Why Trump And ScoMo Could Learn Something From Ethiopia
Across much of the developed world, our faith in politics is diminishing.
In the US we’ve seen President Trump disrespect and denigrate the institutions and principles that hold democracy together. For years we’ve seen attempts to affect the results of elections by anti-democratic actions such as gerrymandering. In both the US and here in Australia, the political class has used divisive and fear-inducing rhetoric to influence voters, and the public has largely lost their trust in the political process.
Amidst all the disillusionment, many would be shocked to learn there’s an unlikely country whose government, over the past seven months, has been a mobilising force for monumental change in the service of its people, and those in the Western world should definitely be taking note.
I’m talking about the place where humanity began: Ethiopia.
Yes, this long-suffering nation has endured poverty, famine, tyrannical communist rule, and ethnic violence, however, after almost 30 years of pseudo-democratic rule, 2018 has seen the most incredible explosion of democratic change in modern history.
Today, Meaza Ashenafi was appointed as the Chief Justice of the country’s Supreme Court, the first woman to take on the role. Meaza is a long-time champion for women’s rights, and founded the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association.
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Her most famous case was depicted in the movie Difret, whose executive producer was Angelina Jolie. This movie followed the true story of a young woman forced to marry in-line with an age-old tradition where the hopeful husband kidnaps the young woman and forces her into marriage with community consent. Meaza flies in from the city, and a court drama follows.
Meaza’s appointment follows last week’s appointment of Ethiopia’s first female president, Sahle-Work Zewde, and the previous week’s establishment of a Cabinet ministry that consists of a 50/50 male-female split.
This April, in a last-ditch attempt to remain in power and avoid an imminent popular revolt, Ethiopia’s ruling party, the EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front) appointed the popular, young Abiy Ahmed as Prime Minister. Since then, Abiy has been riding a wave of public support, implementing change at an unbelievable rate.
In his seven months in office, Abiy has released all political prisoners, made peace with opposition parties and militia groups, de-escalated ethnic conflict, made genuine peace with Ethiopia’s long-term enemy Eritrea, opened up the economy, showered and housed the homeless (literally), and embarked on the slow, arduous task of rooting out corruption and rebuilding every government institution.
While many of the challenges faced by Western governments may be vastly different than those in East Africa, Ethiopia is fast becoming an example of what can be achieved when politicians are mobilised, and work in the interests of their constituents.
Trump, ScoMo. Watch and learn.