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Accueil > Research at CFEE > Research axes > Theme 3. Social and political transformations in the contemporary Horn of Africa

State reforms from the ground in Abiy Ahmed’s Ethiopia : land tensions, identity mobilisations, administrative practices, economic liberalisations

The ascendancy to power of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed aroused in 2018 an unexpected wave of hope of wide extent, in Ethiopia and amongst the international community : political liberalisation, public space opening, economic reforms promises, and peace with Eritrea. Very quickly, interethnic tensions, forced displacements, social crisis and rising of nationalist ethnic parties (OLF, NAMA, for example) weakened Abiy’s figure. Between reforms announcements and administrative machinery integration, uncertainty and worry dominate. Following on from researches led on developmental State, this sub-axe is exploring integrations and public action in Ethiopia.

Since 2005, ‘development’ has been the watchword of the Ethiopian government. The term has been present in each and every action and discourse, with the support of international donors. We must ‘develop’ Ethiopia, a country where small-scale farmers represent approximately 80% of the total workforce. The Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF, in power since 1991) has created its own ideology of development (using the concepts of ‘Developmental State’ and ‘abyotawi democrasi’), where the State is described as the leader of development controlling economic activity. A number of neoliberal international guidelines have nevertheless been integrated to the Ethiopian economic policy since the 2000’s. This research sub-axe focuses on practical measures taken by the Ethiopian State. It analyses different levels of state decisions (federal, regional, local / administration and traditional authorities) as well as diverse aspects of the interaction between the State, intermediary institutions (associations, syndicate, companies, etc) and society. Recent political and ethnical rallying has given a special dimension to this issue, encouraging an analysis to these social movements in the country and of the impact on the transformation of public policies and of the State.

Issues related to land administration and spatial planning, either rural or urban, offer a vantage point for this purpose. Changes in this area are as considerable as they are ambivalent. Addis Ababa now has thousands of collective housing buildings, transports, and previously unseen infrastructures (ring roads, tramways, highway interchanges). Roads, electricity, cell phones, loans, projects of private investors using intensive farming, and the use of agricultural inputs and new methods to modernise the agricultural production flourish in the countryside, even in very remote areas. Industries substantially undergo in some provincial towns such as Mekelle, Bahir Dar, or Kombolcha, etc. Industrial parks are more and more numerous creating rural exodus on hundreds kilometres around, and questioning the issue of access to housing.

This sub-axe intends to study the effects of these evolutions on power relations between groups, administrative practices of public authorities, exercise of power modalities and on Ethiopian life courses. It particularly looks at discourses, ideologies, and bureaucratic rationalities (changes and continuities in local and national ‘modernising’ administrative practices in the fields of agriculture, education, urbanism and housing, communications, etc) ; the economic opportunities created for the new elite and even emerging middle class, and their cost for other groups in difficulty ; the various ways of communication between the State and local, farmer, or urban communities (cooperatives, farmers’ associations, youth associations, development groups, etc.).


Follow the news of this sub-axe on the blog of the CFEE

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