The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Ethiopia:
Repression of Revolt

Sep 5, 2016

The following article was translated from the August 26, 2016 issue of Lutte Ouvière, journal of the revolutionary workers organization of the same name in France.

Ethiopian athlete Feyisa Lilesa won a silver medal in the marathon on the last day of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He also crossed the finish line with his arms raised and crossed and his fists clenched. These were signs of support for victims of repression in Ethiopia.

His gesture has the merit of drawing attention to the political situation in Ethiopia, which has more than 90 million inhabitants and is one of the most populated countries in Africa.

At the end of 2015, the Ethiopian authorities had to face the discontent of the people of Oromia, near the capital city Addis Ababa. The government’s new Master Plan project to enlarge the city sparked the anger. This was because the plan gave the government the opportunity to take over farmland and then to sell or lease it to wealthy individuals or international financiers.

From 2008 to 2011, Ethiopia leased at least 8.9 million acres of land. In Gambella, in the west of the country, 42% of the arable land was made available and marketed for lease to investors. Other regions are equally affected.

Farmers who did not want to be dislodged from their land started protests and were joined by people from surrounding towns. The authorities sent the police and the army to suppress them, leaving at least 70 dead. This led students in Addis Ababa to support the movement, as well as a part of the Ethiopian youth. The young people have seen cities expand and be embellished with modern boutiques filled with merchandise they can’t afford, since most of them are unemployed.

There have been hundreds killed and tens of thousands arrested, plus disappearances and many cases of torture since 2015, according to NGOs. Amnesty International reported nearly 100 dead and hundreds wounded on August 6 and 7 when the police shot at protesters in several provincial cities. This repression is in addition to the absence of the freedom of expression and the freedom of association. Only well-muzzled newspapers and parties and unions that don't contest for power are allowed.

Dictatorship, farmers expelled from their land, and youth in revolt: all the ingredients are combined for a social explosion.