Struggling Ethiopia

Home to more than 100 million people, Ethiopia has been one of Africa’s brightest success stories of the past two decades. In 2000, it was the third poorest country on Earth. Between 2000 and 2016, Ethiopia was the third-fastest growing major economy, behind just China and Myanmar, and the country has remained an island of stability in the terrorism-plagued Horn of Africa. That’s where the good news stops.


Ethiopia is now burdened with severe wealth inequality, high unemployment, particularly for young people, and deadly ethnic unrest. In response to intensifying protests, the government declared a state of emergency in October 2016 and in the ensuing months arrested 29,000 people, according to the country’s defense ministry. The emergency order was lifted in August 2017, but protests have continued.

On January 3, in response to long-standing charges of human rights abuses in the country, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn promised to free all political prisoners and shut down a prison that rights advocates say has been used for torture. But this announcement was followed quickly by a correction. Someprisoners will be freed, though it’s not clear exactly how many. This week, the government said it would drop charges against hundreds of people, but only after they completed two days of “rehabilitation training.” Opposition leader Merera Gudina was among 527 people freed on Wednesday. He served more than a year in jail.

Outsiders have been reluctant to pressure Ethiopia’s government because it has proven a valuable counter-terrorism ally, but pressure from within the country appears to have forced the prisoner release, even if it’s not as sweeping as it first appeared. We’ll keep watching.

The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace launched in 2018 with the commitment of signatories to stand up to cyber threats like election interference, attacks on critical infrastructure, and supply chain vulnerabilities. Last week, on the first anniversary of the call, the number of signatories has nearly tripled to more than 1,000 and now includes 74 nations; more than 350 international, civil society and public sector organizations; and more than 600 private sector entities. These commitments to the Paris Call from around the world demonstrate a widespread, global, multi-stakeholder consensus about acceptable behavior in cyberspace.

Read More at Microsoft On The Issues.

What changes now that the U.S. softened its position on Israeli settlements?

Well, I mean, not a lot. I mean, keep in mind that this is also the administration that moved the embassy to Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv. Everyone said that was going to be a massive problem. Ultimately, not many people cared. Same thing with recognition of Golan Heights for Israel. This is just one more give from the Americans to the Israelis in the context of a region that doesn't care as much as they used to about Israel - Palestine.

More Show less

Bolivia's polarizing interim president: After Bolivian president Evo Morales and his deputies were pushed out of office for rigging last month's presidential election, little-known opposition Senator Jeanine Añez took office as interim leader. Añez has promised to guide the country toward a "national consensus" ahead of new elections in January, but she's already risked deepening political divides. On day one, she lugged a giant bible into office, in a perceived swipe at Morales, who had elevated popular indigenous traditions that the ultra-conservative Ms. Añez once called "satanic." She's also abruptly reoriented the country's foreign ties toward Latin America's conservative governments. On her watch, at least eight pro-Morales protesters have been killed by the authorities. Morales himself, exiled in Mexico, says he's the victim of a coup and wants to run in the elections. Añez says he's barred, but his MAS political party still controls both houses of congress and has to be a partner for any smooth transition. Some compromise is necessary, but things don't seem to be going that way.

More Show less

2,887: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has now broken a century-old record to become the longest serving PM in Japan's history, at 2,887 days. It's a stunning feat for a premier who made a political comeback after quitting in 2007 due to a series of embarrassing scandals.

More Show less