In the scenario of Hegemony, we believe that authoritarianism
is the most prudent response to our challenges and conflicts. An
authoritarian state uses a strong hand to control violence and to
manage the economy, the environment, and population pressures.
With time, Ethiopians become disenchanted with inadequate social
development, and an uprising is inevitable.
HEGEMONY አፄ በጉልበቱ
Ethiopia’s economy has done relatively well, spurred on by state-led infrastructure
projects. We have built the continent’s largest hydroelectric power dam. The lines for
the Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway have been laid. We have new highways.
But, social development has lagged behind our progress with the economy and
infrastructure. While the level of poverty has decreased, we rank very low globally on
the Human Development Index, as a measure of people and their capability. Also, we
are one of the poorest countries in the world. Thus, the growth of our economy hides
the full picture.
We have big challenges. There is a surging population, agitation amongst various
groups and a hunger for further reforms. Violence is prevalent. Political instability
in regional states is a big concern. Internet outages for days follow critical events.
Close to two million people have left their homes and are on the move. How will our
At this point, citizens are engaging on the future of the nation on online platforms,
through public discourse, in the mainstream media and through rhetoric from
political parties. It is clear that there are differences in intention about the future of
the country. But, recent reforms by the government would mean that our people are
The opposition is convinced that the Constitution needs to change in some way, but
there is no consensus on what exactly needs changing nor how to go about changing
it. There are widespread calls for immediate discussions to amend the Constitution.
Others say it can wait for after the elections. The challenge for those seeking
amendments is that there is no clear roadmap for changing the Constitution.
With the 2020 elections approaching, negotiation between opposition parties and the
government on the election law ends in disagreement and is disrupted. Opposition
parties remain emboldened. They maintain pressure on the government. While the
opposition unites, the relationship with the ruling party is fractious. Making a U-turn
from recent steps to encourage participation from opposition parties, the government
rapidly shifts from openness to lock-down.
The incumbent party wins the 2020 election with a massive majority. A small
percentage of parliamentary seats go to opposition parties. Foreign powers with
ulterior motives in the affairs of the country applaud the result. Foreign election
monitors declare that the elections are fraudulent. There are claims that the ruling
party has conceded parliamentary seats to an opposition that is actually a front
controlled by them. It amounts to a tightening of power. Hope turns to dismay.
By 2025 civic and social organizations – including women, youth and professional associations
– are under government influence and control. The liberalization of the media before the 2020
elections gives way to a stifling of dissident voices in online forums and public discourse.
Ethnic and religious rights are not respected leading to limitations on what these groups can
do. Journalists are imprisoned. Those that are not incarcerated go into exile. Civil society is
considerably weakened. An authoritarian government has firmly entrenched itself.
The government clampdown triggers violence across the country. But the violence is not only
linked to the government’ actions. The absence of a national consensus on the Constitution,
issues with the federal system, language challenges and nationalism are big contributors.
Tensions mount within divided communities.
igh levels of violence and displacement have far reaching consequences. It exacerbates
existing food shortage problems. It lays bare a growing wealth inequality. People facing food
insecurity are in a state of survival that leads to increased lawlessness, especially in cities and
urban settings. In rural areas, environmental degradation increases as people overtake natural
resources such as forests for subsistence.
The response of the government is a curfew and the declaration of a state of emergency. Most
of the violence is stamped out. The authority of the state rules. There is a sense of quietness
around the country, as people do not have the freedom to be on the streets anymore.
In spite of this, economic growth is doing well, as investments in infrastructure continue. The
government has identified key constraints to economic growth and has acted to address them.
All aspects and sectors of the economy are tightly controlled. As a result, growth rates remain
strong. The economy is a source of power for the government to pursue its agenda.
The government nurtures relationships with the international community wherever it seems
to benefit from it. The most important relationships are with global allies who provide much
needed support. Other relationships are with the international donors that fund food aid
programs. Other international relationships are not on solid ground though. Regional economic
integration is at risk. Our relationships with neighbouring countries are strained as mistrust of
events in Ethiopia take hold. This is especially true for those countries that are democracies.
Our rising population was once viewed as an opportunity. Now the state sees the population
size as a threat to its economic development agenda. The mantra is that more people will
consume more resources. Younger people entering the job market are not easy to absorb. The
state responds by designing a population control policy that advocates for smaller families.
Family planning efforts are coupled with massive public education and advocacy work.
Power sits squarely in the centre of the federal system. The regional states have superficial
authority. In effect, they are now puppets of the central government. Even the public’s will for
independent action is destroyed. Both the public and the regional officials are totally dependent
on the central government for orders and instructions on what to do.
A move to create unity arises from within the authoritarian state. All political players have
accepted the ethnic-based federal system. But, ethnicity continues to be the source of much
angst and contention. The regional states are dependent on the allocations of resources from
the central government. It is this dependence that the federal government uses to dictate the
grounds for unity without consultation.
The state’s assertive leadership extends to the environment. The effort to control the population
size has an economic motive. If that policy is effectively executed, environmental degradation
will also be reduced. Our country has continued on its path of pioneering in terms of ecological
and environmental sustainability. In this respect, we remain at the forefront of global efforts.
This regime is intent on entrenching itself into power – as an authoritarian would – by whatever
means possible. Elections over the years are thus carefully orchestrated events to present a
façade of democracy. In the process, democracy is actually erased.
The sustained growth of our economy is threatened by an unlikely source. It becomes clear at
this point that the political economy awareness of citizens has changed markedly. People are
not satisfied anymore with an economy growing without social development and inclusivity.
There is a lack of accountability for people’s welfare. Corruption is rampant. This diverts
resources away from the rightful beneficiaries. Moreover, where Ethiopia once did fairly well
with economic equality, it now sees signs of unfair distribution of wealth and the emergence of
different classes in society.
The public is now eager to mobilize to resolve their issues and disappointments. Suddenly, the
simmering tensions of private conversations burst into public spaces. There are struggles, and
mass demonstrations. People eventually take it to the streets. The government’s reflex response
is initially brutal to counter this threat.
Foreign threats present an opportunity for the state. There are emerging fundamentalist
groups that are trying to take hold within Ethiopia. Also, a conflict with a neighbouring country
related to access to a shared natural resource threatens to become more serious. These national
security threats are used by the state to gain support from citizens through the rallying cry,
“People unite, the enemy is coming”. It is not enough though.
Public resistance lays bare the true nature of the economy. Sustained high growth was the norm
up to now but the economy is characterized by excessive and arbitrary government interference.
The trade and investment climate is highly constrained. This authoritarian government has to
do with significantly less economic resources.
Agriculture is declining. This has cross-cutting implications. There is a reduction in productivity
in terms of crop yields. Farmers and pastoralists are not fairly rewarded for their efforts.
Some businesses begin to hoard grains thereby attempting to artificially increase prices.
The government is then forced to control prices. During the resultant downturn in farming,
urbanization continues unabated. This places a strain on the resources of big cities.
Ten million people urgently need access to food through emergency food assistance. The foreign
policy adopted ensures that we have donors who are willing to complement the state-funding
of social schemes and intervention to ensure food security. These donors have been funding
Ethiopia for a long time by now. Their support is now tested by human rights concerns. If they
withdraw their support – and this is becoming more likely – millions more will immediately go
hungry. The government feels the pressure.
The deteriorating domestic situation scares the markets. Government has to scramble to
prevent capital from leaving the country. Foreign investment is halted. There is a false sense of
economic vibrancy as party-affiliated businesses continue to thrive. However, even that shows
signs of fragility and it is not sustainable.
By 2040 the state can list some successes in its assertive response to the challenges that
Ethiopia faces. The population of the country has moderated. The landscape has also changed
physically as infrastructure projects have been built and are now in use.
There are failures too. Violence, initially subdued through authority, has resurfaced years later
with renewed force. The economy has faltered and is now in decline. As the state’s grip on
power dissipates, it seems that its successes with the environment are about to be reversed.
Forests are destroyed overnight as part of the violence and conflict. There are no sustainable
solutions for food insecurity, as millions of our people are only surviving due to humanitarian
The authoritarian rule of Hegemony has run its course and change is afoot. After decades of
being ignored, the way forward is now decided by the will of the people. Leadership is faced
with a choice: are we going to be a failed state, or should we take the tentative steps towards
development that is inclusive of all of our people?