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Political Contradictions and State Building in Ethiopia: The Limits of Auth...

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SOAS, University of London (Room--DLT)

Thornhaugh Street

Russell Square

London

WC1H 0XG

United Kingdom

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Over the last quarter century, Ethiopia has allegedly progressed on a path of economic liberalization, democratization and construction of a stable state in the troubled region Horn of Africa region. Western countries have praised the country’s leadership for making progress in all three areas, despite a record of egregious violations of human rights. The country has been one of the largest recipient of international development assistance in tropical Africa. The record of economic growth the authoritarian development model has supposedly achieved over the last two decades is seen as a source of legitimacy for the incumbent Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

In November 2015, massive protests erupted in the Oromia regional state, followed by one of the worst droughts in the country’s history. As the state countered the protests with violence and appealed for international assistance to combat famine, further protests broke out in the Amhara region in the north and Konso in the south. Small scale resistance movements popped up throughout the country.

To put down the protests, the government unleashed its security forces against peaceful demonstrators, killing an estimated 2,000 people between November 2015 and early months of 2017. Hundreds of thousands were maimed and many thousands more were herded into prisons and concentration camps. Unable to stop the protests, the government declared state of emergency that has now lasted eight months. Casting aside the need for political legitimacy, the government replaced civil administration with military rule.

The protests and the government’s violent response have exposed limitations in Ethiopia’s claim to having the capacity to handle internal tensions. A state of emergency might suppress open protests but the military alone cannot restore stability or successfully replace civil administration. The turbulent events of the last two years have shown that foreign support might be used to prolong regime tenure but externally-leveraged legitimacy has its limits. Overall, the dramatic turn of events has exposed fundamental political contradictions that have characterized the Ethiopian state for the last twenty-five years—the tension between the need for devolution of power a federal state structure requires and the imperative of centralized management that a planned economy demands. In reality, the main political contradiction that has caused the massive protests is the inherent tension between the highly centralized, highly militarized authoritarian developmental state and the growing demand for a constitutional-democratic state.

A one-day symposium is organized at SOAS, University of London, to examine how apparently durable states have their stability undermined by strong opposition and meet this opposition with violence, rendering the state illegitimate and fragile. By addressing the evolution of state power in Ethiopia over the last twenty-five years and by analysing the year-long political crisis evinced by the state’s violent response to a popular protest, the symposium seeks to find new frameworks for understanding Ethiopian politics and imagining the future of the country.

We invite research papers on the following themes:

- Ethiopia’s developmental state in theory and practice;

- The military’s role in Ethiopian politics;

- Structural weaknesses in Ethiopia’s multinational federation;

- The Oromo protests, the Amhara rebellion and the Konso uprising, and the state’s response to these;

- The role of youth in Ethiopia’s politics;

- Ethiopia since the State of Emergency.

Submission and registration

Please send your abstracts to eh27@soas.ac.uk. The deadline for submission is June 20, 2017, notification for acceptance status will be sent to applicants by June 25, 2017. The symposium is open to all who wish to attend. To register, please visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/political-contradictions-and-state-building-in-ethiopia-the-limits-of-authoritarian-democracy-and-tickets-34859673221

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SOAS, University of London (Room--DLT)

Thornhaugh Street

Russell Square

London

WC1H 0XG

United Kingdom

View Map

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