From Nobel Prize to No Bail Rulings: The Year in Review

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The 2012 Ethiopian year saw many tidal social, economic, and political events happen whose immense implication will continue to shape the years to come too. 

While there had been moments of rejoice and celebrations, the year saw many tragic events and losses. The Ethiopian government and its people were tested on many fronts, both from external and internal problems. 

Here at Addis Insight, we have recapped some of the significant events in the year and listed them chronologically as they happened

Ethiopia Rejects Egypt’s GERD Proposal

On September 19, 2020, Ethiopia formally rejected a proposal by Egypt to release 40 billion cubic meters of water from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) annually. In a press conference in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, Sileshi Bekele, minister for water, irrigation, and energy, described Egypt’s plan, including the water volume it wants the dam to release annually as “inappropriate.”

Abiy Ahmed Receives The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize 

The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Abiy was honored for his “decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

“The prize is also meant to recognize all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in [Africa],” the committee added.

Abiy was named the winner of the 100th Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on October 11, 2019, and received the award later in December 2019.

A total of 301 candidates were nominated for the prestigious award, including 223 individuals and 78 organizations.

Sidama Becomes the 10th Regional State 

Residents of Ethiopia’s Sidama zone on November 20, 2019, voted in favor of a new federal region, with about 98.5% choosing autonomous rule.

In Ethiopia’s Sidama zone, voters came out in force to vote for a longstanding demand by ethnic Sidamas to have their own regional state. The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia stated that voter turnout was 99.8%. 

Ethiopia’s Sidama zone, home to about 4 million residents, is part of the country’s Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR), home to over 40 ethnic groups.

In recent years, Sidama activists have campaigned for the Sidama zone to break out of Ethiopia’s Southern regional state.

The result paved the way for the Sidama region to become Ethiopia’s 10th state, but it also became an inspiration for other ethnic groups keen to carve out their own territory.

Abiy Forms Prosperity Party 

Prosperity Party was established on December 1, 2019, as a successor to the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) by the incumbent Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. 

The three founding members and five affiliate parties of the former coalition, EPRDF, have cheered the board’s decision to recognize PP as their united party in replacement of the EPRDF.

The Tigray People’s Revolutionary Front (TPLF), a party that engineered the EPRDF and dominated Ethiopian political power for 27 years, boycotted the PP’s formation. It claimed the new party violated the political and legal procedures of the EPRDF.

Later on December 26, 2019, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) decided to issue a recognition certificate to the merged Prosperity Party (PP), officially announcing the demise of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). 

Electoral Board Sets Election Date 

The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), on February 14, 2020, announced that August 29 would be the date for the next parliamentary elections.

“Looking at parts of the country which will be affected by the rainy season, pushing the schedule a little further will ease our burden,” NEBE chairwoman Birtukan Mideksa said at a conference held in Addis Ababa on election preparations.

Ethiopia Records First Case of Coronavirus 

Ethiopia’s newly appointed Health Minister, Lia Tadesse, confirmed Ethiopia’s first coronavirus case on March 13, 2020.

A Japanese national who had entered the country on March 4 after visiting Burkina Faso showed the virus symptoms.

The Ethiopian Public Health Institute, who received information about the person, quarantined the man and made a coronavirus test that came back positive.

The confirmation made Ethiopia the 16th country in Africa to confirm the disease, which has been declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization by that time as more than 130 countries worldwide confirmed the virus in their country. 

Three days after the first Coronavirus was confirmed in Ethiopia, the government closed schools across the country and banned all public gatherings, including sports events, on March 16, 2020.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced the decision after consultations with top officials on measures to avert a COVID-19 outbreak.

In a televised message, the premier said the steps were necessary after four new cases were confirmed in Ethiopia in just 24 hours.

House Postpones Election, Extends Life of Parliament 

The House of Federation voted to extend the term of federal and regional parliaments until the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is no longer a public health threat to the country.

The bill that was approved June 10, 2020, with a majority of 114 votes, four oppositions, and one absentee also determined that the election will be scheduled within nine months to a year after local and international health organizations declare the pandemic is no more health risk.

Two days earlier, the speaker of the House of Federation, Keria Ibrahim, had submitted her resignation. In her statement, Keria claimed the current administration was evolving to dictatorship, calling to extend the election unconstitutional. 

Gunmen Assassinate Hachalu Hundessa   

Hachalu Hundessa was shot twice and killed in his car on the night of June 29, 2020, on the capital’s outskirts.

The 36-year-old, who was a politically significant figure among the Oromo community, was famous for his political songs that focused on freedom.

The assassination took the nation by shock and escalated political tensions gripping Ethiopia lately, sparking protests, riots, and brutal killings across the country.

The government switched off the internet in an attempt to curb the unrest, which began immediately after Hachalu’s death was announced.

According to official statistics, hundreds were killed during a week of violent unrest in Ethiopia sparked by the singer’s assassination.

High Profile Arrests 

The leaders the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba, along with 32, were arrested on June 30, 2020, after a confrontation between them and Police resulted in the death of one Oromia Region State special force at Oromo Cultural Center near Meskel Square in Addis Ababa

A few days later, Eskinder Nega, founder and leader of the Balderas for True Democracy Party, was arrested on July 1, 2020, on the allegations of organizing an armed group in Addis Abeba violence.

On the next day, Yilikal Getnet, the chairperson of the Ethiopian National Movement (ENM), was put under police custody on July 2, 2020, on the suspicion instigating violence.

Lidetu Ayalew, the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP) founder, was also arrested today on July 24, 2020, with the alleged participation of recent violence that erupted in Bishoftu town Oromia Regional State, following the killing of Hachalu Hundessa.

Ethiopia Celebrates Initial Filling of the Dam 

In joyful demonstrations urged by posts on social media and endorsed by the government, tens of thousands of residents flooded the streets of the capital Addis Ababa on August 2, 2020, waving Ethiopia’s flag and holding up posters. People in cars honked their horns; others whistled, played loud music, and danced in public spaces to mark the occasion. Similar events were held in other cities in Ethiopia.

The celebration, called “One voice for our dam,” came after Ethiopian officials announced on July 22 that the first stage of filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s reservoir was achieved due to heavy rains. 

Tigray Holds Regional Election in Defiance of Federal Government

On September 9, 2020, Tigray Regional State went ahead with regional elections in the act of strong defiance against the Federal Government. 

Though the federal government postponed the national and regional elections because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Tigray Regional state leaders went with thier won election accusing the government of extending its life unconstitutionally. 

Voters turned out for the regional election despite federal authorities saying it is unconstitutional and that results will be void.