The looming spectre: a history of the ‘state of emergency’ in Ethiopia, 1970s–2021

TitleThe looming spectre: a history of the ‘state of emergency’ in Ethiopia, 1970s–2021
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsG.J. Abbink
EditorJ.-N. Bach, G.J. Abbink, S. Ancel, A.A.A. Aziz, E. Fantini, P. Ferras, H. Mwakimako, C. Nallet, A. Ylönen, and J. Záhořík
Secondary TitleRoutledge handbook of the Horn of Africa
Date Published2022
Place PublishedLondon, New York
Publication Languageeng
ISBN Number9780429426957
KeywordsEthiopa, history

This chapter presents a brief history of 20th-century Ethiopian ‘state of emergency’ (SoE) declarations in the light of theory and practice, interpreting the most recent ones in connection with the change of regime in 1991, the 1995 constitution, and the Ethiopian political process since 2005 and again after the ‘reset’ of 2018. Pre-2018 States of Emergency could be seen as the actualization of a certain systemic notion of self-referential sovereignty and power. This notion was seemingly called into question after the political change of April 2018. It will be discussed if and when in Ethiopia SoEs refer not only to legal aspects but also to political: to notions of constitutive power, authority and order in local political culture(s), i.e., even beyond ‘politics’ per se. The answer depends on the stated reasons for declaring an SoE, and the most recent ones (2019–2021) do less refer to issues of elite-political self-protection and hegemonic sovereignty than to issues of societal threat: an insurgence subverting the constitutional order (Tigray), a pandemic (corona) and ethnic-based killings. The last three SoEs were also symptomatic of a search for a new political order for the nation – a quest as yet incomplete and to be decided only in ‘normal’, non-SoE conditions.

Citation Key11671