The population of Africa is booming, but as long as productivity and employment remain unsteady, “global experts” and economists contend, African cities could descend into conflict and disorder.

From their perspective, activities like street hustling are seen to embody chaos and delinquency. Hustlers are assumed to be young, sometimes criminal, unemployed, and enmeshed in the informal economy of the streets, living in informal settlements or “slums” and illegally occupying urban land that could be used more productively.

These portrayals have a long history, rooted in colonial attitudes toward informal workers and economic policies that have long overlooked the value street hustlers have created in modern African cities.

A successful hustler is embedded in the city’s social relations. To get by, hustlers connect people, provide services and enable economic exchange, in both licit ways (such as retail, brokering transactions and providing electricity, water, transport and sanitation) and illicit ways (retrieving and fencing stolen goods).

Of course, the street economy is not all roses. Hustling can be predatory and criminal. But this not the whole story, as my own research on street lives in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa taught me.

Smartness in the city

Hustling has a special place in Addis Ababa, especially in Arada – a historic part of the city centre. Since the mid-20th century, Arada has conveyed a sense of smartness and urban sophistication, which generations of residents have nurtured and cultivated.

In the 1950s and 60s, intellectuals, artists, government officials and members of the city’s emerging middle class described themselves as “Arada” to make sense of how the city, with its bars, restaurants, cinemas and theatre, shaped their lifestyles, sensibilities, and social lives. To this day, being Arada signifies a proud local history of cultural and intellectual production among the city’s middle classes.

At the same time, hustlers and sex workers – poor men and women who lived side by side with the middle classes – also claim to be Arada. For them, the hustler’s ability to navigate the city and get by against the odds was a sign of smartness. Being Arada has been a way for these people to assert their presence in the city and achieve a sense of self-worth and respect.

Hit with evictions

Both the intellectualism of the elites and the street smarts of hustlers and sex workers transformed the neighbourhood of Arada into a social and cultural hotspot. But today, the very people who gave the neighbourhood its meaning and value are under attack. In the past decade, the Addis Ababa city government has initiated waves of evictions targeting inner city areas, including Arada and neighbouring Arat Kilo.

Government officials I interviewed over the years are adamant that the cleared areas were unfit to live in, with dilapidated housing, poor sanitation and health conditions. The evictions are for development, they say – they make room for private investment and regeneration.

But in all likelihood, evicted residents won’t be able to return to the city centre. Those who can afford a down payment of between 25,000 and 180,000 birr (roughly US$850 to US$6,200), and monthly instalments of 2,000 to 3,000 birr (US$70 to US$100) over 15 to 25 years, will relocate to the outskirts of Addis Ababa, where the government has been building large tracts of “affordable housing”. Those who cannot afford it – 20% of the city’s residents – will need to look for a cheap place to rent elsewhere.

Commercial spaces, high-end apartments, leisure facilities and office blocks will replace inner city residences, alongside a few blocks of “affordable housing” for a lucky few. The old trope of the African city as a site which needs to be ordered and contained has struck again. And this time, it has hit longstanding residents hardest.

Location, location, location

For elite economists, developers, investors and policy makers, hustlers have no place in the new, beautified vision of Addis Ababa, and places such as Arada – with their dilapidated housing and informal economies – have no economic value. In fact, these very actors stand to profit from the cultural meaning and value generated by the residents that they evict from these historic areas.

One of these investors is Jonny (not his real name), an Ethiopian businessman in his fifties who I interviewed as part of my research. While holding a drink at the lounge bar at the Hilton, he showed me pictures of furnishings he had ordered from China. He was building a hotel in a newly cleared inner city area. It is an exciting business opportunity, he told me:

It was an old house, in an old area. Very beautiful, very beautiful.

The real estate motto “location, location, location” has as much to do with the historical and cultural significance of a place, as its proximity to local amenities or spectacular city views. But while developers like Jonny can now pursue their dreams, the people who made the area desirable in the first place are being pushed out.

Urban exiles

“They want to get rid of the poor,” said Ibrahim, a former hustler and current car attendant in his late thirties, as we walked around what remained of nearby neighbourhood Arat Kilo after a wave of evictions in 2012. Others clearly agreed. Just a few days after the evictions, graffiti appeared on the remaining buildings: “Since they were jealous of us, they tore down ours,” one message read. Some parts of Arada are still standing, but residents worry that sooner or later, it will be their turn.

In research interviews, government officials emphasised to me that evictees are compensated, and that being offered place in the government’s affordable housing programme is a change for the better.

But Eden, a mother of two who lives in a new built housing complex on the eastern outskirts of Addis Ababa, did not agree:

We live in these new houses, but there is not much change! Now we have to pay thousands for the mortgage. Then your salary is cut, first by taxes and then by transport costs – it is not fair!

Evictions in Addis Ababa will continue regardless, this time also with the involvement of international investment. In November 2018, Abu Dhabi-based real estate developer Eagle Hills and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched La Gare, a new development with shopping malls, luxury hotels and over 4,000 high-end residences. La Gare will replace Kirkos, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the inner city.

This April, Abiy Ahmed announced another milestone in his plans for the regeneration of Addis Ababa. His riverside project - “Beautifying Shegher” - will be supported by the Chinese government: a 12-kilometre redevelopment of densely populated parts of the Ethiopian capital.


Read more: China's 'Silk Road urbanism' is changing cities from London to Kampala – can locals keep control?


As Ethiopia’s economy continues to grow, development is in demand and inner city residents, including hustlers, expect it. But it should not be pursued at the expense of the very people who helped create value and meaning in the city. This value must be recognised: historically and politically but – above all – morally and monetarily.

The names of individuals interviewed as part of the research project have been changed.The Conversation

Marco Di Nunzio, Lecturer in the Anthropology of Africa, University of Birmingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Egypt has been ranked top of 10 leading countries in Africa where hotel development has seen an upsurge, with Nigeria, Morocco and Ethiopia trailing. This is according to the 11th annual survey by W Hospitality Group, which over the years has earned global acclaim for its expertise in hospitality business.

The four countries lead the pack by numbers of rooms in the internationally-branded hotel development pipeline, with Egypt showing 15,158 rooms in 51 new hotels. A total of 75,155 branded rooms in 401 hotels are in development across the continent, a net increase (ignoring recent openings and taking in to account deals that have not come to fruition) of almost 11,000 rooms in the pipeline, 17% up on 2018.
W Hospitality Group’s Hotel Chain Development Pipelines in Africa survey had a record 43 international and regional hotel contributors this year, covering 54 countries in north and sub-Saharan Africa, and the Indian Ocean islands.

The top-line figures show that in North Africa the rooms’ pipeline is up 2.3% on 2018, and down 3.8% in sub-Saharan Africa, largely due to several of the chains ‘cleaning’ their pipelines, deleting deals that they believe are not going to happen. These cleaning adjustments amount to more than 12,000 rooms in 74 hotels.

Nevertheless, despite this significant adjustment, there has been growth of 51% in the total pipeline rooms since 2015 – North Africa up by 58%, and sub-Saharan Africa up by 47%.

According to survey, the top 10 countries account for 69% of the total hotels in the survey, and 74% of the rooms. Details of the survey report is expected to be presented for discussion at the forthcoming Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) in Addis Ababa, billed for September 23 and 25. The annual forum is organised by Bench Events.

The Managing Director of W Hospitality Group, Trevor Ward, said: “Egypt has by far the largest number of rooms in the pipeline this year, almost double the number in Nigeria, which is in second place. There has been huge activity by the chains in Egypt, with over 2,000 new rooms signed there in 2017, and a further 4,500 in 2018, of which 1,850 were signed by Radisson. Accor has no fewer than 16 deals with 6,363 hotels in Egypt, boosted by new brands from its acquisitions, including Mövenpick and Fairmont.”

Ward described this as an interesting development: “It’s interesting that there has also been a lot of activity in some of Africa’s countries, such as Niger and Zambia. In Niamey (Niger), where there is currently no branded hotel supply, there are no fewer than five hotels in the pipeline, and in Lusaka (Zambia), the chains signed 11 deals in 2018 and early 2019, taking the total pipeline there to 15 hotels with almost 1,900 rooms.’’
Looking at the top 10 cities, Cairo, with over 8,000 rooms in development and Addis Ababa, with over 5,000, have a clear lead. They are followed by Lagos (the leader for several previous years) and then Nairobi, Algiers, Abuja, Dakar, Abijan, Lusaka and Marrakech, the last two in the top 10 for the first time.

Egypt is not only the country with the most internationally-branded hotels in development, it also has the most internationally-branded properties already operated by the contributors, 108 hotels with 35,711 rooms between them. The countries which rank next, in terms of branded hotel rooms already operating are South Africa with 24,048, Morocco with 12,498 and then Tunisia, Nigeria and Algeria, all with just over 5,000. Kenya has over 4,000 branded rooms and it is followed by Ghana, Tanzania and Cape Verde, each with just over 2,000. At the other end of the list, there are four countries with no internationally-branded hotels and none in the development pipeline; they are Central African Republic, Eritrea, The Gambia and Somalia.

In the battle of the brands, Accor is the strongest pipeline player in Africa with more than 27,000 rooms spread across 162 hotels. It is followed by Marriott with over 23,000 rooms in 135 hotels. However, if both complete their current development pipelines with no further additions, they will stand neck and neck with just over 40,000 rooms each operating in Africa. Hilton is in third place, Radisson fourth and IHG fifth, after which, there is a substantial gap between the big five and other international chains.

 

Source: New Telegraph Nigeria

International investigators should probe the killings of more than 200 people in Ethiopia amid a territorial dispute near the Sudanese border, a regional official said.

The violence occurred on Friday in Agew Awi Zone in Amhara state, according to Adigo Amsaya, the deputy president of neighboring Benishangul-Gumuz state. 

“Those responsible for this massacre have to be held accountable,” Adigo said by phone from the regional capital, Assosa. No arrests over the killings perpetrated by armed ethnic Amhara youth have been made so far, he said.

The conflict began April 26 in Benishangul-Gumuz’s Metekel Zone near the border with Sudan following a disagreement over cash between laborers, according to Amhara state’s communications officer Asemahaghn Aseres.

Ethnic nationalists have been seeking to dismantle territorial boundaries set by the ruling coalition in 1992, including a series of Amhara nationalist territorial claims near Sudan’s border with Ethiopia. Amhara state “has not, and will not have any intention of annexing Metekel,” Asemahaghn said.

“This appears to be another major escalation of tit-for-tat violence, partly driven by aggressive ethno-nationalist sentiment,” said William Davison, a senior analyst for Ethiopia at the International Crisis Group. “The federal government should publicly provide information on what occurred as soon as possible.”

Ethiopia is a complex multi-ethnic federation with more than 80 ethno-linguistic groups. Ethnicity-based conflicts have erupted since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed assumed office over a year ago and initiated ruling party-mandated political and economic reforms.

Officials from Ethiopia’s Ministry of Peace arrived Monday to begin investigations, Adigo said. Minister of Peace Muferiat Kamel didn’t immediately respond to calls and text messages seeking comment.

 

Credit: Bloomberg

The problem of irregular migration from the East and Horn of Africa to southern Africa presents a formidable challenge for countries along this route.

As they device ways of managing the flows while at the same time ensuring that the human rights of migrants are respected and protected, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya, held a three day high level inter-governmental consultative conference which was expected to deliver a final comprehensive roadmap to address the situation of stranded migrants on the Southern route.

It was against the backdrop of this challenge that the three countries affected by the flux, namely The ‘Southern Route’ – as this migration route has become known – is reportedly used by scores of irregular migrants journeying southward in the hope of reaching South Africa.

A release from the International Organization for Migration has indicated that the consultation involved was held in partnership with both the International Organization for (IOM) and the European Union (EU). Running from Tuesday to Thursday, (April 2-4, 2019), the meeting takes place with the support of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa. The programme, backed by the Africa Trust Fund, covers and has been set up in close cooperation with a total of other 23 African countries.

According to the IOM, the initiative is motivated by the desire to strike that delicate balance between managing the movement and ensuring appropriate human rights consideration in the treatment of the migrants. It follows several bilateral and trilateral technical meetings between the abovementioned countries, since 2014.

Technical experts from the three countries, with the support of IOM, were scheduled to develop a draft outcome document to be adopted by the states at senior political level on the third day, which was this past Friday.

In light of the above, chief of mission of the IOM in Tanzania, “Dr. Qasim Sufi, had expressed optimism that the donor community would continue to step forward to support efforts for the safe return and reintegration of vulnerable migrants.” He did in the same vein acknowledge the efforts of both the United Republic of Tanzania and Ethiopia to jointly assist migrants who are stranded in Kenya.

A key priority of the Joint Initiative, according to IOM, was to support partner countries in the region to develop capacities for safe, humane and dignified voluntary return as well as sustainable reintegration processes. In that regard, a roadmap aimed at addressing issues pertaining to the trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants in the region, as well as the sharing of good practices and developing holistic approaches in tackling irregular migration on the Southern Route is reported to have been crafted at the consultation conference.

Other issues to be addressed by the proposed roadmap include considering alternatives to detention practices and exploring better coordination mechanisms to protect vulnerable migrants and as well improving existing voluntary return and reintegration processes and policies.

This publication made efforts to obtain comments from Wison Johwa, the IOM East Africa Regional communications officer regarding the outcomes of the EU-IOM sponsored Tri-nation initiative, which also linked me with both Alem Makonnen and Abbibo Ngandu, both based in Pretoria. The effort notwithstanding, hit a snag.

 

Source: Sunday Standard

One can easily assume that international investors are deterred from investing in Africa given the growing need to weather a global financial crisis, which has been distorted by Brexit, rising geopolitical tensions, tightened global liquidity conditions, leveraged loans and sketchy debts that continue to riddle bank systems, idiosyncratic governments and the bond yield curve that is trending toward inversion.

However, this is not the case. Conversely, the global financial crisis and the desperate search for growth, yield and solvency has led investors to pay more attention to emerging markets in Africa, and in particular frontier markets with favourable growth paths, moderate debt levels and high returns on investment.

The stock markets across Africa have reportedly exceeded a market capitalization of USD 100 billion and are substantially larger than those in Central Europe and Russia in the mid-1990s, when they first opened up to foreign investors. According to the International Monetary Fund, the African markets have been a strong bull run and shown a compound annual growth of 3.5% in 2018 and are projected to pick up to 3.9% in 2019.

There are many factors that make the African continent an attractive destination for institutional investors, such as the economic prospects, a favourable demographic profile, high urbanisation and the rise of the African consumer. The acceleration in growth has also been driven by cyclical improvements and supported by favourable regional conditions.

These favourable conditions include the restoration of oil production in Algeria, Angola and Nigeria, the improved external financing conditions, the moderate increase in commodity prices, surging foreign direct investments and the narrowing current account deficit in certain jurisdictions. In Ethiopia and Nigeria, this growth has been spurred by partial privatisation of state-owned companies and high commodity prices, respectively.

Contrary to the images that would previously conjure up at the mere mention of Ethiopia, the country has made commendable economic progress in reducing poverty and improving living standards. While the market outlook continues to be somewhat subdued for Ethiopia, due to dynamics that were historically hampered by poor government policies and state-owned monopolies, foreign exchange shortages, and weak prices for traditional exports, Ethiopia has displayed economic growth potential. In the last quarter of 2018, the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook Report predicted Ethiopia to be the fastest growing frontier economy in Africa with 8.5% growth, thereby far outstripping the growth of advanced economies.

Ethiopia's economic growth has been driven by an increase in industrial activity and the availability of domestic and foreign investments in certain industries such as infrastructure, manufacturing and telecommunications. The reduction in its current account deficit to 6.4% of the real gross domestic product in 2017/2018, the flexible exchange rate regimes and the various attempts to bring inflation back on target have all supported Ethiopia's economic growth. In addition, the current Prime Minister's reform agenda is driven by a strategy to shift the engine of economic activity to private sector development while allowing the public sector to be consolidated into such development.

For instance, the Ethiopian Government has accelerated its efforts to bolster network expansion and improve the hardware capabilities and infrastructure of its state-owned telecommunications company, Ethio Telecom, which boasts over 60 million mobile subscribers and 18 million internet users. To this end, the Ethiopian Government has reportedly opened-up Ethio Telecom's assets and shares, for acquisition by local and foreign investors as part of a multi-billion dollar investment. This investment is aimed at accelerating fixed broadband and internet penetration and ultimately, fast-tracking the development of Ethio Telecom's infrastructure. Although the telecommunications monopoly seems to be the main prize, because of its protected market and the absence of competitive broadband services, other major state-owned companies facing partial privatisation in 2019 include Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics Services Enterprises and Ethiopian Electric Power.

Turning to Nigeria, the upgraded forecast reflects improved prospects for Africa's most populous nation and the growth of its real gross domestic product is projected to increase to 2.3% in 2019. Although the sharp recovery of oil prices and various portfolio outflows have provided some relief to Nigeria's 1.5% annual contraction and technical recession recorded in 2016, the country's improved economic growth still falls short of the levels seen during the commodity boom of the 2000s.

Although crude oil and gas products accounted for over 94.4% of Nigeria's foreign exchange earnings in 2018, Nigeria is under immense pressure to introduce reform policies in order to adjust to the global pursuit of sustainable energy alternatives, which include solar energy, wind power and geothermal energy. The Nigerian economy's vast dependence on its crude oil and natural gas resources also makes it vulnerable to oil discoveries in other African countries, the global push towards technologies that promote energy sustainability and fluctuating commodity prices. The extent to which the Nigerian economy moves towards its near-term development aspirations will depend on the success of its import substitution policies, the fast-paced implementation of structural reforms and economic diversification of non-oil economic indicators.

In order to address Nigeria's economic diversification and growth, the federal government launched the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) in April 2017. The ERGP is a medium term all-round developmental initiative for the period 2017-2020, focused on restoring economic resurgence and building a globally competitive economy. Some of the objectives of the ERGP include stabilising the macro environment, increasing non-oil revenue generated from the agricultural sector, improving transportation infrastructure, driving the industrialisation of small and medium-sized enterprises and ensuring sufficiency in energy and petroleum products.

Although there have been challenges in achieving the ERGP objectives, positive results are already manifesting in key economic indicators. For instance, the Nigerian economy has witnessed an increase in non-oil revenue generated from the agricultural sector, which has reportedly shown a steady growth of 18.58% in the last quarter of 2018 and contributed 14.27% to the nominal gross domestic product. In addition, the ERGP task team has launched a number of agricultural projects such as the commissioning of the West African Cotton Company Limited rice mills in Argungu, Kebbi State, with a production capacity of 120,000 metric tonnes, geared towards enhancing productivity in the agricultural sector. According to the most recent data published by Nigeria's National Bureau of Statistics, other non-oil sectors that are contributing to Nigeria's economic growth include trade, telecommunications, mining and quarrying, real estate services, finance and insurance and construction.

Evidently, there is great investment potential across the African continent and the outlook on African countries remains positive despite the reported downgrades for the global economy.

 

Itumeleng Mukhovha, an associate in the Corporate/M&A practice at Baker McKenzie in Johannesburg

Ethiopian Athlete, Sintayehu Legese, on Saturday won the 2019 edition of the Lagos City Marathon.
 
Legese, who finished the race with a time of 2:17:26 won the grand prize of $50,000.
 
The second runner up, Joshua Kipkorir from Kenya had a finish time of 2: 18:16 while the third runner up William Yegon also from Kenya had a finish time of 2: 19: 04.
 
Both second and third placed runners are expected to go home with $40, 000 and $30, 000.
 
In the female category, it was a clean sweep for Ethiopia as the trio of Meseret Dinke, Alemenesh Herpha Guta and Kebena Chala finished first, second and third to win $50,000, $40,000 and $30,000 respectively.
 
Gideon Goyet was the first Nigerian to cross the finishing line in 2 hours, 30 minutes to win N3 million, beating last year’s champion, Iliya Pam to second place, with a prize money of N2 million.
 
Speaking while presenting prizes to the winners, Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode said it was gratifying that the marathon was getting bigger and better yearly, adding that the competition had come to stay.
 
He specifically appreciated all Lagosians for cooperating with government to ensure success of the tournament each year since it began four years ago, saying the initiative was basically in line with the determination of his administration to use sports, tourism and entertainment to promote Lagos and grow the State’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
 
“I want to say a big thank you to all Lagosians for tolerating us in the last four years because this is the fourth time we are doing this Lagos Access Marathon and it has been improving year in, year out. This year, we had 58 countries participating and over 100,000 athletes also taking part in this journey.
 
“The marathon is part of our administration’s initiative to use sports, tourism, entertainment, arts and culture to promote the excellence of Lagos and positively engage the youth. The competition has been getting bigger and better yearly and this year’s edition is exceptional being that it attracted highest participation worldwide and increase in the number of athletes and prizes,” Governor Ambode said.
 
While expressing optimism that the marathon would be sustained, Governor Ambode urged Lagosians to vote for all the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming general elections from the Presidency to National Assembly and at the State levels.
 
“I believe strongly that what we have started will be continued by the APC gubernatorial candidate, Jide Sanwo-Olu when he comes in and I believe strongly also that this will take the GDP of Lagos to greater heights.
 
“Remember next Saturday is presidential election. You know where my heart is and that is four plus four; that is where we are going to be. On March 2nd also, we do the same thing which is to vote all APC candidates in the State. God bless all Lagosians; I love all of you and I remain yours forever,” the Governor said.
 
Besides, Governor Ambode also used the occasion to donate N2.5 million to an upcoming artiste, Johnson David who was called to perform on stage from the crowd by Nigerian hip-hop star, D Banj.
 
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode (2nd left), with Group Managing Director, Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe (2nd right), presenting a cheque of $50,000 to Ethiopian athlete and the winner of the 2019 Lagos City Marathon, Sintayehu Legese (middle) while the 2nd Prize winner and Kenyan Athlete, Joshua Kipkorir (left) and 3rd Prize winner from Kenya, William Yegon (right), look on during the 2019 Lagos City Marathon at the Eko Atlantic City, on Saturday, February 2, 2019.
 
“We just want to say a big thank you to D Banj for the opportunity to bring out this kind of talent impromptu. I was just going to say D Banj should mentor him and in addition to that, my initial contribution is to give him N2.5million.
 
“This is what the Lagos story is all about –if you can dream it, you can make it happen. So, he must have been dreaming it and today he has gotten the access to the Lagos Access Bank Marathon and today, he is a changed person.
 
“So, this is what we have always been saying; the future belongs to all these young people and you can see that all of you are almost in the same age bracket and this is what the future of Lagos is and what we want to preach and continue to preach that every person can have that opportunity to make it in life,” he said.
 
The high point of the event was various performances by a-list artistes including Teni, CDQ, Slim Case, Olamide and D Banj who equally seized the opportunity to commend Governor Ambode for initiating and implementing the platform of the marathon and for his achievements in office in the last three and half years.
 
 
Source: NAN

German carmaker Volkswagen have announced they plan to assemble cars in Ethiopia.

The announcement was made in front of the German president as he visited the country. The carmaker said in a statement that they will build a car plant and a training centre.

Ethiopia has the world's lowest rate of car ownership, with only two cars per 1,000 inhabitants, according to a 2014 Deloitte report. Many Ethiopians have found owning a car too expensive because of import taxes of up to 200%.

 

BBC

Violence between rival Ethiopian communities near the southern town of Moyale has escalated with eyewitnesses reporting that 13 people were killed on Monday.

Since the beginning of the month there have been sporadic clashes over land.

People from the Borana Oromo ethnic group complain that a referendum conducted in 2005 unfairly awarded what they consider to be their land to a Somali clan known as Garri.

Both are cattle herding communities and many herders carry guns. reports that ending the ethnic clashes in different parts of Ethiopia is the greatest challenge facing the reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Reforms currently sweeping through Ethiopia under the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed have implications for the relationship between Ethiopia and its neighbours. Ethiopia is seen as the de facto leading state in the region. But it has a history of clashing with neighbouring states.

The current reforms have the potential to bolster Ethiopia’s leadership role in the region. And an Ethiopia that is perceived as a unifying force could lead to more stability.

Two recent announcements stand out: the normalisation of relations with the northern neighbour Eritrea and the signing of a peace deal with the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a separatist movement that has sought self-determination for the Somali region of Ethiopia.

The reasons these two developments are so important is that the tension between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Ogaden National Liberation Front have each contributed to instability in the region. The peace deal brokered between Ethiopia and Eritrea will not only affect internal tensions within Ethiopia. It’s also likely to signify a new chapter in the politics of the region.

For its part, the peace accord with the Ogaden National Liberation Front will end a long-standing conflict with the Ethiopian state. This conflict has shaped Ethiopia’s relationship with its Somali region, as well as Ethiopia’s relationship with the Republic of Somalia. The Somali region of Ethiopia is one of nine regional states under the current ethnic federal system in Ethiopia. It is mostly inhabited by Somali-speaking people.

Territorial statehood

Tensions – both within Ethiopia and between Ethiopia and its neighbours – are rooted in history. The formation of Ethiopia’s Empire state in the late nineteenth century was shaped by the absorption of smaller kingdoms in the south, east, and west of Shewa.

Shewa was Ethiopia’s political centre located north of the current capital Addis Ababa. By the late 19th century the incorporation of these territories was almost complete. By this time the capital had been moved to Addis Ababa.

This incorporation of territories is how the idea of the modern “Ethiopian state” emerged. But this imposition of state power on the new territories was contested. It has been the root cause of much of the country’s internal upheavals.

The importance of territory in Ethiopian statehood was further demonstrated by the 1952 incorporation of Eritrea as an Ethiopian province. Most Eritreans resisted the occupation and took up arms. The occupation was followed by nearly 30 years of conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrean liberation movements.

Ethiopia has also been in conflict with neighbouring Somalia since Somalia gained independence in 1960. Shortly after its independence, the new government in Mogadishu began to prioritise clan loyalties as it formed a new centralised state. This pitted various clans against each other and widened the chasm between clan loyalty and nationality.

The foreign policy objectives of the new Somali Republic were influenced by the level of influence it enjoyed in the Somali-inhabited regions of its neighbours. This included the Somali region of Ethiopia.

Eventually, the push and pull between the republic and its diaspora contributed to the rise of a separatist narrative within the Somali-inhabited regions. This spawned organisations such as the Ogaden National Liberation Front. The front is a separatist rebel group fighting for the self-determination of Somalis in Ethiopia’s Somali region.

Conflict and territory

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Ethiopia was mired in conflicts that challenged its territorial integrity. One was the Ethiopia/Eritrea war.

Self-determination was at the core of the conflict between the Ethiopian government and Eritrean liberation movements. Throughout the conflict it was viewed as a civil war since Eritrea was regarded as a province of Ethiopia.

Similarly, the tension between Ethiopia and the Somali separatist movements was triggered by the Somali belief that their territory belonged to the Somali Republic.

These conflicts led to regional instability.

Ethiopia taking centre stage

Ethiopia has been on a path of reform since 1991. In the intervening years it has become the most economically dominant country in the region. This has cemented its leadership position. The current political reforms can be seen as part of a process of redefining Ethiopia’s role in the broader East African region – and the continent.

The governing Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and the Ogaden National Liberation Front have been in peace talks since the early 1990s. The unsuccessful talks were accompanied by low-intensity conflict that severely affected the region.

That could be about to change. Thanks to Abiy Ahmed’s reform efforts, the front announced a unilateral ceasefire in August 2018, and by September peace talks had begun with the Ethiopian government and a peace deal was signed. There is cause for optimism that the deal will last because of the current leadership in Addis Ababa.

The peace deal with Eritrea has already had a number of positive outcomes that could contribute to regional stability.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Isaias Afwerki have met several times to announce concrete evidence of the peace deal. Abiy also recently hosted his Eritrean and Somali counterparts to cement regional ties.The Conversation

 

Namhla Matshanda, Lecturer, Political Studies, University of the Western Cape

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Ethiopia’s parliament on Thursday swore in the country’s first female supreme court president, building on efforts by reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to achieve gender parity in government.
 
The appointment of Meaza Ashenafi comes two weeks after Ahmed named 10 female ministers to make Ethiopia the third country in Africa – after Rwanda and Seychelles – to have its cabinet split equally between men and women.
 
A prominent rights campaigner, Meaza recently served as an adviser on women’s rights at the Addis Ababa-based UN Economic Commission for Africa.
 
Naming her as his pick to head the Supreme Court, Ahmed told lawmakers the court system needed improved capacities “to successfully implement demands made with regards to justice, democracy and change in our country.
 
“I have made the nomination with the firm belief that she has the capacity required, with her vast international experience in mind.”
 
Parliament unanimously approved Ahmed’s choice.
 
Under Ethiopia’s constitution, the court system operates independent of government.
 
On Oct. 26, the Horn of Africa country named Sahle-Work Zewde as president, also the first woman to hold that post.
 
Since his appointment in April, Ahmed has presided over a series of reforms that have included the pardoning of dissidents long outlawed by the government and diplomatic overtures to long-term enemy Eritrea.
 
But they have so far failed to curtail unrest with over two million people displaced this year due to clashes – many pitting different ethnic groups against each other – in several parts of the country.
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