Friday, April 10, 2015

Kenya can't, won't be Ethiopia

Kenya can't, won't be Ethiopia By Mwaura Samora Updated Friday, April 10th 2015 at 00:00 GMT +3 Share this story: NAIROBI: The recent attack on Garissa University College, where more than 150 lives were cut short by Al-Shabaab bullets, has evoked anger among Kenyans. This and other bloody attacks in Mandera, Lamu and Nairobi have triggered numerous debates, drawing parallels between Kenya and Ethiopia in the war against terrorism. Despite Ethiopia having troops in Somalia, sharing a wide border with the lawless country and having a huge Somali population, there have been fewer if any attacks from the terror group in that country, or so the world has been led to believe. Although Ethiopia has been praised locally for beating an enemy that Kenya is apparently grappling to contain, the former's success against terror has been largely due to its history, system of government and unique internal dynamics. Unlike in Kenya where opinion on every issue is split between the two main coalitions, Ethiopia is a federal state ruled by a single dominant political party that practices a strict brand of socialism that places the state above everything else. The ruling Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which came to power in 1991 after a guerilla war against the bloody Mengistu Haille Mariam regime, holds total political sway. The coalition, which consists of four political parties, holds 499 out of the 547 national assembly seats. See also: North Eastern leaders, Knut donate Sh17m for terror victims To illustrate the country's political intolerance, the government often refers to the opposition in derogatory terms like "chauvinists", "narrow nationalists", "secessionists" or simply "enemies". The Ethiopian government controls all spheres of life, from media to people's daily lives. The main national broadcaster, Ethiopian Television, and most of the 10 radio stations, are owned by the government. Introduced in 1992 and giving the police sweeping powers to detain journalists without trial and shut down dissenting media outlets, Ethiopian media laws make the National Security (Amendment) Bill 2014 look like a legal walk in the park. After the 2005 general elections, many journalists were jailed and tens of protesters shot dead in the streets of Addis Ababa. Politically, the country is a federate divided into nine ethnically-based regions called kililochs, which the opposition has compared to the racially clustered apartheid South Africa's bantustans, each ruled by a party created or closely associated with EPRDF. And this is where, by default rather than design, the country's war against terror is won. Ruled by tribal councils which wield totalitarian powers, the Kililochs are divided into Kebeles, similar to wards, that comprise 3,500 to 4,000 people. Most Kebele members are armed and in charge of neighbourhood security, and so terror cells stands zero chance in these regions.

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