Perpetuating power: politics and security in Ethiopia

Conflict Research Unit of Clingendael Institute

This report examines the evolution of Ethiopia’s ‘political settlement’ and its implications, consequences and risks with regard to the organization and provision of security by state forces. The report’s analysis leads to three key insights. First, the TPLF/EPRDF strategically controls state security forces which, given the party’s quasi-monopoly on political power, often makes it difficult to distinguish instruments of the state from the party. This creates a situation in which state security forces may serve national interests but in which these interests are defined on the basis of a particular ideology and they also sustain existing power structures. Second, the combination of de facto centralization of authority and security with de jure decentralization of autonomy to Ethiopia’s regions, in recognition of their social and developmental diversity, creates inconsistency in matters of security, in terms of both intent and performance. Third, the military serves both as a combat force and as a vehicle for development. This happens mainly through the vehicle of ‘METEC’, a military-run conglomerate. While this seems sensible from the perspective of strengthening party rule and enhancing implementation capacity for development strategies, it also increases the risk of corruption, nepotism and inefficient resource allocation.

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