The Menace of Current Extremism in Ethiopia



Over the last half a century, extremism has always been part of the history of Ethiopia, but recently, it has become far more pronounced. Extremism in Ethiopia has manifested itself in various forms but the most conspicuous ones are religious extremism and ethnocentric political extremism. The tenets of ethnocentric extremism are the driving forces for brewing religious extremism with domestic and regional implications.

But what is extremism? Extremism is “the quality or state of being extreme” or “the advocacy of extreme measures or views”. The term is primarily used in a political or religious sense, to refer to an ideology that is considered to be far outside the mainstream attitudes of society. It can also be used in an economic context. The term may be used pejoratively by opposing groups.

Philosophically, extremism could be taken as a form of social consciousness in which political demagogy and all forms of dogmatic imposition.  

Scholars across the world recognize three forms of extremism referred to as domestic, violent, and radicalization as a form of promoting extremist views and actions.

Domestic extremism refers to the activity of individuals or groups conducting criminal acts of direct action to further protest and campaign. This term covers the conduct of groups involved including the extreme right wing and animal rights extremists. Violent extremism refers to the activity of individuals or groups conducting acts by any means to express views which justify or glorify terrorist violence. This includes those who encourage others to commit terrorist acts or provoke others into terrorist related activity. It also includes those who foster hatred which may lead to inter-community tensions and violence within the United Kingdom.

Radicalization is the process where a vulnerable young person or adult changes their perception and beliefs due to exposure of an extremist influence (which may be online, through publication or one to one direct contact) to become more extremist in nature, which may result in extremist actions.

Ethnocentric extremism combines all the three forms of extremism blending them with a call for the domination, ethnic prejudices and stereotypes that target specific ethnic groups in the name of liberation from professed oppression that is usually charged with unjustifiable hatred.

Dr. Yonas Adaye Adeto, Director of the Institute for Peace and Security Studies, at Addis Ababa University, in his paper, Violent Ethnic Extremism in Ethiopia: Implication for the Stability of the Horn of Africa quoting Scruton (2007:236) writes “ethnicism is the desire to conserve or recapture a political identity based on race, region, or an ethnic group membership. Extremism, on the other hand, is a radical ideology of taking a political idea to its limits: its intention being to confront and eliminate opposition. It refers to intolerance towards all views except one’s own, and the adoption of means to political ends which disregard accepted standards of conduct, including the life, liberty and human rights of others (see Robertson 2002:392). It follows that ethnic extremism is a belief in and an expression of a political identity based on race, region, and blood and language affinity: the aim being to confront and eliminate opposing views, persons, groups or institutions. “

Over the last three decades, religious extremists groups have proved to be one of the major threats to the unity, stability and peaceful development of the country. Suffice it to mention the recent ill attempts that were plotted to create a religious violence in Gondar, escalating it to Silte Zone, Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s state,  Addis Ababa and Jimma Zone.

It is to be stressed that ethnic extremism in Ethiopia is being sponsored by terrorist TPLF which has created surrogate extremists organizations among the major ethnic groups in the country. These ethnic groups, notably Shene, Gumuz armed group and other fighters fight in coordination with terrorist TPLF, which is also supported by some foreign countries.

The scope and operations of extremist ethnic groups will not limited only to Ethiopia but would ultimately encompass a wider area, paving the way for all forms of extremist terrorist groups operating in and around the Horn of Africa.

Extremist maneuvers in Ethiopia are not confined to creating a political havoc in the country. Extremists are bent on disrupting the normal economic activities of the productive sector of the society. They are certainly a threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country primarily because they can easily mix with international terrorist groups which are now rapidly expanding in Africa.

If not properly handled, ethno linguistic ethnicity could further promote radicalism threatening  the development of multi-national democratic political system in Ethiopia

On the other hand, according to Dr. Yonas, violent extremism and ethnic extremism have far deeper connections.

Violent extremism presupposes violence against human beings and threatening to use more violence, inducing terror/fear in a target group who usually are innocent civilians and non-combatants, intimidating target groups for publicity, communicating the acts of violence to larger audiences displaying barbaric images, insisting that all acts are political in character.

This had been witnessed by the 27 years’ rule of EPRDF. The rule of law and order is being challenged by the emotional actions of violent ethnocentric extremists, with columnists who wish to fish in troubled waters to ensure the survival of the terrorist group entrenched in Mekele.

Once the damage is done on the unity of this country, it would be too late to fix up mistakes that will have a far reaching effect on the unity and the entire well-being of the nation. At this point in time, fellow Ethiopians must realize that no purpose is served by creating chaos in the country but would create a favorable condition for those who are out to balkanize the country.