The Ethiopian post-transition security sector reform experience

The Ethiopian state underwent major restructuring at the beginning of the 1990s. It replaced a once highly-centralised state with a federal system, adopting a democratic constitution, the transfer of power through elections, and the recognition of the rights associated with freedom of expression.

More specifically, the Ethiopian security sector was transformed from 1991 onwards; political changes led to a new conception of threats and security needs, and the institutional structure of the country’s security agencies was brought into alignment with the new federal arrangements. The defence review was developed in the context of this wider security sector transformation.

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Transitions from war to peace

The Ethiopian disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programme (1991–1997) is an understudied example of success. The scholarly literature that does address this topic tends to focus solely on technical aspects and impact assessment. The present paper offers a comprehensive review of the rationale, principles, design, implementation and outcomes of the programme in the context of the transition from war to peace. While the paper references some secondary studies, it draws heavily on my own memories and experiences of serving as the head of the programme from its design through to its conclusion.

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The Politics of Naming the Ethiopian Federation

We want to reemphasize that debates on whether a multinational federal arrangement is preferable or proper for Ethiopia should be encouraged. But it is also crucial that the system is presented as it is with no exaggerations, be they in the affirmative or the negative. The label “ethnic” is one way of ridiculing the system. This, apart from being unjust and improper, distorts the true nature of the Ethiopian federal arrangement. Distortion impedes proper understanding of the system and future positive engagements.

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Is the Era of Great Famines Over?

I’ve studied famine and humanitarian relief for more than 30 years, and I wasn’t prepared for what I saw during a visit to Ethiopia last month. As I traveled through northern and central provinces, I saw imported wheat being brought to the smallest and most remote villages, thanks to a new Chinese-built railroad and a fleet of newly imported trucks. Water was delivered to places where wells had run dry. Malnourished children were being treated in properly staffed clinics.

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Africa’s $700 Billion Problem Waiting to Happen

Back in 2002, Meles Zenawi, then prime minister of Ethiopia, drafted a foreign policy and national security white paper for his country. Before finalizing it, he confided to me a “nightmare scenario” — not included in the published version — that could upend the balance of power in the Horn of Africa region.

The scenario went like this: Sudan is partitioned into a volatile south and an embittered north. The south becomes a sinkhole of instability, while the north is drawn into the Arab orbit. Meanwhile, Egypt awakens from its decades-long torpor on African issues and resumes its historical stance of attempting to undermine Ethiopia, with which it has a long-standing dispute over control of the Nile River. It does so by trying to bring Eritrea and Somalia into its sphere of influence, thereby isolating the government in Addis Ababa from its direct neighbors. Finally, Saudi Arabia begins directing its vast financial resources to support Ethiopia’s rivals and sponsor Wahhabi groups that challenge the traditionally dominant Sufis in the region, generating conflict and breeding militancy within the Muslim communities.

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Nile Deal Signals Regional Reset Among Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia

Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have long histories of mutual suspicion to overcome, from tensions over sharing the Nile to being on opposite sides of many of the region’s conflicts. But the turmoil on their borders threatens them all, and the Nile water deal is the first sign that all three recognize the need for cooperation to face those hazards.

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Sisi Goes to Addis Ababa

Egypt and Ethiopia have otherwise been locked in a low-intensity contest over which nation would dominate the region, undermining each other’s interests in Eritrea, Somalia and South Sudan. A quiet but long-sustained rivalry, it is one of those rarely noticed but important fault lines in international relations that allow other conflicts to rumble on.

This week, however, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt is expected to fly to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, to attend a summit of the African Union. He will also meet with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia, a rare chance to shift the political landscape in northeastern Africa.

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Can there be a Democratic Developmental Peace?

My main points are that peace needs money. More particularly, the way in which peace is financed determines the nature of that peace. Sustainable peace requires the right kind of money. I am not talking about financing peace processes—which are invariably good value for money, even if the day-to-day expenses of hosting delegates in hotels might appear to be extravagant—but rather the financing of the post-peace dispensation.

There has been much attention to how natural resources can be a curse rather than a blessing, and can drive conflict. There is less attention on how rental revenues, including natural resources along with aid and security cooperation rents, shape the prospects for peace. Nonetheless, there is a certain model for peacemaking that has become dominant in Africa, and that model has built-in assumptions about the nature of how peace will be financed.

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