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Framing the issue

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Protests in Ethiopia on the rise

Ethiopia’s reputation for stability has been shattered by an escalating series of protests in Oromia, which have spread to the Amhara region over recent months. While the protests were originally sparked by land disputes, they have grown into the largest anti-government displays the current regime has faced since taking power in 1991.

The government has responded with a characteristically heavy-handed response, which has often only served to escalate the situation. Foreign businesses have been attacked, and in at least one case had their assets totally destroyed. This is part of the protesters’ strategy to damage the economy, given that economic success is one of the government’s main claims to legitimacy. Agribusiness farms, cargo moving through Oromia, and property associated with the government or ethnic-Tigray elites face the highest risk of attack. As the country’s status as an economic success story is questioned, and protests move closer to the capital, pressure is mounting on the ruling coalition. Its reaction, and whether it is supported by the military, will determine the country’s future.