Paths to Ethiopian democracy

Dr Awol Allo, a Lecturer at Keele University’s School of Law, recently led a project titled “More Than Just Words: An Inquiry into the Transformative Promise of ‘Solidarity’ and ‘Medemer*’ in Ethiopia’s Transition to Democracy.”

The pilot study into the normative and institutional challenges of democratisation in Ethiopia’s ongoing transition was awarded an AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) grant of £30,000, with Dr Allo leading the project in partnership with Mr Abdulatif Idris from Addis Ababa University.

This collaborative project looked into the changing nature of public debate on democratisation, focusing on key narratives and ideologies that animate this debate.  It sought to examine and understand how key local stakeholders with contrasting views of the country’s past and future looked to influence the trajectory of the ongoing transition.

In particular, the research aimed to consider and discuss the extent to which inter-ethnic solidarity and medemer, two of the most significant normative languages touted as holding the key to healing Ethiopia’s deep divisions, could help the country’s diverse communities to transcend the deep rifts of the present, and imagine new and democratic forms of belongings.

Since the commencement of the project, it has led to three major collaborations within Ethiopia:

  • A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between Keele University and the Supreme Court of Oromia, the principal judicial organ of the largest region of Ethiopia, to collaborate on research and training of court staff.
  • In collaboration with Destiny Ethiopia, a highly reputable non-governmental organisation, Dr Allo participated in a high-level national process to build scenarios for the country’s future.  The process brought together 40 key individuals from across the diverse section of the Ethiopian community, all of whom hold different views about Ethiopia’s past, present and future, and resulted in four scenarios being launched in the presence of key government ministers, prominent personalities and other key stakeholders.
  • Dr Allo was also invited to be a speaker at a high-level conference hosted by the Institute of Strategic Affairs in August 2019, in the presence of presence of prominent African personalities including Sahle-Work Zewde (President of Ethiopia), Thabo Mbeki (former President of South Africa) and key leaders of the political opposition in Ethiopia.


*A new normative vocabular mobilised by Ethiopia leader Abiy Ahmed to rally the public behind his government and touted as a concept that will help Ethiopia to heal old wounds and build a free and democratic society.

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