. I have ample reasons to hypercritically examine the administration’s policy statements and views on Ethiopia.

There are a few things I find encouraging and positive in Phee’s statement.

First, I found encouraging the language expressing desire to energize “dynamic engagement with the Ethiopians to help consolidate peace.”  I read that to mean the Biden administration will not dictate or hector Ethiopia on how it should keep its house in order but actively support ongoing efforts and defer to the principle of “Ethiopian solutions to Ethiopian problems.”

Second, the language supportive of “refashioning US engagement with Ethiopia” is promising. I read that to mean going forward bilateral relations will be based on mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty, unity and dignity. A refashioned engagement will have no humiliating sanctions/threat of sanctions or incur economic, diplomatic and psyops warfare against Ethiopia.

Third, it is reassuring the Biden administration wants to restore the “historic strong partnership between Ethiopia and the US.” I read that to mean Ethiopia and America are natural allies with relations dating back to 1903.

(Would it not be wonderful if the two countries could celebrate 120 years of bilateral relations in 2023? Hint, hint.)

There are also things unsaid in the statement I liked.

There are no imperious commands about “humanitarian access” and the rest of it.

There are no threats of sanctions and other unspecified punishments.

There is no blanket condemnation of the Ethiopian government for acts of transgression, commission or omission.

There is also no intimation of Ethiopia possible reinstatement to the AGOA regime.

I have taken a strong stand on AGOA and as matter of national dignity Ethiopia should not beg for reinstatement.

If the US wants to strengthen relations with Ethiopia, reinstatement to AGOA could be regarded viewed as a gesture of goodwill, good faith and renewed partnership.

As far as I am concerned, the AGOA matter should be left unmentioned and entirely to the discretion of the Biden administration.

Is it likely Blinken’s visit will result in “dynamic engagement,” “refashioned relations” and restoration of the “historic strong partnership” between the US and Ethiopia?

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast;/ Man never Is, but always To be blest,” wrote Alexander Pope.

Following the December 2022 US Africa Summit, I expressed cautious optimism for the possibility of a significantly improved Ethiopia-US relations.

I also expressed reservations that the wounds inflicted on Ethiopia by the Biden administration over the past two years are too deep and harrowing to heal in a short time.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is reputed, inaccurately, to have said, “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.”

I believe Ethiopia and the US have overlapping national interests which compel them to work together in strong partnership.

US policy in Ethiopia is focused on four broad goals:

(1) protecting American citizens,

(2) strengthening democratic institutions and expanding human rights,

(3) spurring broad-based economic growth and promoting development, and

(4) advancing regional peace and security.

I. The Ethiopian government is wholly committed to the protection of American citizens in its jurisdiction.

Indeed, Ethiopian Airlines, designated “Africa’s Best” in 2022 by Global Traveller Magazine, transports hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians and Americans of Ethiopian ancestry in and out of Ethiopia every year.

Ethiopians living abroad sent 4.2 billion US dollars in remittance in 2022, the vast majority of whom live in the US. The Ethiopian government has even established an Ethiopian Diaspora Agency which serves a great number of disaspora Ethiopians in the US.

When the US State Department issued frantic calls for US citizens to leave Ethiopia in the winter of 2022, Ethiopian Americans returned to their ancestral home by the hundreds of thousands

II. The Ethiopian government is wholly committed to strengthening democratic institutions and expanding human rights.

In June 2021, Ethiopia had the first free and fair election certified by the African Union in its millennia-long history.

Both countries face challenges to their system of democracy.

America faced its greatest threat on January 6, 2021 when a mob stormed the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. in a demented attempt to prevent a joint session of Congress from counting the electoral college votes to formalize the victory of President-elect Joe Biden.

Ethiopia’s budding democracy faced its greatest threat when the terrorist TPLF waged a 2-year war causing the deaths of over a million people.

Ethiopia has prepared a roadmap for transitional justice to look into human rights violations during the 2-year TPLF terrorist war.

Ethiopia has charged 640 persons suspected of corruption at one time, arguably the first instance of such prosecutorial action in world history.

III. Spurring broad-based economic growth and promoting development.

Ethiopia has taken extraordinary measures to facilitate foreign direct investment.

In its 2021 the US State Department in its Business Climate Statement reported:

Ethiopia’s Investment Proclamation allows all registered foreign investors, whether or not they receive incentives, to remit profits and dividends, principal and interest on foreign loans, and fees related to technology transfer.

The United States has had a long-standing partnership with Ethiopia with long-term investments in Ethiopia amounting to more than $13 billion in total assistance.

But there are problems.

In July 2015, President Barack Obama distilled the problem of American investment in Ethiopia.

As you know, the U.S. is Ethiopia’s strategic partner in many fields.  And the steady flow of quality investment from the United States, as much as we crave it, though the recent beginning is so encouraging, has often been in short supply.  We have discussed, among other things, how to encourage U.S. investors to come to Ethiopia in large numbers, where there are numerous competitive and comparative advantages they can benefit from.

Ethiopia needs much more US investments and much less aid.

IV. Advancing regional peace and security.

Ethiopia and the US have worked in tandem to eradicate the scourge of terrorism from the Horn of Africa.

In July 2015, during his state visit, President Obama called Ethiopia an “outstanding partner” in the fight against terrorism in the Horn and a “key partner” in resolving the crises in South Sudan. He praised Ethiopia for being “a major contributor to U.N. peacekeeping efforts”, and for its unique role in “contributing more peacekeeping troops than any other country in Africa.”

The Horn of Africa continues to experience security threats in all forms – terrorism, wars, militancy, humanitarian catastrophes, drought and hunger.

A stable and prosperous Ethiopia is a solid anchor for the Horn region. What happens in Ethiopia, with the second largest population in Africa, affects not only the region but also the whole continent.

Advancing peace and security in the Horn region begins with advancing peace and security in Ethiopia. A peaceful, secure and prosperous Ethiopia is a peaceful, secure and prosperous Horn of Africa.

Turning to look at the GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam) elephant in the living/ boardroom

My principal concern with Secretary Blinken’s Ethiopia visit is whether he 1) will be talking about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), 2) if so, squeeze Ethiopia to submit to Egypt’s demand which will effectively preventing Ethiopia from using its Nile waters consistent with international law and 3) demand a role in the GERD talks being managed by the African Union.

Recently, the Arab League passed a resolution sponsored by Egypt on the GERD which was  swiftly rejected  by the Ethiopian government.

In my commentary following the US-Africa Summit, I confessed my gnawing concern  Secretary Blinken might lean on Ethiopia on GERD disputes.

In 2020, the Trump administration outrageously tried to dictate terms of a GERD agreement to Ethiopia to no avail.

Trump then egged the Egyptians to bomb the GERD if Ethiopia refused to sign the “agreement.”

 And they’ll end up blowing up the dam. And I said it — and I say it loud and clear, “They’ll blow up that dam.” And they have to do something. So whatever you can do to get them, Ethiopia, to do that, they’re going to have to. Okay? And we’ve cut off all payment and everything else to Ethiopia. (Boldface added.) 

In his February 29, 2020 blog, former US Ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn expressed surprise over the so-called GERD agreement “facilitated” by former Secretary Steven Mnuchin and The World Bank’s president David Malpass:

The fact that the U.S. Treasury Department is in charge of this effort is surprising. In any other administration, the State Department, which actually has expertise on this issue, would broker the agreement. So, I wonder. What are the United States up to?

 Ambassador Shinn then hit the nail on the head:

The United States seems to be putting its thumb on the scale in favor of Egypt. Perhaps it is time to make the agreement public so that everyone can see what the United States is proposing.

I cannot imagine a scenario in which the Biden administration would seek to humiliate Ethiopia over the GERD as did the Trump administration. That is a nonstarter!

The Biden administration can play a constructive and positive role in the GERD dispute: Let Africans deal with it. Let Africans solve it. Let Africans figure it out. They are adults. They don’t need the supervision of other adults to get their houses in order.

Let them figure it out using their “African solutions to African problems” doctrine.

The principle of “African solutions to African problems is quintessentially and existentially a statement of dignity in sovereignty.

On October 16, 2020, soon-to-be elected president Joe Biden on his Facebook page wrote:

My dad always told me: ‘Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about your place in your community. It’s about being able to look your kids in the eye and say, honey, it’s going to be okay.’

I feel the same way today as President Biden felt in 2020 about the GERD.

I say to President Biden:

Joey, the GERD to Ethiopians is about a lot more than an electric power generation plant. It’s about OUR Ethiopian dignity. It is about a monument to Ethiopian development paid in the blood, sweat and tears of all Ethiopians, poor and rich alike. It’s about respect. It’s about OUR place in the community of nations, the world, the cosmos, the universe. It’s about being able to look into the eyes of our mothers whose eyes have been blinded by wood smoke and their backs broken by carrying firewood.

It is about looking them into the eyes of each one of the millions of mothers throughout the land and saying, “Honey, it is going to be okay because, thank God Almighty, the GERD will make you free,  free from carrying firewood on your back,  free from from going blind from wood smoke, free to prosper and live out your dreams in dignity and pride because you were able able to build the largest and most modern hydroelectric dam in all of Africa!

[Post Script: My private conversation with “Little Doubting Thomas” hiding in me]

When I heard of Secretary Blinken’s trip to Ethiopia and Niger, I prepared two full commentaries.

One commentary was inspired by my very good and longtime best friend “Little Doubting Thomas (LDT),” who always hides in the back of my mind telling me stuff.

LDT recommended I publish my usual acerbic commentary that leaves no stones unturned, defiant, implacable, relentless and unsparing.

That commentary will never see the light of day unless I have been proven to be a doggone old fool after Secretary Blinken’s visit!

The second commentary is this one I chose to publish here.

It was not easy to choose.

I had a hard conversation with Mr. LDT.

LDT said to me, “Don’t trust’em. It is a ruse. A game. It is a staged drama. Don’t be a chump. Go hard on ’em, all the way. No compromises!”

I said to LDT, “How about I trust’em first and verify later.”

LDT replied, “Sure, trust’em. Trust them as far as you can throw them! Then verify.”

At that point, I threw Little Doubting Thomas himself into the wind. Just like one would throw caution to the wind.

I said, “Begone LDT! I will take my chances. If it is a staged drama as you say, I would be the fool.”

As LDT drifted away in the wind, I could hear him say, “You got that right! There is no fool like an old fool.”

I do not know how Blinken’s visit will turn out.

I am hopeful it will mark the beginning of a new chapter in Ethiopia-US relations.

But I have to admit, the words of that doggone Doubtful Thomas keeps ringing in my ear, “They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Hilary Clinton facing unexpected defeat delivered a magnificently eloquent concession speech to Barack Obama, which expresses my feelings as I look forward for improved Ethiopia-US relations:

So I want to say to my supporters: When you hear people saying or think to yourself, ‘If only, or, ‘What if,’ I say, please, don’t go there. Every moment wasted looking back keeps us from moving forward. Life is too short, time is too precious, and the stakes are too high to dwell on what might have been. We have to work together for what still can be. And that is why I will work my heart out to make sure that Senator Obama is our next President. And I hope and pray that all of you will join me in that effort.

I believe the stakes are too high for Ethiopia and the US to dwell on what mighta, coulda or shoulda been.

I wish success to Secretary Blinken on his first visit to Ethiopia. I wish success to Ethiopia’s leadership.

I am fully confident all Ethiopians will be happy to have Secretary Blinken in the Land of Origins —  the Cradle of Humanity — and show him the legendary Ethiopian hospitality.

As a MEGA-MAGA Ethiopian American, it is my moral duty to make relations between Ethiopia and America Great Again.

To that end, I too will work my heart out and hope and pray all Ethiopian Americans will join me in that effort.

If I have been wrong and that little old bas**rd Doubting Thomas right, I would have proven at least one thing: “There is really no fool like an old fool.”










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The future economy – Capital Newspaper

3 mins read

Digitisation increases the return on capital and thus further increases the already large gap between the few who are owners of digital machines and platforms and the many others who are getting relatively less and less for their work. This is why a new way of overcoming the old division between capital and labor is needed, at least to secure one’s old age. Several Economists are proposing a completely new concept that resolves a longstanding economic riddle by making every single person a shareholder of the new digital machines and algorithms. They call We the concept “DigiPension”.
In today’s world, robots and algorithms take over more and more of people’s work. That has also been the case since the Industrial Revolution, again and again. But while machines have taken over activities, sooner or later the people affected have found other meaningful tasks.
Paul Spahn, Professor Emeritus of Goethe University in Germany stated that in that process, to date they became even wealthier than before. That’s no surprise, because what better thing can happen than machines doing the work and people benefiting from the goods and services produced? And since such processes have usually gone well for society, we have become slightly negligent toward further automation through digitization.
According to Paul Spahn, transformation processes of this kind only went well as long as machines could not work alone. They were productive only if operated, controlled and further developed by people. It also didn’t hurt that, contrary to the early naysayers, manufacturing plants could be multiplied at will. That process ultimately benefited the working people for a simple reason: The more machines there were, the more they needed people to operate them.
Christian Rieck, Professor for Finance at Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences argued that for this reason, Marx was wrong. It was not the case, as his script had predicted, that the capital owners were gathering more and more wealth, while the working population continued to become impoverished. On the contrary, after a transitional phase, the operation of these machines required well-trained people, so that a wealthy middle class could emerge for the first time in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.
Christian Rieck noted that the digital future of the economy will drastically change this benevolent scenario. While machines used to replace muscle power and manual work, today they are increasingly replacing mental activities. While the strategy of shifting towards brain work, ambitious as it is, will only pay off to a limited extent, at some point at least simpler services will be replicated using algorithms as “artificial intelligence.” And thus the people holding these jobs will become replaceable. This must have a negative impact on participation in economic growth, wealth distribution and social stability.
Dr. Chris Kutarna, a Fellow of the University of Oxford stated that from the point of view of distribution, all this is critical as long as people see themselves split into the two groups mentioned: Capital owners and people who make a living from their work. Economists usually agree that this gap can only be bridged by employee participation in productive capital. One promising way to do this is by saving in shares.
According to Dr. Chris Kutarna, achieving this participation with traditional methods such as tax incentives or investment wage models have long been tried but have not been very successful because they are based on income. This approach also has the big disadvantage that it effectively excludes welfare recipients, people that would be particularly dependent on wealth accumulation.
Unfortunately, saving by investing in stocks still seems to too many today as if it were purely a matter for the rich. But what is insufficiently understood at this critical juncture is that in this arena digitization offers completely new opportunities. It allows the acquisition of personalized shares in productive capital, even for smallest amounts, without significant collection costs. Older incentive models to invest modest amount of income in stocks for pensions still had to fail simply because of the high transaction costs during the analogue era.
Dieter Thoms, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St. Gallen said that today, however, such transactions are no longer handled by people, but processed digitally, so that the costs for the transactions are almost zero. This applies even to the smallest amounts, which in principle creates the room to make any person a mini-capitalist, no matter how poor or rich they are. According to Dieter Thoms, the only condition is that saving accrues over time steadily and consistently

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IAEA Annual Summit Kicks off in Addis Ababa –

1 min read

Addis Ababa, March 13, 2023(Walta) – The 2023 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) annual summit has kicked off in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The summit is expected to review the support and implementation of technical cooperation for African member countries and set the next direction.

Higher officials of the agency, representatives of member countries and national coordinators of researchers are participating at the event.



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Minority rights dilemma exemplifies Ethiopia’s brutal identity crisis

19 mins read
This article is part of the Analytical Reporting to Improve the Federation (ARIF) project.

Ethiopia’s ethnofederal system was designed to counter coercive homogenization, but, as in the former Yugoslavia, it left minorities tragically exposed in dominant groups’ homelands.

For Hassan, an Amhara farmer who called Oromia home for a quarter of a century, last year’s rainy season came pouring with tears and blood.

On 18 June 2022, a string of villages in Tole, which is largely populated by Amharas, a minority in Oromia region, saw one of the deadliest identity-based attacks in recent years. Gunmen set houses ablaze, looted properties, and killed hundreds.

The federal government and several survivors blamed the attack in West Wollega Zone on the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA)—Oromo nationalist insurgents at war with the authorities since 2018—accusations the group denied.

Among those slain were four of Hassan’s family: two sons, a daughter-in-law, and a granddaughter. The attacks went on for hours and regional security forces didn’t arrive until much later despite being stationed less than 20 kilometers away.

“It was indescribable. Too many people were lost,” Hassan recalled to Ethiopia Insight about the violence. International rights groups called it a “callous massacre” carried out with “unmitigated cruelty”.

The Tole atrocity occurred in a wider context of growing insurgency and deteriorating insecurity in many areas in Oromia, which has intensified and spread in recent months. Violence also recently flared again in an Oromo enclave in Amhara region. Much like other conflicts across Ethiopia, civilians have been caught in the crossfire.

These conflicts among dominant and minority groups are part of a general increase in violence across Ethiopia. In recent years, there has been a surge in clashes between various formal and informal groups, and more consistent fighting between groups from neighboring regions in bordering areas.

Worryingly, these dynamics mirror the Yugoslav federation prior to its violent ‘Balkanization’ during the 1990s. For example, Slobodan Milošević, from the dominant Serbian republic, rose to power in the late 1980s by highlighting the alleged oppression of minority Serbs by the Albanian majority in Kosovo and, from 1992 to 1999, launched successive campaigns of ethnic cleansing.

Increasingly, in Ethiopia, political violence is taking a brutal form in which appalling acts targeting civilians are not only committed but also filmed. Social media is inundated with footage of people being burned alive, villages set ablaze, and heads on spikes.

Such instability has exposed the failure of the country’s political system to protect minorities. Some minority communities report a lack of confidence in regional government structures that, as in the case of Tole, almost entirely comprise members of the region’s dominant group.

Hassan fled Tole with his four surviving children and spent weeks in a nearby makeshift camp. His and hundreds of other families returned to their villages only following federal assurances.

But, in October, when federal soldiers left the area, Hassan felt he couldn’t stay in the region any longer. Oromia security forces lack the appetite to protect “others” and sometimes they even condone violence against Amharas, he argued.

One morning “we got up at 3am and started traveling,” he told Ethiopia Insight. “We left everything behind.” He’s now in Worebabo in Northern Wollo Zone of Amhara region, hundreds of kilometers to the northeast, where his family faces an uncertain future.

Two weeks after the Tole tragedy, at least 150 Amharas were killed during similar attacks in neighboring Kellem Wollega Zone.

Such incidents are, unfortunately, all too common in today’s Ethiopia.

The past four years have seen an unprecedented surge of violence against minorities, sometimes in the form of targeted attacks and on other occasions during clashes with dominant groups.

As such, it’s imperative to explore the structural fault lines created by the federal constitution—or, arguably, by its lack of implementation—that have become increasingly apparent amid the recent violence.

Federalism Rationale

Ethiopia has historically been a unitary state characterized by centralization of power and homogenization of identity, efforts that many believe were inconsiderate of the country’s diverse people, languages, religions, and ways of life.

Consequently, the unitarist approach led to pervasive feelings of marginalization. It began to face challenges in the 1960s from left-leaning movements, many of which were mobilized around ethno-national identities. They gradually picked up momentum and, in 1974, contributed to overthrowing Ethiopia’s imperial dynasty.

Upon taking power, a committee of military officers known as the Derg also failed to address the national question and imposed another unitarist system. Its leaders visited unspeakable violence on their opponents, causing armed ethno-national liberation movements to proliferate.

In the early 1990s, the centralizing military regime collapsed as allied rebels closed in. The Derg’s successor, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), ushered in a radical shift in managing the country’s diversity.

Formalized under Ethiopia’s 1995 federal constitution, internal boundaries were redrawn according to ethno-linguistic settlement patterns in an attempt to address the legacies of marginalization and subjugation.

This constitution grants “nations, nationalities, and peoples” an all-encompassing right to self-determination, including the right to secede from the federation through a constitutionally prescribed process. In theory, these group rights complement the constitution’s liberal protection of individual rights that are granted to all citizens.

Other core components of the right to self-determination are territorial self-rule for these nations, nationalities, and peoples, and protection of their cultural and linguistic rights. Regional states and sub-regional administrative units (nationality zones and special weredas) have been established to ensure that groups can exercise these rights.

The federal constitution states that all ethnic groups enjoy equal status and rights regardless of population sizes and settlement patterns, including the right to self-determination.


This disregard for population size was mirrored in the party-state system created by the EPRDF which could be seen as anti-majoritarian partly because it gave an equal vote in the party’s decision-making organs to all parties, including the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) even though the population of Tigray, which the TPLF represented, was only six to eight percent of Ethiopia’s.

The EPRDF preferred consensus-based governance in which unanimity was sought among members and elites from the four regional member parties and everyone was expected to get on board once decisions were made.

With its replacement by the Prosperity Party in 2019, that approach seems to have been abandoned by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, although there is a lack of clarity about regional representation within the executive bodies.

At the national level, fears of creeping majoritarianism, meaning the dominance in the political sphere of the two largest ethnic groups, the Oromo and the Amhara, contributed to tensions that led to civil war in Tigray. Politically salient narratives of minority rule under the EPRDF have been used to justify persecution of Tigrayans orchestrated by the Prosperity Party-led state.

At the regional level, as in Oromia, Amhara, and Benishangul-Gumuz, some dominant groups appear emboldened to assert themselves even further over minority communities, leading to worsening violations.

Internal Minorities

Ethiopia is a country constructed of minorities in the sense that none of its communities constitute a numerical majority. Given this context, the federal system aimed to protect the rights of identity-based groups by empowering them through the granting of territorial autonomy.

Yet, while there are over eighty ethno-linguistic communities, there are only eleven regional states and around thirty sub-regional administrative units in which specific identity-based groups are granted territorial and political autonomy.

Given that no community lives exclusively in their homeland, all regional states are, to varying degrees, heterogenous and thus include internal minority groups.

Children collecting water; Tigray, Ethiopia; 1 January 2000.

While the federal constitution doesn’t distinguish between indigenous and non-indigenous minorities, and treats all groups identically under the law, this distinction is either explicitly or implicitly made in all of the regional constitutions.

Some of the regional constitutions, such as those of Gambella and Benishangul-Gumuz, specifically distinguish between indigenous or “owner” ethnic groups and others.

The federal constitution focuses closely on group rights, but individual rights are also protected and can be claimed by all Ethiopian citizens.

The key distinction is that indigenous minorities are territorially empowered and guaranteed the right to self-determination under the regional constitutions, whereas non-indigenous minorities can only claim individual rights as Ethiopian citizens under the federal constitution.

One aspect of this dichotomy with perilous ramifications is a narrative of “settlers” built around non-indigenous minorities, most often Amharas, linking them with past imperial aggressions in which “indigenous” people were violently subdued, dispossessed of their land, and discouraged from practicing their culture in the interest of state-led assimilation.

While it’s true that Ethiopian history is rife with attempts of forceful homogenization, these types of anti-imperial narratives are used by some as carte blanche to attack and forcibly displace non-indigenous minorities during bouts of violence.

Although people with non-indigenous identities are not legally excluded from the right to land, government jobs, or political representation, some Ethiopians believe the regional constitutions facilitate discriminatory outcomes.

In practice, non-indigenous minorities—such as Amharas and Gurages in Harari, Amharas in Oromia, Oromos in Amhara living outside of the Oromo Zone, and Amharas and Oromos in Benishangul-Gumuz—struggle to have their human rights protected.

Certain ethno-national groups are empowered over a given territory largely because they are demographically dominant, enjoy self-administration, and thus maintain control over political institutions while non-indigenous minorities within that territory are often excluded.

Other factors, like the operating language of the regional government and various informal practices that foster discrimination, assure that certain groups within a region enjoy political dominance.

For non-indigenous minorities in a given territory, these principles could mean exclusion from political participation and a lack of protective mechanisms.

Adem K. Abebe, an Ethiopian constitutional scholar based in the Netherlands, told Ethiopia Insight that, due in part to the first-past-the-post electoral systems, non-indigenous minorities “lack political representation in regional councils and local administrations,” which reinforces their subordination. As a result, “accessing public services can also be complicated for them.”

Owing to this set-up, minority communities often report administrative challenges posed by various informal practices.

For instance, Amharas in Oromia maintain that members of their community, especially those who don’t speak Afaan Oromoo, must rely on bribery in police departments and courts to get basic services easily granted to someone from the dominant group.

Meanwhile, Oromos and Amharas living under Harari region’s unique system claim the bureaucracy favors ethnic Hararis over others. Some small business owners also complain of the difficulties to get loans from government-linked microfinance institutions.

These challenges stem partly from the federal and regional constitutions’ failure to fully anticipate the issues faced by intra-regional or internal minorities.

So, ethno-territorial federalism has—in theory, if not always in practice—solved certain inequalities and minority rights issues at the national level, but it has also created new ones, owing to the presence of sizable minorities within each regional state.

While territorial self-rule is an empowering affirmation for the group or groups that are demographically dominant within a given territory, the rights of minority groups are frequently overlooked in decision-making processes, even on issues that directly impact them.

Unique Harari

Among Ethiopia’s eleven regional states, Harari is unique not just for its minuteness—the last census in 2007 put its population around 180,000—but also because the titular Harari nation assumes political dominance despite making up less than ten percent of the population.

This makes it an outlier region in which a minority population is empowered over other groups, including the Oromo who account for more than half of the population.

The political dominance of Hararis is expressed in the representation of their interests in the executive. Additionally, one of the two regional parliamentary chambers, the Harari National Council, is exclusively reserved for delegates from this group and the council recommends a candidate to serve as regional president.

Ordin Bedri, Harari’s current president, spoke glowingly of the federal arrangement and the need to realize that “diversity is the source of our strength” during the observation in late November of Nations and Nationalities Day, a day set to mark the advent of the current federal dispensation.

A group of women stand together in Harer, Harari, Ethiopia; 13 September 2012; Rod Waddington

Harar, Ethiopia; 13 September 2012; Rod Waddington.

Nevertheless, tensions remain in the region, which is surrounded by Oromia’s East Hararghe Zone. Political haggling in the historic city of Harar mainly takes place between Hararis and Oromos.

Despite some accommodations, such as both Harari and Afaan Oromoo being regional working languages, some Oromos in the region feel they deserve a greater say in Harari politics to reflect their majority status.

A mid-level member of the ruling Prosperity Party’s regional branch expressed a concern among some Hararis that with Oromo politicians playing a more prominent and assertive role in national politics, Harari’s distinctive arrangement could be under threat.

Tsegaye, an ethnic Gurage shopkeeper who has lived in Harar for the past twelve years, believes members of other communities are relegated to third-class citizens. “It’s only a dream to imagine you can be treated equally” by local administrators, he told Ethiopia Insight.

For Amharas, who are the second largest group in the region, the existing arrangement is also seen as exclusionary and puts them in the unenviable position of having little to no political representation.

Despite this controversial set-up, Harar has been mostly spared from large-scale violence, although tensions between Hararis, Oromos, Amharas, and other communities do exist.

However, nearby Dire Dawa, a multi-ethnic self-administering city administration claimed by two neighboring regions, Oromia and Somali, has seen clashes in recent years. Dire Dawa’s own peculiar system, in which Oromos and Somalis each control 40 percent of the city’s administrative positions and others are allotted 20 percent, has been a point of contention.

Amhara’s Minorities

In Amhara region, in addition to the Oromo, two other minority communities are recognized by the regional constitution and administer their own nationality zones: the Agew Awi and the Agew Himra. Additionally, the Qemant and Argoba are granted the right to self-rule within their own Nationality Wereda.

Idris, a 28-year-old civil servant in Bati, a town in the Oromo Zone of Amhara region, generally feels at ease when he is in his hometown or its surroundings within the zone.

In the zone, regional minorities belonging to the Oromo nation like him are empowered, giving them the right to self-rule. They also have a relatively higher level of freedom to develop their language and other cultural practices.

For Idris, the right provided by the Oromo Zone to use one’s language in schools, courts, and administrative affairs is irreplaceable. He says other Oromos living in neighboring South Wollo, which is outside of the Oromo Zone, “do not have that privilege” and are forced to either assimilate with the dominant Amhara group or risk being treated differently.


Such recognition grants these minority communities the right to set up local governments but has not resolved lingering issues—and there has also been plenty of violence.

Most notably, the question of Qemant identity is caught in a political struggle between the Amhara and Tigray regions that has led to the persecution of Qemant people in Amhara, protests over their rising demands for autonomy, and deadly inter-communal clashes.

Many Qemant refugees reportedly support the Qemant Liberation Army (QLA), an insurgent group fighting for more autonomy for the Qemant.

Also, the Oromo Zone, together with weredas in neighboring North Shoa Zone, has been a hotbed of violence that has occurred sporadically involving local armed forces and civilians, as well as interventions by federal police and defense forces.

As this shows, the option of granting special administrative status to minority groups at the sub-state level resolves some minority rights issues for those living in those units but leaves similar concerns unaddressed for co-ethnics living outside of these special areas.

Qemant people; Ethiopia

Qemant people.

It’s also notable that security concerns exist for Oromos living both within and outside of the Oromo Zone.

Idris recounted that, before the outbreak of civil war two years ago in the adjacent Tigray region, there used to be recurrent violent incidents, particularly around the month of Ramadan. The zone is inhabited predominantly by Muslim Oromos and, according to Idris, skirmishes happened with Amhara Orthodox Christians.

While non-Amhara groups in the region contribute to Amhara’s security apparatus, the demographic dominance of Amharas in the rank-and-file and in senior leadership has often meant, according to Idris, that during clashes between members of the Oromo and Amhara groups, the former feel security forces sided with the latter instead of being impartial arbiters.

Amharas in Oromia

Oromia is home to sizable minority populations, most notably Amharas, who, according to one estimate, represent up to ten percent of the region’s approximately 40 million people.

Since 2018, Oromia has been embroiled in violence between the OLA and federal and regional authorities, as well as between the Oromo and Amhara communities.

In early December, amid intensified fighting between government forces and the OLA, fresh rounds of attacks against civilians were reported in East Wollega Zone. What’s different this time around is the involvement of the Fano, armed Amhara militiamen, in attacking security and administrative figures.

This follows calls by Amhara activists for armed men from the group to offer protection to the minority population within the region, something they argue is not being provided by the region’s forces.

This spell of violence, however, has again seen minority Amharas being targeted.

Two Amhara men who fled their homes in Kiremu district in East Wollega Zone and were hiding in a place called Haro told Ethiopia Insight that regional police forces were actively involved in forcing people out and looting properties.

All three warring forces, Ethiopian authorities, Oromo insurgents, and Amhara militias, have been accused of attacking civilians, leading to thousands of deaths.

Regional authorities have allowed a perfect storm to brew by seemingly turning a blind eye—or worse—to escalating security emergencies and vulnerability of minorities.

The familiar pattern of these attacks involves security forces withdrawing from the area before militants attack and then two diametrically opposed narratives emerge as to who is responsible.

The OLA insurgency and communal violence in Oromia reflect the deep fissures in Ethiopian society that, since 1995, are articulated based on the multinational federal set-up.

Relations between the Oromo and Amhara communities are fraught owing to the legacies of the Neftegna-Gabbar feudal system. After its nineteenth century expansion, the Ethiopian empire used this system to control southern lands and resettled many Amharic-speaking people there.

A woman and her two children sit on the floor after being displaced by violence in Nekemte, East Wollega Zone

A family displaced by conflict; Nekemte, East Wollega Zone, Oromia; November 2018.

Based on this history, Oromo nationalists see Amharas as settlers in indigenous Oromo land and view their presence in the region as a legacy of that brutal and exploitative system. This “neo-neftegna” narrative has been used to justify attacks on Amhara civilians living in Oromia.

Oromo nationalists typically support multinational federalism but claim the TPLF-led EPRDF never effectively implemented it. The prevailing opinion of Amhara and Ethiopian nationalists, meanwhile, is that the federal and Oromia region’s constitutions are primarily responsible for the bloodshed.

Amhara advocates claim Oromia’s constitution doesn’t provide equal standing to minority groups in relation to Oromo inhabitants, who are exclusively empowered over the region. The document places other groups in secondary status next to “people of the Oromo nation”.

For Adem K. Abebe, the recurrence of violence in the region against minorities is partly driven by a “monolithic” vision of Oromia in which some groups envision a homogenous region.

Amhara politicians and activists claim this neo-neftegna moniker is a dog whistle used to stoke the ethnic cleansing of Amhara “settlers” in Oromia. They also fear “Oromo supremacy” and constantly downplay narratives of oppression and exploitation put forward by Oromos.

For many Oromos, Abiy’s attempts to forge a single national identity and criticism of ethnic politics are seen as a battlecry against Oromia’s autonomy and self-determination. They accuse Fano of waging an expansionist campaign aimed at annexing parts of Oromia into Amhara.

In his critique of Medemer (Amharic for ‘coming together’), the governance philosophy championed by Abiy, Awol Allo, lecturer in law at Keele University, called the term “a new vocabulary to resurrect and operationalise the old assimilationist Amhara-centric model of state.”

He argues that Abiy “and his Amhara supporters” see Ethiopianization as inclusive and thus good while “ethno-national politics is bad because [it is] exclusionary.” The war in Tigray and violence in other parts of the country exhibit the ruins of this Ethiopianist vision, Awol adds, and, as a result, the “stench of disintegration is in the air.

Benishangul Violence

In Benishangul-Gumuz, five groups are recognized by the region’s constitution as being indigenous: the Benishangul, Gumuz, Shinasha, Mao, and Komo. According to the last census, these groups collectively make up close to 57 percent of the region’s 784,000 residents.

The largest non-indigenous communities, the Amhara and the Oromo, are the second- and fourth-most populous groups in the region, respectively. They, along with the region’s Tigrayan and Agew communities, are deemed residents, not citizens, who can vote but—although they are legally permitted to do so—in practice are inhibited from running for office.

The regional constitution’s designation of five ethnic groups as “owners” makes an explicit division between natives and outsiders whose rights, notably access to land, are unequal.

An overarching struggle takes place between the Gumuz and Benishangul, two historically oppressed and sidelined communities who cherish their special privileges under the regional constitution, and others, notably Amharas, who view the measures instituted under the federal system to rectify this dark legacy as being discriminatory in their own right.

Since 2018, tensions among some of the indigenous and non-indigenous peoples have led to recurrent bloodshed. The entire region has seen ethnic-based violence, but Metekel in particular, followed by Kamashi and Assosa, has been the site of a stream of attacks.

While clashes over resources have long been common, the recent violence has been more unambiguous in its ethnic character. Thousands have been killed over the past four years amid clashes in which the Gumuz fight non-indigenous groups, mainly the Amhara, Agew, and Oromo, prompting the deployment of ill-disciplined government forces in the area.

Operations have also reportedly involved Amhara regional security forces crossing over the border into Metekel. Further complicating matters, elements of Benishangul-Gumuz’s security apparatus have reportedly sided with Gumuz militiamen against the federal army.

At times, fighting takes place between the indigenous groups, particularly among Gumuz and Shinasha communities. The latter are often labeled by the former as Qëy (light skinned), a designation the Gumuz also bestow on Amharas, Agews, Tigrayans, and Oromos.

By referring to indigenous groups as the region’s “owners”, critics argue, Benishangul-Gumuz’s constitution has institutionalized the relegation of others as “settlers” who do not belong to these areas. Non-indigenous groups have been subject to violent attacks motivated by concerns that outsiders are violating the rights of indigenous communities, specifically land rights.

In response, Demeke Mekonnen, the Deputy Prime Minister, called for Amhara civilians to be trained as community defense forces when he visited the region in October 2020. The regional government adopted this strategy of civilian defense and recruited over 10,000 militia members composed of non-indigenous groups who received government-sponsored military training in all weredas of the Metekel Zone.

At the same time, the region’s indigenous groups are engaged in a struggle to preserve their territorial autonomy and protections under the federal and regional constitutions.

The three empowered groups have also been subject to attacks at the hands of the non-indigenous groups because they are asserting their constitutional land rights.

Irredentist claims on parts of Benishangul-Gumuz, specifically Metekel Zone, by some ethno-nationalists in neighboring Amhara contribute to violence in the northeastern part of the region.

According to these ownership claims, the zone, which used to be in Gojjam Province before the federal arrangement, should be part of Amhara. Viewed more cynically, Amhara regional officials want to administer Metekel to control the zone’s mineral deposits and arable land.

Gumuz residents of Metekel fear a potential Amhara occupation and feel threatened by an influx of “outsiders”—namely, Amharas, Oromos, and Tigrayans—acquiring fertile land.

In the region’s south-west, meanwhile, there are spillover effects of the insurgency in Oromia.

OLA insurgents operating in neighboring East Wollega have been accused of launching attacks in bordering areas and fighting against groups like the Benishangul-Gumuz People’s Liberation Movement (BPLM).

A young Amhara girl; Wikimedia Commons

An Amhara girl.

Debating Solutions

The policy options to manage diversity in divided societies like Ethiopia include empowering ethnic communities through the grant of either territorial or non-territorial autonomy, devising a territorial or residency-based federalism, and strengthening national protections of minority groups while emphasizing the rights of Ethiopian citizens regardless of their ethnic background.

The primary solution offered by the 1995 constitution to protect minority rights is territorial, the ability to self-administer in response to issues of marginalization. In practice, desires to create new regional states or to secede under Article 39 were not permitted by the EPRDF, despite the party’s claim of zealous loyalty to the constitutional rights of identity-based groups.

In recent years, there has been increased motivation among groups, particularly in southern and south-western Ethiopia, to obtain more territorial autonomy.

However, a political dispensation focusing predominantly on territorial autonomy reinforces a system in which dominant groups continue to control political institutions and activities while perpetuating the marginalization of internal or sub-regional minorities.

Given the problems associated with both a unitarist system, as practiced during imperial times and by the Derg, and the EPRDF’s multinational federalism since 1995, renowned Ugandan academic Mahmood Mamdani has called for Ethiopia to embrace territorial federalism whereby the boundaries of constituent units are not aligned with ethnicity.

The limitations of the territorial approach in addressing the pressing issue of minority rights speaks to a need in Ethiopia to provide more effective protections of individual rights.

Non-territorial autonomy is an alternative or supplementary mechanism that could be used in Ethiopia. In a non-territorial system, members of each group living throughout the country elect representatives who then autonomously manage clearly defined areas of their national life, such as schools and cultural practices.


Ethno-territorial federations do not allow violations of individual rights like freedom of movement, association, and speech, but, in practice, such violations do take place in Ethiopia.

Human rights violations in Ethiopia are often related to the universal individual rights that are protected by the federal constitution but are not always enforced. The regional constitutions, arguably, facilitate a variety of informal discriminatory practices.

The deficiencies of the current mechanisms in tackling issues of minority participation and protections warrant supplementing them with additional approaches.

One solution would be to draft a minority protection law. The federal government has the mandate to do so and such amendments would be binding to the regional states, but would only make a difference if implemented.

This raises the perennial debate over whether the constitution itself is the problem or rather the lack of constitutionalism, meaning the lack of proper implementation of this written document.

What’s clear is that, despite some potential flaws in Ethiopia’s constitutional design, particularly at the regional level, there is also a lack of enforcement.

In and around Tole, no significant measures have been taken since the massacre last June to ensure minorities are protected and lives shattered by the violence are rebuilt.

Calls for an independent investigation remain unanswered. Humanitarian needs remain unmet and survivors like Hassan say their feeling of security is attached to the presence of federal troops. In some cases, though, federal soldiers have been the ones committing atrocities.

Over the past five years, as Ethiopia continues to grapple with pervasive communal violence, the authorities’ preferred remedy has been to return people who fled their homes to their places of origin.

However, Hassan, who is now left to depend on aid, told Ethiopia Insight he wouldn’t “dream of” returning to western Oromia and living as a minority.

With so many lives at stake, the issue of minority protection is far too important and urgent for Ethiopia to ignore.

Query or correction? Email us


Main photo: Berak IDP Site, Delo Mena Woreda, Bale Zone, Oromia; 15 January 2019; Mersha, UNICEF.

Published under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. You may not use the material for commercial purposes.

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The Importance of Detoxifying Your Body for Optimal Health

3 mins read

When it comes to achieving optimal health, the importance of detoxifying your body cannot be overstated. Detoxing can help you to rid your body of toxins and impurities that can accumulate over time due to unhealthy eating habits, environmental pollution, and other factors. This process is essential for boosting immunity and improving overall physical and mental well-being. Keep on reading to learn more!

1. What Is Detoxification? 

Since detoxification is a natural process, it is important to be aware of how and why the body naturally eliminates toxins. Detoxification is the process of eliminating harmful substances from your body that can cause harm to your overall health. Through this process, the body can help rid itself of toxins that are ingested or absorbed from the environment, including cigarette smoke, chemicals, processed foods, and other pollutants.

2. Benefits of Detoxing 

If you decide to detox your body, you will be reaping all sorts of benefits. Detoxing helps to remove harmful toxins from the body that can lead to health problems, such as headaches and upset stomachs. It also boosts the immune system and can even help reduce inflammation in the body. Additionally, detoxing may help improve digestion and mental clarity, as well as provide energy and improve overall health.

Furthermore, detoxing can help to reduce the risk of certain chronic illnesses and diseases by flushing toxins out of your body. It also helps to improve skin tone, since it removes impurities from the body that can cause acne breakouts. Finally, detoxing can aid in weight loss by helping to get rid of waste and toxins that can cause bloating. All in all, detoxing provides numerous health benefits and is an important step toward optimal health.

3. Common Detox Methods 

One of the most popular ways to detoxify your body is through a juice cleanse. Juice cleanses are a type of fasting that involves consuming only raw, organic juices for a period of time (usually 1-3 days). This can help to flush toxins and reset the digestive system. Alternatively, water fasting is another popular way to detoxify your body. During a water fast, you only consume water and no other food or drinks.

Unlike juice cleanses, which are typically done for shorter periods of time, water fasting can last several days to weeks. Also, healthy frozen smoothie packs are an easy and convenient way to detoxify your body. These can be purchased online, in grocery stores, or even made at home with nutrient-dense ingredients like berries, spinach, almond milk, and chia seeds.

4. Nutrients for Detoxification 

One of the most important steps in detoxifying our body is to ensure that we are consuming enough nutrients. Eating nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes can provide us with essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, iron, magnesium, zinc, and sulfur. These compounds help break down toxins in the body and help flush them out.

Plus, consuming foods rich in antioxidants like green tea and dark chocolate can also help neutralize free radicals that can damage cells and organs. Moreover, supplementing with herbs known for their detoxifying properties is another great way to promote the natural cleansing of the body. Popular herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion root, and turmeric are known for their powerful detoxifying effects. Finally, drinking plenty of water on a daily basis is essential for transporting toxins out of the body and maintaining fluid balance.

5. Foods to Eat for Optimal Detoxification

There are certain foods that can help your body detoxify and achieve optimal health. Consider adding the following to your diet:

– Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, such as apples, broccoli, and spinach

– Healthy fats from sources like avocados and olive oil

– High-quality proteins from sources such as wild fish, grass-fed beef, and eggs

– Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and miso

– Herbs and spices like turmeric, garlic, and ginger

These foods can help support your body’s natural detoxification processes by supplying essential vitamins and minerals.

In the end, detoxifying your body is an important part of achieving optimal health. There are a variety of ways to achieve this, such as eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and drinking plenty of water. Also, engaging in activities such as sauna therapy, yoga, and massage can also help to remove toxins from the body.

Detoxifying your body on a regular basis can help to improve your overall health and well-being, as it strengthens the immune system, improves energy levels, aids in digestion, and helps to alleviate stress.

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Ethiopia Dismayed by League of Arab States` “Resolution” on GERD –

1 min read

Addis Ababa, March 11, 2023(Walta) – Ethiopia is dismayed by the “resolution” the League of Arab States issued on 9 March 2023, regarding the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

FDRE Ministry of Foreign Affairs on its statement, underscored that the management and utilization of the Nile River, including the filling and operation of the GERD, must be left to the concerned parties in Africa.

“We should not have to remind the League that the Nile River and all the riparian countries are found in Africa. The League is once again serving as the spokesperson of one state, disregarding basic principles of international law. Such attempts to politicize the issue of GERD neither advances friendly relations nor supports the efforts to arrive at amicable solutions as they are not based on facts or supported by law.”

The statement added that the African Union has been facilitating the trilateral negotiations among Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt to resolve the remaining outstanding issues guided by the maxim, “African Solutions to African Problems.”

It noted that the League’s characterization of the negotiations on the other hand is incorrect.

The fact is that Egypt, with its obdurate stance to maintain a colonial era-based self-claimed water allocation and its unending attempts to internationalize the matter, is the reason for the delay of the negotiation, the ministry pointed out.

The Government of Ethiopia has been committed to the AU-led negotiations. Hence, the League’s resolutions and statements by Egypt call into question whether Egypt has been engaged in good faith in the negotiations under the AU’s auspices, the statement added.

The statement finally underlined that the government continues to fill and operate the GERD in accordance with the Agreement on the Declaration of Principles of March 2015 signed between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan, with full respect to the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization of transboundary water resources.

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Embracing “Failure” as a New Design Philosophy in Ethiopian Education Reform (Part V)

33 mins read

Failure is an option here. If things are not failing you are not innovating. Elon Musk

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. Steve Jobs

Winston Churchill started as a failure in school. Unable to pass, he failed the sixth grade and had to take a math class over three times. He had a speech impediment. Churchill became UK Prime Minister and is now regarded as one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century.

Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group failed primary school test two times, middle school test three times and college entrance exam two times. Ma scored 1 out of 120 points on the math portion of his college entrance exam. Ma ended up creating a $34 billion Chinese multinational technology company specializing in e-commerce, retail, Internet, and technology. Ma says: “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

Steve Jobs said he was born a failure. His biological mother put him up for adoption. He started college and dropped out. He started Apple and was fired from his own company. He left Apple and started other great companies and finally returned to Apple triumphantly.

Author’s Note # 1:

While this commentary in the “Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste” series stands on its own merits, I strongly recommend reading Part I, “Message to Ethiopian Intellectuals: A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste!”; Part II, “Message to (Diaspora) Ethiopian Intellectuals: Save/Support Ethiopian Youth/Education!”, Part III, “Disruptive Innovation Can Fix Failing Ethiopian Education” and Looking for a Few Good Hummingbirds for Mission Education S.O.E.Y. Part IV.

Author’s Note #2:

In these series of commentaries,” I am fully aware that I am having a monologue, a conversation with myself in the public space. Since I published the first commentary in the series on January 24, I have not seen nor heard any informed opinion on the 97 percent student failure rate in the school leaving exam in Ethiopia. That is mindboggling because education is the most pressing and alarming existential threat facing Ethiopia today. Ethiopia’s “intellectuals” (assuming there are many) have gone AWOL and those who have not have drowned in the abyss of intellectual bankruptcy. (May they rest in peace.)

In these “Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste” series of commentaries on education in Ethiopia, I have tried to be intentionally provocative in an effort to spark public conversation on Ethiopian education. I have lectured and hectored but to no avail.

My personal (grandiose and delusional) crusade is to transform Ethiopian education with innovative and creative ideas and reinvent learning the digital age.

I have been told no one will read my commentary series on education. It is too long to read. It is written in “hard” English for most Ethiopians to read and understand. The commentaries are written in pedantic and didactic tone (professorial language) and few will understand what I am talking about. My message written in English will not reach or be understood by the young people or those in the educational bureaucracy who have limited proficiency in the English language. Policymakers will ignore it because there is no culture of interaction between policymakers and intellectuals in Ethiopia. I am wasting my time. I should prepare it for publication in a scholarly journal.

Aah! But there is method in the ways of the “crazy professor.” Time will show!

There is the old idiom about thinking “outside the box.”

I prefer  “radical/radial thinking.” I shall explore this concept in a future commentary but stated simply, I prefer to think from clearly stated basic principles in solving real life problems. I prefer to look at the old problems and issues of education in Ethiopia afresh with the aim of “reinventing the wheel” and coming up with new solutions.

The very idea of embracing a philosophy of failure in education must sound totally mad, crazy as in “only a crazy professor would dream up something like that.” That remains to be seen.

My aim is to be provocative and to get high level policy makers, academics and ordinary people interested in improving education in Ethiopia to think outside the hollow and shallow iron box of mundane thinking and come up with bold solutions that can be openly and robustly debated.

I feel like a broken record when I say the core problem of lack of innovative and creative thinking among most Ethiopians is rooted in herd mentality and groupthink.

The desire for harmony, cohesiveness, avoidance of controversial issues and fear of criticism breeds conformity and suppresses independence of thought.

As American General George Patton said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

That is especially the problem of Ethiopian intellectuals in my view. They are trapped in a groupthink box huddled at the bottom taking comfort in each other’s blanket of intellectual cowardice.

Few would dare to engage in substantive, informed and vigorous public policy discussions of education (or for that matter anything else of public importance).

Alas! Ethiopian intellectuals with a trace of pulse left in them have become intellectual crybabies and Chicken Littles.

They have become sheep-les!

As for myself, I never set out to change Ethiopia.

I set out on a crusade to change the hearts and minds of Ethiopia’s Cheetah (Young) Generation that will change and reinvent Ethiopia into a peaceful and prosperous nation.

The commentary has five parts:

1) an examination of Minister Berhanu’s metaphorical declaration “we have failed as a country”;

2) an examination of Professor Mesfin Woldemariam’s “Adafne” and “mekshef” (Failure) in Ethiopia;

3) my personal message to the 97 percent Second Chancers;

4) my conception of “failure” as a design philosophy in Ethiopian education and

5) a thumbnail sketch of “failure” as a new design philosophy for educational reform in Ethiopia.


“We have failed as a country…”


(Author’s translation of a stirring children’s song in Amharic about the importance of learning/education.)

Learning brings respect/dignity
Learning brings pride to our country.

Let us learn, let us learn
Let us do deep learning.
Learning makes humans humane.

Let us learn (education), for learning is needed
Learning (education) is needed for our country.

Wake up, you brave student
So you can eat at the table of knowledge
It is no use to cry out, “Mama, I am hungry.”

Best to get up and go to school.
To serve our country is our great honor.

On January 27, 2023, Ethiopian Education Minster Dr. Berhanu Nega in a press conference broke the conspiracy of silence and secrecy and perennial denial and publicly dumped the truth everyone knew and suspected about education in Ethiopia but was afraid to tell or talk about.

The statistics Education Minister Berhanu recited for the 2023 national “Ethiopian School-Leaving Certificate Examination” (ESLCE) [examination taken upon completion of upper secondary education and allows students to enroll into public universities] are shocking to the conscience. (“I have received comments privately that Minster Berhanu’s amounts to a “moral condemnation of one generation of the nation [youth] as ‘incompetent’ by using unprofessional parameters.”}

I like a man who mans up with a stiff upper lip when there is no other choice but to man up. True the saying, “It takes guts to take out the ruts.”

Ethiopians owe a debt of gratitude to Minister Berhanu for exposing the raw truth about the structural failure in the Ethiopian educational system! My special thanks to Dr. Berhanu.

Minister Berhanu’s statement on the school leaving exam leaves no room for ambiguity:

Those who failed are not only our students. We have failed as a country. The responsibility is collective and our own. Students, teachers, school administrators and the government in general must prepare to deal with a world that is starkly competitive. We have to create an educational system that is capable of meeting the challenges. That is our obligation. But this is not (the test results) something that should make us lose hope. This should be regarded as a wakeup call.

What is “education?” What is “learning?” What is the difference between the two?

What is “failure?”

What is “educational failure” at the individual, institutional, parental and national levels?

Why do students “fail?” How do they “fail?”

Does “failure” mean the same thing to students, parents, teachers, government, society?

Is failing one exam, regardless of its importance, proof of academic “failure”?

Why is “failure” considered repugnant, abominable by the rational segment of the human race?

Why do all rational human beings always strive to succeed and avoid failure?

What is educational “success” at the individual, institutional, parental and national levels?

Is passing one exam, regardless of its importance, proof of academic “success”?

Is a display of academic acronyms (Ph.D., MD, JD, ING, etc.) proof of “education?” (I find it amusing the title of “doctor” in Ethiopia should be worn as a flea market trinket by practically anyone than a credential obtained after years of rigorous study and research.)

What is the difference between education, information and indoctrination?

What is the purpose of “education?” Is “education” a tool of social engineering?

Does “liberal education” have universal validity or is it limited to Western societies?

These are not metaphysical or phenomenological questions into the experience of “failure.” They are merely a few questions aimed at probing,  examining and gaining insight into the mechanics of failure in measurable output performance on learning outcomes discussed below.

Global giants including Bill Gates (Microsoft) Steve Jobs (Apple), Mark Zukerberg (Facebook), Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Stephen Spielberg (blockbuster filmmaker) US President Harry Truman, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and so many others were all college dropouts.

Abraham Lincoln finished only one year of formal schooling of any kind. Walt Disney dropped out of high school.

What does the academic “failure” of these highly accomplished people say about “education”?

I shall explore these and many other similar questions in future commentaries in detail.

Back to the topic of “we have failed as a society.”

Beltway bandit American think tanks like to classify African countries as “failed states.”

They have created a lucrative cottage industry classifying African countries as “failed states,” never admitting in the slightest African countries are “failed states” because of colonial exploitation and imperialism. State failure is entirely the problem of Africans.

There is no limit to the words and phrases the beltway bandits use to depict (demonize) African and other non-Western societies as failures: “Crises States”, “Dysfunctional States”, “Declining States”, “Fragile States”, “Disintegrating States”, Collapsing States”, “Dissolving States”, “Disordered States”, “Collapsed States”, “Paralyzed States”, “Virtual States”, “vulnerable states”, and even “etats sans gouvernement” (states without government), among others.

The forked tongue “beltway bandits”, monetize African failure while actively promoting imperialism. When they got hammered for being politically incorrect, they began peddling back. Now they try to hoodwink us by describing African countries as “fragile states”.

Fragile as African violets?

What did Minister Berhanu mean when he said, “We have failed as a country?”

Did he mean national/state “failure” in the same sense as the American beltway bandits?

I believe Minister Berhanu is conveying a completely different notion in his use of the metaphor of “failed as a country” in education.

In “The Republic,” Plato wrote, “the direction in which education starts a man, will determine his future life.”

I would argue the minister used the metaphor in a platonic sense.

Education is the foundation of Plato’s ideal state (republic) because without an educated citizenry, there is no justice or peace. With equal educational opportunity from an early age, citizens can compete fairly, coexist in harmony and help build and maintain a just republic.

Plato believed education has the “greatest tendency to civilize and humanize people in their relations to one another.” Education improves the moral character of citizens and “best safeguards against tyrants.” It is also the great social equalizer. “Education that makes a man a good guardian (those who keep order in the society and protect it from invaders) will make a woman a good guardian; for their original nature is the same.”

In modern parlance, Plato’s ideas on education could be described as the highest form of human capital.

Education is the driver of economic growth, social advancement, equality, justice  and the quality of life in any country.

Education is the most effective tool and instrument for poverty reduction, inequality and sustained economic growth.

Nelson Mandela explained, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

After WW II, a number of countries in East Asia were among the poorest in the world with high levels of  illiteracy.

In the People’s Republic of China, the national poverty rate fell from almost 90% in 1981 to under 4% in 2016. In other words, 800 million fewer people living in poverty in 2016. Key to China’s success has been massive reforms and investments in education across the board.

The so-called “Asian Tigers” (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) powered by exports and rapid industrialization in a couple of decades joined the ranks of the wealthiest nations. “At the core of these East Asian countries’ superior performance are educational systems that rigorously select the best students for civil service and top business careers.”

In 2015, Barack Obama said, “When I came here as a U.S. senator, I pointed out that South Korea’s economy was the same as Kenya’s when I was born, and then was 40 times larger than Kenya’s.”

Underlying China’s and the Asian Tigers’ extraordinary development is massive investment in education and technology.

America is a global power because it has higher educational institutions that are at the cutting edge of human scientific and technological advancement.

The telephone, cellphone, electric light bulb, airplanes, the internet, the microchip, laser, email, the personal computer, mass production of practical electric cars and Artificial Intelligence are products of American ingenuity.

American research universities are the tip of the spear in making the US the “greatest [power] in the world because of their ability to produce new knowledge through discoveries that change our lives and the world.”

Countries with the most investments in education are correspondingly the most developed and industrialized.

I believe Minister Berhanu used the “failed as a nation” metaphor to signify our national inability to develop and use the most precious of our national capital, the human capital stored in our youth.

Investments in education is the key to Ethiopia’s economic and social development. With quality education, Ethiopia could emerge from the darkness of ethnic and identity politics and transition from poverty to prosperity.

Indeed, Ethiopia can become the leader of the “African Lion Pride” and compete with the “Asian Tigers.”

Professor Mesfin Woldemariam’s “Adafne” and “mekshef” (Failure)

In 2015, the late great Professor Mesfin Woldemariam wrote a book in Amharic entitled, “Adafne.” I had the pleasure of reviewing the book.

The book written in the didactic tone of a reflective professor, the angry tone of the patriot who is pained by the sight of his nation’s descent into the morass of tribal politics led by a coalition of ignoramuses and in the loving paternal tone of the wise elder giving advice and counsel to the younger generation.

“Adafne” is Ethiopians’ sickness of the soul. “Adafne has made Ethiopia the land of chatterboxes first by suppressing truth, second by suppressing education and knowledge, third by closing down all means by which truth is propagated, fourth by hiring silver-tongued spinners of lies and fifth by closing all avenues for the publication and dissemination of ideas and knowledge.”

Prof. Mesfin argues “mekshef” (failure) has caused colossal systemic and structural collapse on a societal scale in Ethiopia.

“Failure” in Prof. Mesfin’s analysis has a variety of manifestations. “Failure” could be the inability to complete or bring to fruition a societal project. “Failure” could be missing one’s goal and unable to make progress. “Failure” could be the collective inability to pursue development and change.

Prof. Mesfin identifies three sources of “failure” (mekshef) for Ethiopia and Ethiopians:

1) Failure brought about by the dominance of governance systems unrestrained by the rule of law. The effect of that failure has been passive acceptance of tyrannical governments or voting with one’s feet and going into exile.

2) Failure of Ethiopian intellectuals.  The intellectuals and educated classes sold out to the powers that be, whomever they may be. The intellectuals and educated classes have failed to guide the powers that be to do right; they have failed to record their crimes and misdeeds for future generations; and worst of all, they have propagated  the mistakes of the past for the future generations by compounding their own mistakes. Religious leaders have not fared much better as they have failed to provide spiritual guidance.

3) Failure of not having national role models for Ethiopians. Because there were not any successful countries around Ethiopia, Ethiopians have not been able to learn much about better governance and administration.

Prof. Mesfin was disheartened by the fact that ignoramuses in power aspiring to gain intellectual respectability went on a binge purchasing academic credentials from internet diploma mills and fly-by-night universities. “To embellish and burnish their power, the ignoramuses in power buy bogus papers with official-looking seals and call themselves doctors, professors, government advisers and representatives of international organizations.”

In “Adafne”, Prof. Mesfin counsels Ethiopia’s youth to beware the monster of “Adafne” and avoid repeating the mistakes of their parents and ancestors or they will find themselves buried under a mountain of lies.

His larger message to Ethiopia’s youth could be stated in three simple propositions:

1)  Only you(th) can save Ethiopia from certain self-destruction.
2) Only you(th) can save Ethiopia from the fires of tribalism and sectarianism.
3) Only you(th) can save Ethiopia from Ethiopians of the past and present who have destroyed the social fabric, mangled the political structure and perverted the economic system and desecrated the spiritual well-being of the society.

“Failure” is overrated

People make a big deal about failure.

There are many types of failure.

Only 3.3% of students (out of 985,354) who took the 2022-23 high school leaving exam passed to qualify for university admission.

When a public declaration of a 3 percent pass rate on the national school exam is made, how do the other 97 percent feel?

The reflexive answer is they very likely feel they are “failures.”

The interesting question for me is, “should they feel like failures?”

I would argue 97 percent of our students did not fail the national school leaving exam, they just did not do as well as the 3 percent who passed.

One simple solution is to figure out how the 3 percenters who passed did it, hit the reset button for the 97 percent and do it again.

In other words, thoroughly prepare and take the exam again.

But the stigma of “failure” has devastating consequences for young people.

There is substantial research indicating “school failure is a major cause of low self-concept in students. School failure damages their self-image and they often start dislike themselves.” Students often seek to avoid the “esteem damaging consequences of their performance by denying responsibility for their performance – blaming their grades on such factors as the teacher, their home life, or the difficulty of the material.”

The blame game, finger pointing game, in my view, is the most damaging thing in educational outcomes. The blame game is not about accountability. It is about CYA (cover your **s).

It is so easy to point fingers for educational failure.

Teachers blame lazy students, students in turn blame incompetent and indifferent teachers.

School administrators blame teachers who pretend to teach and the government blames careless and indifferent school administration.

Parents blame the teachers who do not teach, school administrators who have poor accountability mechanisms and government bureaucrats  who could not care less about their children and politicians who do not allocate an adequate budget for their children’s education.

The vicious circular finger pointing leads down the slippery slope of accusations, recriminations, distrust and disagreement. It never leads to consensus for constructive and corrective collective action.

As the finger pointing goes on, hundreds of thousands of young men and women descend into the abyss of ignorance and poverty.

Ethiopia’s path to prosperity is littered by the detritus of the young and despairing.

My personal message to the 97 percent Second Chancers

Here is my message to the 97 percent Second Chancers who now have a second opportunity to take the national school leaving exam.

I have been on the road of failure all my life. Failure is overrated.

Failure has been a great source of inspiration to me.

You did not “fail”. You made a first pass at taking the national school leaving exam and now you have a second chance to go for it.

In life, if at first you do not hit the target, then take your second and third shots.

You must believe deep in your heart and mind Ethiopia is the Land of Second Chances.

Failure in education is simply FAIL, First Attempt In Learning.

The 2023 massive failure in the 12th grade school leaving exam is a cumulative and preventable failure.

If proper preventive actions were taken in grades 1-5, 6-8 and 9-11, such catastrophic result would likely not have occurred in the 12th grade.

Without failure, there is no success. Failure is the bump in the road to success.

Failure and success are flip sides of a coin. If you flip a coin fairly a thousand times, statistically you have an even chance of drawing either side.

But life is not fair.

Those who are born to wealth and privilege have the coin of life rigged. More often than not the success side of the coin drops in their favor.

In life, education is the great equalizer.

There is really no such thing as failure. Only those who are afraid to try or quit trying because they are afraid will not achieve their objective on their first, second, third… attempt.

Failure is a word found in the dictionary of fools, cynics, the indolent and those suffering from lack of self-confidence.

Failure is not the opposite of success. It is a vital, unavoidable, inevitable and a necessary part of success.

Failure is a state of mind not a fact of reality. The quickest road to success is to possess a “no fear” attitude toward failure.” There is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Fear drives failure. Fear makes us play it safe and making the same choices.

Fear not only drives us to failure but also to insanity. As Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

One or a series of failures do not define the man or woman. Failure is an event at a particular place and time.

We live in a time of mindboggling change.

In my day, we thought the times were a-changing.

For the loser now/ Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

The slow one now/ Will later be last
As the present now/ Will later be past

And the first one now/ Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

The greatest fear of students is that they are terrified of getting things “wrong,” and that fear of failing paralyzes them.

I have had students who were so afflicted by “test anxiety,” (fear of failing an exam) they threw up as they were taking the exam.

You should know fear of failure is the greatest obstacle to human achievement. Overcoming fear of failure is the greatest opportunity to human achievement.

The greatest education is to learn from failure because failure is the greatest teacher.

You are a failure only if you believe yourself to be a failure. You should never allow anyone to tell or convince you are a failure.

There are two types of people in the world: People who try and never quit and losers who quit trying. Those who never quit trying eventually win but losers whine and point their index fingers blaming others oblivious three fingers are pointing at them.

Those who never quit trying look at the world as full of opportunities that can be obtained at will through creative use of their imagination and insatiable intellectual curiosity.

Those who never quit never take their eyes off  the prize come hell or high water. Their attitude is, “Full speed ahead. Damn the torpedoes.”

Visualize yourself becoming your dreams.

When the going gets tough (fail an exam), the tough (dust themselves off) and  get going and take the exam again and pass it with flying colors.

Do not be afraid of failure. Embrace it. Make it a companion, a friend.

When you are overcome with fear of failure, look inside yourself and bring out the hero standing behind the fretting coward.

Be inspired by people who have failed most of their lives but achieved their objective because they never quit.

There are two things you need to achieve your goals in life. Creative imagination and insatiable curiosity.

All who have achieved great things have a failure proof mindset. No great human achievement was accomplished without failure.

That is true with astronauts, inventors, daredevils, tightrope walkers, mountain climbers.

Think big, Imagine big. Be curious. Be self-confident. Be outstanding. Follow your dream, not the herd.

Perhaps Shakespeare said it best in Measure for Measure (Act I, Scene IV): “Our doubts are traitors, And makes us lose the good we oft might win, By fearing to attempt.”

Shakespeare is talking about self-doubt and self-confidence. When we begin to doubt ourselves, our ability to do great things for ourselves and others, then “we never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Listen to the inner voice but by second guessing inner voice may work to betray you.

Henry David Thoreau in Walden (“Conclusion”) wrote,

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

Imagination and intellectual curiosity are very important.

It does not matter if one lives in a small village, a town or city. One need not live in a tukul, slum or mansion. One need not visit America or Europe or travel the world.

Thoreau advises in his “Conclusion” to take an inward voyage and discover our divine potentialities, our unique possibilities for greatness.

Direct your eye right inward, and you’ll find
A thousand regions in your mind
Yet undiscovered. Travel them, and be
Expert in home-cosmography.

And then visit the “Human Family”, the great African American poet and novelist Maya Angelou wrote about, slightly paraphrased.

You can sail upon the seven seas
and stop in every land,
You will see the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

[You will travel the world and meet men and women]
[You will find] between each sort and type,
We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

Failure does not last but tough smart students do and become leaders in their chosen fields.

Embrace failure for it is the law of the universe

To propose “failure” as a basis for a new educational philosophy sounds outright insane, something that could emanate only from an absent-minded crazy professor.”

Before passing that judgment, let us consider the evidence.

Life is a long series of failures marked by occasional success.

It is never the other way around.

Every human being that ever lived was born a success. To become a living, thinking human being from a few fertilized cells is the greatest success of all.

After birth, it is mostly downhill on the slippery slope of failure.

Failure is the thing people do in the thing called life. Failure in life comes in many forms.

When we get physically sick, it is a sign of body failure. Everyone dies. That is the ultimate failure.

Betrayal is failure of trust. Despair is failure of hope.

War is the failure of peace. Hate is the failure of love.

Cowardice is the failure of courage. Cruelty is the failure of humanity.

Stupidity is the failure of creativity. Injustice the failure of fairness.

Political, social and economic systems fail.

Empires that imposed imperial rule and dominated parts of the world to advance their own peace, stability and wealth have ended up in failure.

There was Pax (Peace) Romana (Roman Empire). Failed.

Pax Sinica (China). Failed.

Pax Ottomana (Ottoman Empire). Failed.

Pax Hispanica (Spanish Empire) Failed.

Pax Britannica (British). Failed.

We are told the “End of Pax Americana” (American Empire) is in sight.

The United States of America was created after the catastrophic failure of the Articles of Confederation which created a national government that was at the mercy of the states.

Fifty-five passionately committed revolutionary Americans attended a Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, and by sheer dint of political will created the United States of America, changed themselves and the world.

When the American dream failed for African Americans, the poet Langston Hughes lamented: “What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up/  like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—/ And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?/  Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags/ like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

The universe was created in the structural failure of “singularity.”

The Big Bang Model (hypotheses) of cosmology (science of origin and development of the universe) proposes current and past matter in the Universe came into existence at the same time between 12-14 billion years ago compacted into a very small ball with infinite density and intense heat called a “Singularity.” Suddenly, the Singularity began expanding (cosmic inflation), and the universe of matter and space-time began. With expansion came disorder (entropy) of all the energy and matter in the universe (Second Law of Thermodynamics.)

Our world is built on failure.

Failure is the foundation of the greatest successes of humanity.

Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb “which turned night into daylight” and so many other things critical to modern life, asked how it felt to have failed one thousand times before inventing the light bulb said, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

Winston Churchill, UK Prime Minister, is regarded as one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century. He started as a failure in school. He failed the sixth grade and had to take a math class over three times just to pass. He had a speech impediment. During WW I, he was a “terrible failure” as a lord of admiralty (head of the British Navy.)

Churchill who failed in the 6th grade went on to receive the Nobel Prize in literature in 1953. Churchill overcame his leadership failures and became Britain’s greatest wartime leader, leading his country through its “Darkest Hour” to its “Finest Hour.”

Steve Jobs, the founder of the world’s 3 trillion-dollar company was born a failure. He was born to fail. His biological mother put him for adoption. He started college and dropped out after six months and “spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life.”

Jobs started Apple in his parent’s garage. Then he was fired from his own company. He left Apple and started other great companies and finally returned to Apple triumphantly. His message for overcoming failure, “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” (That is, find the thing you love to do. Stay curious and pursue your dream like there is no tomorrow.)


Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group failed primary school test two times, middle school test three times and college entrance exam two times. Ma scored 1 out of 120 points on the math portion of his college entrance exam. Ma ended up creating a $34 billion Chinese multinational technology company specializing in e-commerce, retail, Internet, and technology. Ma says: “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”



For Elon Musk who revolutionized ground and space travel, failure is a necessary element of innovation. It is not a stigma or a thing of shame.

In 2008 Musk’s two companies, SpaceX and Tesla, were on the verge of bankruptcy. Today, SpaceX is pushing space exploration to new heights leaving the great Boeing and other dinosaurs in the dust.



Humanity’s first attempt to leave the planet and journey into space to visit the moon began with catastrophic failure.  Apollo 1 perished on the launch pad January  27, 1967 killing three astronauts.

On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 successfully launched and announced, “The Eagle has landed.” Climbing down the ladder of the lunar module, the Commander proclaimed, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

During the Apollo 13 mission to the moon, the commander reported, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” When the crew’s return to earth seemed doubtful, the chief flight director was resolute as dramatized in the movie Apollo 13, “We have never lost an American in space. We’re not going to lose one under may watch. Failure is not an option.”

Italian attempts to colonize Ethiopia twice ended up in colossal failure.

Italy sought to impose “Pax Italiana” on Ethiopia by twisting Art. 17 of the Treaty of Wuchiale (1889) and strongarm Ethiopia into becoming an Italian protectorate. On March 1, 1896, at the Battle of Adwa, Emperor Menelik II routed the Italian Army in just a few hours and proved to the world a black nation can defeat a mighty white European colonial army. Italy tried again in 1936 and suffered the same fate. It tasted defeat once again and was driven out in 1941.

Sometimes, failure is preordained. Just have to lick your wounds and try your luck elsewhere.

In reforming, transforming and reinventing Ethiopian education, our mindset and conviction should be: “We have lost 97 percent of our students in the national school leaving exam. We shall never lose another 97 percent under our watch because failure is an option. Because to FAIL is the First Attempt At Learning.”

Failure is an option: “Failure” as a design philosophy in Ethiopian education

My conception of “failure as a philosophy of education” is simple and expressed in the following equation: F= OL.

Failure is simply an opportunity to learn, and do it right.

Underlying my simple equation are three assumptions:

1) The challenge of education is not to prepare students for “success” (which is the exception to the rule) but “failure” or failure to measure up to learning outcomes (which is the rule) in terms of substantive knowledge of a subject matter.

2) The driving element in education should be inspiring and motivating students to be creatively imaginative and intellectually curious (always asking questions and probing into the deeper recesses of reality) so that they develop a problem-solving mindset with capacity to critically analyze, synthesize and apply knowledge and even be able to derive new knowledge.

3) Students must understand that mastery of a subject matter is a function of hard work, discipline, dedication and determination. There is no magic or miracle involved in it.

The great theoretical physicist Richard Feynman once observed anyone can learn quantum mechanics (phew!) if they only apply themselves.

“You ask me if an ordinary person—by studying hard—would get to be able to imagine these things like I imagine. Of course. I was an ordinary person who studied hard. There’s no miracle people. It just happens they got interested in this thing, and they learned all this stuff. They’re just people. There’s no talent or special miracle ability to understand quantum mechanics or a miracle ability to imagine electromagnetic fields that comes without practice and reading and learning and study. So if you take an ordinary person who’s willing to devote a great deal of time and study and work and thinking and mathematics, then he’s become a scientist.”

I am not sure if there is an articulated “design philosophy” in Ethiopian education.

Based on the literature and policy review on education in Ethiopia I have done so far, I am left with the impression that much of the educational policymaking in Ethiopia has been based on ideology, common sense, anecdotes, intuitions and guesstimates.

A 2002 TPLF Ministry of Education Report revealed not only the pitiful condition of education in Ethiopia but also the fact its design philosophy  to completely dismantle and raze to the ground the educational system that preexisted TPLF rule because it has been a deadly instrument of oppression. That report shockingly concluded:

Beyond having no policy direction, the previous educational system had acute and severe problems of both access and quality. That is why it was necessary to seek solutions and to frame a policy. However, these were not the only reasons for formulating a new policy. At the time the policy was framed, the Ethiopian people were embarking upon a new historical path to establish a new order, and begin a new life. It was a time when the Ethiopian peoples liberated themselves from a centuries-old system of oppression, and rose up to form a new order of national equality and freedom, of development and democracy. It was therefore necessary to replace the educational system that served the old discarded order by a new one.

For the following decade, and thereafter, education under TPLF was transformed into a system of patronage as I documented in my 2013 commentary, “Edu-corruption and Miseducation in Ethiopia.” At the time, I observed:

Ethiopia’s education sector has become a haven and a refuge for prebendalist (where those affiliated with the ruling regime feel entitled to receive a share of the loot) party hacks and a bottomless barrel of patronage. The Meles regime has used jobs, procurement and other opportunities in the education sector to reward and sustain loyalty in its support base. They have been handing out teaching jobs to their supporters like candy and procurement opportunities to their cronies like cake.

The World Bank also concluded:

“In Ethiopia’s decentralized yet authoritarian system, considerable powers exist among senior officials at the federal, regional, and woreda levels. Of particular relevance to this study is the discretion exercised by politically appointed officials at the woreda level, directly affecting the management of teachers.”

The TPLF regime enacted Proclamation No.650/2009 with the guiding design philosophy of weaponizing the higher education system to “promote justice and fairness,” create “a culture of fighting corruption,” and pursue “truth and freedom of expression of truth,” among others.

That Proclamation was a cynical and thinly veiled attempt to use education as a political weapon of mass indoctrination and mass distraction and ideological tool to regiment students and convert them into becoming TPLF cadres and micromanage universities as pipelines for the TPLF bureaucracy.

There is no question that the 2023 massive failure on the national school leaving exam is the tip of the iceberg of educational failure in Ethiopia produced by the two-decade old TPLF program. 

A rigorous analysis at each grade level in all schools in Ethiopia is highly likely to show similar massive failure.

There is no more convincing proof of the TPLF’s determination to destroy Ethiopia by destroying its educational system than what is stated in the 2002 Ministry of Education Report.

It has been observed that it does not require an atomic bomb or missiles to destroy a nation. Destroying the educational system will collapse any nation.

Lowering the quality of education and allowing cheating in exams will one day result in the death of patients by incompetent doctors, collapse of buildings constructed by untrained engineers and miscarriage of untutored judges.

The TPLF terrorist war was expected to be the icing on the collapse of the Ethiopian nation.

Alas, the best laid plans of mice and TPLF men!

The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the TPLF leaders came out of the bush with barely an elementary education, seized power, called themselves generals and bought degrees on the internet and strutted on the stage as  doctors and engineers.

The Ethiopian ship of the Ethiopian state was under the helm of TPLF ignoramuses. Ethiopia became their playground.

The 2021 “Education Sector Development Programme VI (ESDP VI) 2013 – 2017 E.C. 2020/21 – 2024/25 G.C (Section IV, (pp. 129-138)” sought to make fundamental reforms by creating the structure for an evidence-based educational policymaking, implementation, monitoring and evaluation process.

The 2021 policy sought to create baseline data for educational reform to take place over a period of five years with the object of ensuring “(a) compliance with the policy objectives set by the government (policymakers); and (b) feasibility of the targets in terms of human, material, and financial resources, as well as capacity to manage implementation.”

In cases where there are no baseline data, reform targets were to be based on “historical trends over the past five years, expert judgements and opinions have been sought from professionals at federal and regional levels, views of stakeholders on what they expect from the education sector.”

A thumbnail sketch of  “failure” as a new design philosophy for educational reform in Ethiopia

Admittedly, I have little familiarity with student learning outcomes at the elementary and high school levels.

But as a one-time high level university administrator, I am very familiar with the importance of student learning outcomes.

As I observe from afar, I sense there is much “brainstorming” among educational policymakers dealing with policy changes and regulatory, management and administration reforms to address structural “inefficiencies” in the educational system and reduce the spectacular failure rate at all levels, not merely on the national exam (e.g. inability of schools to prepare students to pass the national exam and their inability to make effective use of scarce resources in an environment of accelerating demand).

Needless to say, I see NO “brainstorming” about educational failure in Ethiopia among Ethiopian intellectuals who are as rare as unicorns and mermaids.

In my view, the 2021 “Education Sector Development Programme” is 1) overly bureaucratic and insufficiently focused on student learning outcomes, and 2) educational reform must be centered and revolve around student needs and learning outcomes.

As I think about educational “failure” in Ethiopia, as manifested and measured in the exceedingly high  percentage of high school students unable to pass the national school leaving certificate, I “framestorm” it as a problem of inability to achieve “learning outcomes” from elementary school.

In “First Principle Thinking,” (fancy way to say, “think like a scientist, don’t assume anything”), one does “Framestorming before brainstorming.”

Framestorming is the set of action one takes to reframe one’s perspective and the narratives one embraces and articulates about a critical problem.

My corollary belief about educational “failure” in Ethiopia is that if there had been mechanism in existence that assured students met a  specified sets of learning outcomes beginning at the elementary level, such a catastrophic outcome in the national school leaving exam could have been avoided.

In my “Framestorming” view, formal classroom-based education/instruction should be focused entirely on student learning outcomes.

Learning outcomes are statements of the knowledge, skills and abilities individual students should possess and can demonstrate upon completion of a learning experience or sequence of learning experiences.”

For instance, what “knowledge, skills and abilities should a third grade student possess and demonstrate upon completion of a learning experience or sequence of learning experiences in mathematics, science, social studies, language, etc.?

My hypotheses is that for the 97 percent of students who did not pass the national exam, something went terribly wrong in the 3rd, 4th, 5th…10th and 11th grades.

The 97 percent who failed did not fail because they performed poorly in the 12th grade. They failed because they failed from 3rd to 11th grade.

My belief is that failure is a function of not achieving learning outcomes.

If a child fails to meet learning outcomes set for the third grade, s/he will not do well in subsequent grades.

The cumulative inability to meet learning outcomes in successive grades results in massive failure on the national school leaving exam.

Needless to say, mechanisms and processes should be introduced and maintained in the educational system to monitor on a rigorous and periodic basis the knowledge, skills and attitudes students will be able to demonstrate, represent, or produce upon successful completion of a particular grade level, curriculum or program.

But that is water under the bridge or spilled milk now.

To do it right and produce capable students means re-engineering the entire educational system – from grade school to university — on the basis of student learning outcomes.

That means, educational policymaking should be geared towards establishing standards and criteria for expected student performance and demonstrable achievements upon completion of a particular grade, curriculum or program.

The proposition that “failure” as a design philosophy should guide Ethiopian education reform sounds not only absurd but downright crazy.

As my argument is that failure to meet learning outcomes at all grade levels is the core problem of Ethiopian education, then we need a design philosophy built around the failure to achieve learning outcomes.

By “design philosophy” I simply mean a set of actionable principles to guide educational reform.

Elon Musk’s design philosophy is guided by “First Principles Thinking.”

It means “challenging assumptions and solving complex problems by breaking them down into their most basic elements and reassembling them from the ground up.”

It is alternatively known as “Occam’s razor” (simplest solution is generally the best one) or “KISS” (Keep it Simple Stupid.)



As I indicated above, I have no experience in elementary and secondary education but I do have  experience in the implementation of student learning outcomes at the higher education level.

Student learning outcomes are as valid in higher education as thy are in elementary and secondary education.

My hypotheses is that the 97  percent failure rate on the 2023 national school leaving exam in Ethiopia is the result of and educational policies intentionally designed to produce substandard academic achievements.

I believe a thorough root cause analysis into the problem is necessary and policymaking should be evidence-based, not anecdotal evidence, intuition or sentiments of altruism.

The fact of the matter is that 97 percent of students have failed the national school exam.

There are multiple causes that account for that failure.

Those causes must be thoroughly and rigorously investigated to improve the performance of students in the pipeline and to prevent a recurrence of such an outcome.

I believe what is needed is a root cause analysis into the factors that contributed to the failure on the national exam.

Root cause analysis is an approach to problem solving which uses data analysis to dig deeper into problems to uncover the underlying causes. It makes possible informed decisions, facilitates implementation of changes and selection of intervention modalities.

Conducting a root cause analysis can help schools anticipate, identify and plan improvements in all aspects of educational services delivery.

In my view, the ultimate aim of the root cause analysis of failure in the Ethiopian educational system is to reform education with evidence-based practices or interventions that are likely to prevent the 2023 catastrophic failure on the national exam.

There are many different approaches to root cause analysis in investigating failure points in the education system. The basic concept in root cause analysis is not all complex.

I shall argue that involved in Ethiopian educational policymaking and implementation can benefit greatly from the American educational reform experience.

There are extensive evidence-based US resources to consult to support school reform and improvement efforts in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian educational policymakers can access the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) extensive publications resource base.

A detailed, practical, comprehensive, evidence-based and step by step guide is available in a USDE publication entitled Non-Regulatory Guidance: Using Evidence to Strengthen Education Investments.

The Colorado Department of Education has done root cause to address student learning and performance challenges and development of  improvement strategies.

The Connecticut Department of Education has also developed a comprehensive tool kit for root cause analysis.

There are diverse illustrative and instructive root cause analysis of learning and educational issues in California.

The “failure root cause analysis” in Ethiopia would require systematic data collection at the various grade levels and undertaking multivariate analysis examining the relationship between multiple variables to identify failure points.

The ministry of Education could undertake a pilot (small scale) root cause analysis study for two purposes: 1) to test out a research design for a comprehensive national study and 2) to guide policymakers in the short term on critical issues amenable to expedited remediation.

I shall explore the details of such an analysis in future commentaries.

We have not failed as a country, but we did F.A.I.L.

I should like to believe Minister Berhanu spoke prematurely about us “failing as a nation.”

He emphatically said the 2023 national exam results should be regarded by all as “a wakeup call.”

Minister Berhanu added, “we have to create an educational system that is capable of meeting the challenges. That is our obligation. But this is not (the test results) something that should make us lose hope. This should be regarded as a wakeup call.”

As far as I can tell, students, parents, teachers, community leaders, policymakers, etc. in Ethiopia are fully awake and sitting at attention with their eyes wide open.

(Ethiopian intellectuals, especially in the diaspora, are asleep at the switch in a comatose state.)

Now that the Ethiopian people are awake, job #1 is establishing student learning outcomes.


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Top Reasons To Start A Business In A Foreign Country

3 mins read

If you’re an entrepreneurial spirit, the allure of starting a business in a foreign country is undeniable. There are plenty of advantages to setting up shop overseas. Launching a business abroad can be incredibly rewarding, whether the desire for unique experiences or the potential financial reward drives it. Before embarking on this journey, however, some key factors need to be considered. This article will examine why entrepreneurs might want to consider expanding their business operations internationally.

1. Access to New Markets

A foreign presence allows you to reach customers from around the globe in places you could never have dreamed of. Products and services covered in other countries may be attained by yours, serving as a great way to differentiate from other companies and capture attention in increasingly competitive markets.

For this reason, businesses are increasingly looking beyond their home country for success, taking advantage of inexpensive yet effective online marketing tactics that open doors to brand-new opportunities and revenue streams. By gaining access to new markets, your business can take full advantage of today’s advanced global economy and reach out to mainland operations where the competition is much less intense. The savings can be substantial, especially when foreign labor costs are factored in.

2. Cost Savings

As a business person, exploring production opportunities in other countries with lower labor costs and cheaper costs of goods can be tempting. While these capabilities can provide significant cost savings, several considerations must be considered before such a decision is made. Flooring, for example, may need to be outsourced to China due to cheaper manufacturing costs. However, doing so may require longer lead times or disqualify a product from greater ecological standards.

Weigh your options carefully and ensure the advantages of sending production overseas outweigh the disadvantages. For instance, if labor costs are lower in a foreign country, you can also benefit from reduced overhead costs such as rent and utilities. However, make sure to factor in transportation fees and any applicable taxes.

3. Tax Benefits

If you want to reduce your taxes, one of the most effective strategies is to take advantage of foreign tax laws and regulations. These can be incredibly beneficial when used properly, helping to keep more money in your pocket. Understandably, researching and navigating international tax laws can be intimidating – it’s not something that many ordinary people have experience with.

However, some professionals specialize in this field and can provide sound advice on leveraging these structures for legal and trustworthy tax savings. With the right help, you’ll be prepared to face taxation confidently and may even enjoy some surprising financial benefits.

4. Networking Opportunities

It’s essential to network with those in the industry, from vendors and suppliers to colleagues, especially local ones. No one knows a market better than those who work intimately with it daily. Take advantage of networking opportunities wherever you can:

  • Attend business events, trade shows, and lunches.
  • Join organizations like Chambers of Commerce.
  • Participate in coffee groups.

Connecting with other business contacts offers practical advice and possible collaborations and keeps up with the times and industry trends—vital for any successful business. Don’t underestimate the power of creating relationships that can further your entrepreneurial goals.

5. Regulatory Flexibility

Regulatory flexibility can be incredibly beneficial to businesses, both large and small, as it gives them a greater chance at succeeding in their endeavors. With fewer restrictions in countries where regulation is favorable, companies have more opportunities to innovate and push boundaries. The cost of creating something new is lessened due to the more relaxed policies on patents, taxation, and labor rights.

This allows businesses to allocate resources more efficiently and invest more heavily in their personal growth, which can lead to amazing results down the line. Unsurprisingly, many developed countries are seeing booming economies, partly thanks to flexible regulations encouraging entrepreneurs worldwide.

6. Increased Visibility

Making an impact in international markets can seem daunting. Still, with increased visibility for your products or services, you can put yourself on the map and gain access to entirely new customer bases. A strategic move such as expanding visibility efforts can help to drive higher brand recognition and improve competitive positioning across countries.

Of course, a great digital presence is paramount but think beyond that to stand out from the crowd. Targeting publications for print placements and partnering with influencers at the global level are just a few ways to increase visibility abroad. Reaching more potential customers overseas has never been simpler – so don’t let geographical boundaries hold you back.

All in all, expanding your business abroad can be a great advantage for smaller startups and experienced entrepreneurs alike. The pros and cons of this business venture depend on the specific country or region you are planning to establish operations. Still, the potential benefits mentioned above should be considered. Even though it’s important not to rush into these types of decisions, taking the time to research and weigh the potential positives against any potential negatives can pay dividends for your future success.

The post Top Reasons To Start A Business In A Foreign Country appeared first on Capital Newspaper.

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Uncertainty in the Horn as a wary Eritrea seeks new alliances

4 mins read

President Isaias Afwerki’s recent statements suggest he is concerned about Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s deal with the TPLF.

Eritrea’s reclusive leader, Isaias Afewerki, held a rare press conference on 9 February while on a diplomatic visit in Nairobi, Kenya. He also conducted a lengthy four-part interview on Eri-TV, an Eritrean state-owned media outlet. 

Isaias’ answers in both offered a glimpse into his thinking on a number of important dynamics, notably Asmara’s reception of Ethiopia’s peace agreement, the mandated withdrawal of Eritrean soldiers from Tigray, accountability for atrocities committed during the war, and Eritrea’s role in shifting regional dynamics.

He commented on the recent settlement between the federal government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The Eritrean government has officially recognized and commended the peace deal signed in Pretoria, South Africa, that ended Ethiopia’s civil war.

The agreement implies that, owing to the diplomatic pressure and promises of financial support from the West, Abiy’s government has agreed to reach a political settlement with the TPLF and share power. 

Pretoria Plot

Some commentators have portrayed Isaias as the biggest winner after Ethiopia’s war given how much it weakened the TPLF, Tigray, and Ethiopia more broadly. 

Although publicly stating that the joint Ethiopian and Eritrean military operation has eliminated the TPLF as a threat, the settlement has caused concern among some in Eritrea that an alliance is forming that could be hostile towards Isaias’ regime.

In his interview, Isaias hinted at his displeasure with the arrangement, portraying it as a ploy by the West to save his mortal enemy, the TPLF.

Such anti-imperialist rhetoric is arguably a convenient way for him to externalize blame for Eritrea’s woes, and postpone answering internal demands for democracy and good governance.

Now that the TPLF is, by his own admission, no longer a significant threat, he needs another, more potent, enemy against whom Eritreans must stand guard: the West. 

Troop Withdrawal

When speaking with Eri-TV, Isaias also emphasized the integration of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF) during the third round of fighting.

While the Ethiopian government denied that Eritrean troops were in Tigray for the first five months of the war, evidence suggests they entered the war in its early days.

Since then, the only question has been the extent to which the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies were integrated and operating together, and whether the leverage Isaias gained over Ethiopia’s prime minister will cause Eritrea to play a spoiler role.    

It’s notable that Isaias claimed Eritrean forces were invited by the Ethiopian government and sidestepped questions in Nairobi over whether his troops will remain in Tigray. 

Under the Pretoria agreement, the withdrawal of the Eritrean army was expected to occur in tandem with the Tigray forces giving up their heavy weapons. The latter has taken place and there have been reports of Eritrean troops withdrawing from parts in Tigray, but there is also evidence of their continued presence. 


On Eri-TV, Isaias also spoke about the need to punish those responsible for atrocities committed in Tigray. He repeatedly asserted that the destruction caused by the TPLF must be addressed and those responsible for atrocities should face justice. 

When confronted by journalists in Nairobi about claims of widespread atrocities committed by Eritrean troops in Tigray, the autocratic president called such reports, “a fantasy of those who want to derail any peace process [from] achieving its goal.” 

As such, it appears that Isaias’ emphasis on the need for accountability is intended to add fuel to anti-TPLF sentiments already brewing amongst the Tigrayan public and to shift focus away from his own government’s dismal human rights record.

Eritrean troops have been implicated in some of the most horrendous and widespread abuses during Ethiopia’s civil war. 

Although the guns have mostly been silenced, reports of atrocities by Eritrean forces against Tigrayans have not stopped, including sexual violence and executions.

Human rights organizations have ramped up their calls for accountability in the face of the Ethiopian government’s attempts to stifle a UN investigation.

Shifting Dynamics

During his interview, Isaias also discussed other military details that attest to Ethio-Eritrean solidarity, seemingly in order to do away with speculation that he and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed are growing more distant.

Despite such assurances, it appears the Pretoria Agreement has paved the way for a new political settlement in Ethiopia. 

Eritrea has been openly supporting Amhara nationalists and their irredentism, including the violent and unconstitutional annexation of Western Tigray, and a political settlement that favors the TPLF could be detrimental to this agenda. 

Pretoria appears to be causing a shift in alliances among supporters of Abiy’s government. This is part of a larger trend of pro-unionist parties and media outlets, including Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (EZEMA) and ESAT TV, distancing themselves from Abiy’s administration. 

The relationship between Amhara nationalists and the Abiy regime has been frayed since his May 2022 crackdown on Fano militants and journalists in Amhara, and the state violence against civilians amid the recent rift in Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church.  

Abiy’s apparent support for the move by separatist Oromia bishops against the Holy Synod, allegedly dominated by Amhara archbishops with chauvinistic views, can be interpreted as an attempt to neutralize the threat of extremist Amhara nationalism and, by extension, blunt Eritrea’s influence.

Given the alliance between Eritrean and Amhara elites, some analysts have interpreted the growing hostility towards Pretoria among pro-unionist parties and media outlets as reflecting Eritrea’s true feelings.

New Friends

To mitigate internal and external pressures, the Isaias regime has been seeking to forge new regional and global alliances.

Isaias’ visit to Kenya and meeting with its newly-elected president, William Ruto, suggests that Eritrea is actively seeking new alliances to retain its importance in the Horn of Africa, especially now that its alliance with Ethiopia is no longer a given.

Eritrea president Isaias Afwerki and Kenyan president William Ruto; Nairobi; 9 February 2023

If the political settlement in Ethiopia results in the TPLF gaining a foothold in the federal government, it could lead to a shift in the regional power dynamics, with Ethiopia and Eritrea potentially becoming rivals.

In addition, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, travelled to Eritrea in late January for bilateral discussions. The talks reportedly centered around the potential for increased Russian investment in Eritrea, as well as security cooperation.

Isaias is also seeking investments from Saudi Arabia and travelled to Riyadh on 28 February to meet with top Saudi officials.

It remains to be seen how successful these efforts will be, but Isaias clearly recognizes the need to adapt to the changing political landscape in the region.

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