Ethiopia — June 2008

Sociopolitical Situation

Local and regional elections were held in April, Ethiopia’s first since 2005. As expected, the ruling party won an overwhelming victory. Most opposition parties boycotted the elections, complaining of harassment and intimidation. As a result, little substantial change is expected in current national and foreign policy.

The government continues to maintain approximately 3,000 troops in Somalia in an effort to provide security to the fragile transitional government. While Ethiopians express eagerness to withdraw their troops, the African Union has been slow to fulfill its promise to replace them with a peacekeeping force.

A final resolution to the border dispute with Eritrea remains stalled. While Ethiopia has confirmed its acceptance of The Hague decision — which largely supports most of what Eritrea claims — it demands further negotiations on the demarcation procedures before it implements the decision. The border remains quiet but tense, with both armies close to one another.

Western governments and international financial institutions continue to hold Ethiopia in high regard. Ethiopia also has been rapidly strengthening its ties with Asian countries, including China, India and Japan. The economy continues to grow at an impressive rate, as it has now for several years. However, a high inflation rate currently afflicts it, particularly in urban centers. A persistent draught in the southeast lowlands threatens to create a food shortage among the region’s vulnerable pastoralist population. At present, the government is distributing grain to the urban poor as well as subsidizing fuel costs, both of which are draining limited public funds.

The government has increased security measures across the country, following several recent car bombings in Addis Ababa and other towns. Despite the new security precautions, the capital remains largely open, relaxed and crime-free.

Legislation to provide more government oversight of nongovernmental organizations (“Charities and Societies”) has been drafted and is expected to become law this year. The draft legislation is under review by the local nongovernmental community, including the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat and various other faith-based organizations. As drafted, the legislation creates a strong oversight agency with a great deal of discretionary power. Those working in organizations advancing civil society capacity building, human rights and democracy and good governance are especially concerned about the new legislation’s implications.

Many Ethiopians eagerly await the national census results, which are to be released in the near future.

Religious Situation

In honor of the new Ethiopian millennium, the Ethiopian Catholic Church held its first national Eucharist congress. Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, attended the event as the delegate of Pope Benedict XVI. Celebrations took place throughout the country and Cardinal Dias’s visit received extensive media coverage.

Bishop Leo Dobbelaar, C.M., Apostolic Vicar of Nekemte, recently died of a heart attack. Bishop Dobbelaar was born in 1942, ordained in 1969 and consecrated bishop in 1994. Bishop Theo van Ruyven, C.M., Apostolic Prefect of Jimma-Bonga, has been named Administrator of Nekemte until such time as a new bishop is appointed.

The government’s higher education oversight agency recently visited the authorities of the not-yet-functioning Ethiopian Catholic University of St. Thomas Aquinas (ECUSTA). The agency gave them verbal approval to start classes, though the formal written notification is still pending. Over the past several months, the Ethiopian Conference of Bishops (the owners of ECUSTA), the university’s Board of Governors and its administration (the Dominicans) have been reviewing management issues that confront the fledgling institution. The Ethiopian government has expressed a great deal of support for the initiative and hopes to see progress soon.

The Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat’s annual meeting in May devoted considerable attention to exploring the “building of local peace building capacities.” Representatives from the Islamic Council, the Orthodox Church and the Mekanne Yesus Evangelical Church joined participants from all the Catholic jurisdictions to discuss this important topic.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church wants to modernize the training of its rural parish priests who are almost exclusively trained in a traditional manner. It hopes to establish 15 new clergy training centers, funding permitting. In view of both increased secularization in segments of the urban population and aggressive evangelization by various fundamentalist denominations, the preservation of Orthodox Christianity in Ethiopia depends on efforts such as these.

Recent Posts

Get to know us and stay informed about the impact your support makes.

Nous constatons que votre préférence linguistique est le français.
Voudriez-vous être redirigé sur notre site de langue française?

Oui! Je veux y accéder.

Hemos notado que su idioma preferido es español. ¿Le gustaría ver la página de Asociación Católica para el Bienestar del Cercano Oriente en español?

Vee página en español