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If Ethiopia is so vibrant, why are young people leaving?

 Demonstrators gather in Addis Ababa for a government-organized rally on April 22 to protest against the killings of around 30 Ethiopians by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in Libya. Minasse Wondimu Hailu / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

If Ethiopia is so vibrant, why are young people leaving?

April 28, 2015

by Hassen Hussein

Within a week, Ethiopians were hit with a quadruple whammy. On April 19, the Libyan branch of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) released a shocking video purporting to show the killings and beheadings of Ethiopian Christians attempting to cross to Europe through Libya. This came only days after an anti-immigrant mob in South Africa killed at least three Ethiopian immigrants and wounded many others. Al Jazeera America reported that thousands of Ethiopian nationals were stranded in war-torn Yemen. And in the town of Robe in Oromia and its surroundings alone, scores of people were reportedly grieving over the loss of family members at sea aboard a fateful Europe-bound boat that sank April 19 off the coast of Libya with close to 900 aboard.

These tragedies may have temporarily united Ethiopians of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. But they have also raised questions about what kind of desperation drove these migrants to leave their country and risk journeys through sun-scorched deserts and via chancy boats.

The crisis comes at a time when Ethiopia’s economic transformation in the last decade is being hailed as nothing short of a miracle, with some comparing it to the feat achieved by the Asian “tigers” in the 1970s. Why would thousands of young men and women flee their country, whose economy is the fastest growing in Africa and whose democracy is supposedly blossoming? And when will the exodus end?

After the spate of sad news, government spokesman Redwan Hussein said the tragedy “will be a warning to people who wish to risk and travel to Europe through the dangerous route.” Warned or not, many youths simply do not see their dreams for a better life realized in Ethiopia. Observers cite massive poverty, rising costs of living, fast-climbing youth unemployment, lack of economic opportunities for the less politically connected, the economy’s overreliance on the service sector and the requirement of party membership as a condition for employment as the drivers behind the exodus.

A 2012 study by the London-based International Growth Center noted (PDF) widespread urban unemployment amid growing youth landlessness and insignificant job creation in rural areas. “There have been significant increases in educational attainment. However, there has not been as much job creation to provide employment opportunities to the newly educated job seekers,” the report said.

One of the few ISIL victims identified thus far was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 2013. (Saudi deported more than 100,000 Ethiopian domestic workers during a visa crackdown.) A friend, who worked as a technician for the state-run Ethiopian Electricity Agency, joined him on this fateful trek to Libya. At least a handful of the victims who have been identified thus far were said to be college graduates.

Given the depth of poverty, Ethiopia’s much-celebrated economic growth is nowhere close to accommodating the country’s young and expanding population, one of the largest youth cohorts in Africa. Government remains the main employer in Ethiopia after agriculture and commerce. However, as Human Rights Watch noted in 2011, “access to seeds, fertilizers, tools and loans … public sector jobs, educational opportunities and even food assistance” is often contingent on support for the ruling party.

Still, unemployment and lack of economic opportunities are not the only reasons for the excessive outward migration. These conditions are compounded by the fact that youths, ever more censored and denied access to the Internet and alternative sources of information, simply do not trust the government enough to heed Hussein’s warnings. Furthermore, the vast majority of Ethiopian migrants are political refugees fleeing persecution. There are nearly 7,000 registered Ethiopian refugees in Yemen, Kenya has more than 20,000, and Egypt and Somalia have nearly 3,000 each, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

Ethiopians will head to the polls in a few weeks. Typically, elections are occasions to make important choices and vent anger at the incumbent. But on May 23, Ethiopians will be able to do neither. In the last decade, authorities have systematically closed the political space through a series of anti-terrorism, press and civil society laws. Ethiopia’s ruling party, now in power for close to 24 years, won the last four elections. The government has systematically weakened the opposition and does not tolerate any form of dissent.

The heightened crackdown on freedom of expression has earned Ethiopia the distinction of being the world’s fourth-most-censored country and the second leading jailer of journalists in Africa, behind only its archrival, Eritrea, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

There is little hope that the 2015 elections would be fundamentally different from the 2010 polls, in which the ruling party won all but two of the 547 seats in the rubber-stamp national parliament. The ruling party maintains a monopoly over the media. Authorities have shown little interest in opening up the political space for a more robust electoral contest. This was exemplified by the exclusion of key opposition parties from the race, continuing repression of those running and Leenco Lata’s recent failed attempt to return home to pursue peaceful political struggle after two decades of exile. (Lata is the founder of the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front, fighting since 1973 for the rights of the Oromo, Ethiopia’s marginalized majority population, and the president of the Oromo Democratic Front.)

A few faces from the fragmented and embittered opposition maybe elected to parliament in next month’s lackluster elections. But far from healing Ethiopia’s gashing wounds, the vote is likely to ratchet up tensions. In fact, a sea of youth, many too young to vote, breaking police barriers to join opposition rallies bespeaks not of a country ready for elections but one ripe for a revolution with unpredictable consequences.

Despite these mounting challenges, Ethiopia’s relative stability — compared with its deeply troubled neighbors Somalia, South Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti — is beyond contention. Even looking further afield, across the Red Sea, where Yemen is unraveling, one finds few examples of relative stability. This dynamic and Ethiopia’s role in the “war on terrorism” explains Washington’s and other donors’ failure to push Ethiopia toward political liberalization.

However, Ethiopia’s modicum of stability is illusory and bought at a hefty price: erosion of political freedoms, gross human rights violations and ever-growing discontent. This bodes ill for a country split by religious, ethnic and political cleavages. While at loggerheads with each other, Ethiopia’s two largest ethnic groups — the Oromo (40 percent) and the Amhara (30 percent) — are increasingly incensed by continuing domination by Tigreans (6 percent).

Ethiopian Muslims (a third of the country’s population of 94 million) have been staging protests throughout the country since 2011. Christian-Muslim relations, historically cordial, are being tested by religious-inspired violence and religious revivalism around the world. Ethiopia faces rising pressures to choose among three paths fraught with risks: the distasteful status quo; increased devolution of power, which risks balkanization; and more centralization, which promises even further resistance and turmoil.

It is unlikely that the soul searching from recent tragedies will prompt the authorities to make a course adjustment. If the country’s history of missed opportunities for all-inclusive political and economic transformation is any guide, Ethiopians might be in for a spate of more sad news. As long as the answer to these questions focuses on security, the door is left wide open for further exodus and potential social unrest from an increasingly despondent populace.

Hassen Hussein is an assistant professor at St. Mary's University of Minnesota.

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If Ethiopia is so vibrant, why are young people leaving? Reviewed by Admin on 9:43 AM Rating: 5



  2. yes after the 1985 hunger in ETHIOPIA the world promis to aid ETHIOPIA BUT the proplem is when the world send aid to ETHIOPIA the ETHIOPIAN GOV use it for differnt ajenda when MENGSTU HAILEMARIAM was in power all the aid money WAS USED FOR war in ERITREA so acording to UN calcolation ETHIOPIAS econommy shulde be vibrant the same with WEYANE all the aid they get from the world bank use for war in SOMALIYA WAR WITH ERITREA the rest to biuld ABAY TIGRAY

  3. How about the nearly $800 million just discovered in HSBC bank of Switzerland that is held by Eritreans? Wouldn't you agree that is a more pressing problem for Eritreans to discuss than events in a foreign country that is not a concern of Eritreans?

  4. Ethiopia's issue is population, try would have to create 2.5 million jobs a year to insure that each new born has a job. That is impossible even on USA standard.

    Even so, I dot understand why so many eritrean journalists are writing all the time on ethiopia. Let's hear about Eritreans developments, issues, etc. that's the reason why we all visit this site in the first place.

  5. Are you not embassed to daily knock the door of our forum? Shameless LOL

  6. embarrased ? or....LOL

  7. Thank you Uptownplayer202!!! Let the Ethiopians discuss Ethiopian issues. There are 90 million of them to take care of each other. Let us discuss Eritrean issues here. Lord knows we have plenty of them.

  8. Embarrased about what? When you post something, first develop a comphrensive thought in your thick skull that makes sense to others as a rebuttal or arguement. Did they not teach you that in the Badme Trenches Elementary School and Sawa High School??

  9. For the Same Reason Eritreans are leaving, of course

  10. በሱዳን በኩል ወደ ውጭ የሚወጡ ዜጎች ቁጥር በአስደንጋጭ ሁኔታ ጨምሯል

    ሚያዝያ ፳፫ (ሃያ ሦስት) ቀን ፳፻፯ ዓ/ም ኢሳት ዜና :-ከመንግስት የጸጥታ ሃይሎች የተገኘው መረጃ እንደሚያሳየው በዚህ ሳምንት ብቻ 9 ሺ 405 ወጣቶች ድንበር አቋርጠው ወደ ሱዳን ሲጓዙ በድንበር ጠባቂ ፖሊሶች ተይዘዋል።

    ፋሲል የኔአለም ዝርዝሩን ያቀርበዋልበሰሜን ጎንደር ዞን ቆላማ ወረዳዎች በተደረጉ 2 የዳሰሳ ጥናቶች በቀን ከ150-250 በዓመት ደግሞ ከ 54,000 እስከ 90,00 ኢትዮጵያውያን ወደ ሱዳን ይሻገራሉ፡፡ ጥናቱ በመላው አማራ ወይም በመላው አገሪቱ ያለውን

    የስደት ቁጥር አይዳስስም።

    በዚህ ሳምንት ብቻ ወደ ሱዳን ለመሻገር የሞከሩ 9 ሺ 405 ግለሰቦች በጸጥታ ሃይሎች ሲያዙ፣ የጃን አሞራ ፖሊስ ጽ/ቤት ለኢሳት በላከው መረጃ መሰረት በቁጥጥር ስር የዋሉት ሁሉም ሴቶች ናቸው። ከእነዚህ ሴት ስደተኞች ውስጥ 66 በመቶው ከ18 እስከ 24

    እድሜ ያላቸው ሲሆን፣ 32 በመቶው ደግሞ ከ14 አመት በታች ናቸው። ወደ ሱዳን በመፍለስ ከፍተኛውን ቁጥር የያዙት የአርማጭሆ፣ በየዳ፣ ጃናሞራና ወገራ ወረዳዎች ሲሆን፣ በአካባቢው ያለው ድህነት ከሁሉም አካባቢዎች የከፋ ነው፡፡

    ስደትን ከድህነት ማምለጫ አድርገው የወሰዱት በርካታ ህፃናትና ሴቶች በረሃ ላይ ሞተው የሚቀሩ ሲሆን ፣ ወደ ስደት በመሄድ ላይ እያሉ በተለያዩ ምክንያቶች ወደ መተማ ዮሃንስ ጤና ጣቢያ የመጡ 26ት ሴቶች በተቅማጥ፣ በመኪና አደጋ፣ በድብደባ ፣ራስን

    በማጥፋትና በሌሎችም ምክንያቶች ህይወታቸው አልፎአል። አለማቀፍ ስደተኞች ድርጅት /IOM/ በ2013 ባወጣው ጥናት ሳውዲ አረቢያ ፣ የመን፣የተባበሩት አረብ ኢምሬትና ወደ ሌሎች አገሮች በአመት ከ400ሺ-500 ሺ የሚሆኑ ዜጎች ከአገር ይወጣሉ።

    በመተማ መስመር በቀን በአማካኝ ከ150-250 የሚሆኑ ሰዎች ወደ ሱዳን ፣ በአፋር መስመር ደግሞ በቀን በአማካኝ እስከ 80 የሚደርሱ ሰዎች ወደ ጅቡቲ ይሰደዳሉ።

    ከአማራ ክልል ከሰሜን ወሎ እና የሰሜን ጎንደር ወረዳዎች፣ ከኦሮሚያ ክልል ደግሞ ከጅማ እና አርሲ አካባቢ የሚመለመሉ እድሜያቸው ከ18 ዓመት የማይበልጡ ሕፃናት ሴቶች በመተማ ሱዳን በኩል ይሻገራሉ። አብዛኞቹ ስደተኞች ሱዳን ከደረሱ በኋላ ሴቶች ለቤት

    ሠራተኝነት የሚቀጠሩ ሲሆን ወንዶች ደግሞ በእርሻ ቦታዎችና በኮንስትራክሽን ድርጅቶች በቀን ሠራተኝነት እንደሚሰማሩ መረጃዎች ያሳያሉ።

    በአፋር ከልል ጅቡቲ መስመር የሚሰደዱት ደግሞ በአብዛኛው ከአማራ እና ከትግራይ ክልል የሚመጡ ሲሆን በተወሰነ መልኩም የኦሮሚያና የደቡብ ክልል ነዋሪዎች ይገኙበታል፡፡ በዚህ መስመር ከሚጓዙት ውስጥ አብዛኞቹ ከሚሴ፣ ባቲ፣ ወረኢሉ፣ ወረባቦ፣ ቢስቲማ፣

    ቦከክሳ፣ ኮምቦልቻ፣ ጊራና፣ ዋድላናደላንታ፣ ወልድያ እና መርሣ ናቸው፡፡ አልፎ አልፎም ከሰሜን ሸዋ አካባቢዎች መነሻ በማድረግ በየቀኑ በቡድን በመሆን ከ10-80 የሚሆኑ ሰዎች በአንድ ላይ ተሰባስበው የአፋርን ክልል በማቋረጥ ከሀገር የሚወጡ ሲሆን በብዛት

    የሚሄዱባቸው መዳረሻ ሀገራትም ጅቡቲ፣ ሳውዲዓረቢያ፣ የመንና የተባበሩት አረብ ኢምሬትስ ናቸው፡፡

    በኬኒያ በኩል ወደ ደቡብ አፍሪቃ የሚጋዙት ደግሞ በአብዛኛው ከደቡብ በተለይም ከከንባታና ከሀድያ አካባቢዎች የሚነሱ ዜጐች ናቸው።

    በእነዚህ መስመሮች ከሚወጡት ኢትዮጵያውያን መካከል ቁጥራቸው ቀላል የማይባል፣ በሊቢያና ሱዳን በረሃዎች ፣ በቀይ ባህርና በሜዲትራኒያን ባህሮች ህይወታቸው ያልፋል። ታሳክቶላቸው ወደ ተለያዩ አገራት የደረሱት ደግሞ በቅርቡ በሳውድ አረቢያ፣ የመን፣

    ሊቢያና ደቡብ አፍሪካ እንደተመለከትነው አስከፊ የሆኑ ድርጊቶች ይፈጸሙባቸዋል።

    መንግስት በአሁኑ ጊዜ የስደቱ ምንጭ ህገወጥ ደላሎች ናቸው ቢልም ብዙዎቹ ግን አይስማሙም። በአገሪቱ ውስጥ የተንሰራፋው ስር የሰደደ ድህነት፣ የመልካም አስተዳደር እጦት፣ ጭቆናውና ሙስና ዜጎችን ለስደት እየዳረጉ መሆኑን ብዙዎች ይስማማሉ።

    በገጠር የአገሪቱ ክፍል ያለው የእርሻ መሬት ጥበት ብዙ አርሶአደሮች መኖሪያቸውን እየተዉ ወደ ከተማና ወደ ውጭ እንዲሰደዱ እያደረጋቸው ነው። በከተማ ደግሞ የስራ አጡ ቁጥር ከመቼም ጊዜ በላይ ጨምሯል። በቅርቡ አይ ሲስ የተባለው አክራሪ እስላማዊ ታጣቂ

    ሃይል እንዲሁም በአገራቸው ያሉ ስደተኞች እንዲወጡ የሚጠይቁ ደቡብ አፍሪካውያን በኢትዮጵያ ስደተኞች ላይ የወሰዱት አስከፊ እርምጃ የአገሪቱ የመነጋገሪያ አጀንዳ በሆነበት ወቅት፣ አሁንም ሞትን ፊት ለፊታቸው እያዩ የሚሰደዱ ኢትዮጵያውያን ቁጥር ሲጨምር

    እንጅ ሲቀንስ አለመታየቱን መረጃዎች ያሳያሉ።

    ኢትዮጵያውያን በአገሪቱ ውስጥ ይመለከተናል የሚሉ ወገኖች ሁሉ አፋጠኝ መፍትሄ ካላበጁ ፣ አገሪቱ በቀላሉ ወደ ማትመለስበት አስከፊ ሁኔታ ውስጥ ትወድቃለች በማለት እያሳሰቡ ነው።


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