Policy Recommendation

Ethiopia Briefing

The primary responsibility of a government: Policy recommendations to the Ethiopian National Security Joint Task Force

One of the major responsibilities of a government is to provide security within its territory. If the government fails to monopolize providing security to its citizens, it will fail in performing one of its major responsibilities as a government. If it fails to provide security to people within its territory, then people will always fear being exposed to invasions by others. This is known as a “state of nature.” People in a “state of nature” want to join other people with similar fears and create a defense mechanism. In other words, people in a “state of nature” will establish a common government that could provide them security. This is how a government was established. In ancient times families came together to protect themselves from any threats. Then a group of families grows into a clan and establishes a group with an entity that could provide security and so on. This is how most countries were founded. Different kings (leaders) either came together to form one nation, or the stronger king invaded other neighboring kings and made them part of his nation.

In the last few years, the Ethiopian government has failed to provide security to people living within its territory. In some areas, frequent attacks against civilians have been recorded. Most of these attacks are based on identity. One of these areas which are experiencing frequent such attacks against civilians is West Oromia (West Wollega, Kellem Wollega, and Horo Guduru Wollega zones). Recently, on 18 June 2022, members OLF-Shane killed hundreds of civilians, mostly ethnic Amharas, within four hours in Tole kebele in Gimbi woreda in West Wollega zone. Further, on 4 July 2022, members OLF-Shane killed an unidentified number of mostly ethnic Amhara civilians in Mender 20 in Lemlem kebele in Hawa Gelan woreda in Kellem Wollega zone. These events are not isolated incidents. Hundreds of civilians, mostly ethnic Amhara, have been killed in the past few years by the rebel group in west Oromia. Many are trapped in the area as the roads to the capital city, and other areas are closed. Furthermore, those who managed to escape from this area are now taking shelter in Amhara region.

These frequent killings demonstrate the government’s inability to protect civilians in this area. The public knows where these ethnic Amharas are resettled in Wollega area in the 1980s. Hence, in turn, it is also known by the rebel group as well as the government. If these are facts, why can’t the government provide the necessary protection to these areas? If the government is unable to assign security forces like the regional special force and the Ethiopian National Defense Force due to different ongoing operations in the country, then we recommend the government train and arm local militias to protect themselves from such attacks. And have at least hundreds of security forces like regional special forces, federal police, or the military at each woreda administration center. This way, whenever immediate security threats occur at the kebele or village level, the local militias will be able to defend the civilians until reinforcement arrives from the woreda administration centers rather than from the zone administration center or other far military camps.

As the government continues to fail in providing security to its citizens, it is leading the people to a “state of nature” phase. As stated above, people in a “state of nature” want to join other people with similar fears and create a defense mechanism. Additionally, this government failure opens the door to political entrepreneurs who would use these incidents to expand the country’s political polarization, which might lead to a full ethnic-based conflict. 

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