Trouble's On The Horn: Ethiopia in Crisis

South Africa’s Jacob Zuma wasn’t the only beleaguered leader of a major African economy to resign last week. At the other end of the continent, Ethiopian PM Hailemariam Desalegn stepped down amid a deep political crisis that has roiled the East African nation for three years now.


The roots of the crisis combine two things: perceptions of political marginalization among the country’s two largest ethnic groups (the Oromo and the Amhara), and broader frustrations with a political system that has remained deeply repressive even as economic growth soared in recent years. The government’s release of several hundred political prisoners earlier this year failed to defuse the crisis.

Whether Hailemariam’s resignation opens the way for a more inclusive and stable political system — or merely provides the ruling EPRDF with a chance to install a more effective hardliner — is a critical question for the country, and for the region. Ethiopia is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, but it’s in a tough neighborhood — it borders the near-failed state of Somalia to the East and war-wracked Sudan and South Sudan to the West.

More broadly, East Africa has become a critical security focus as jihadist militants from ISIS and other groups transit the region to reach other destinations in North and West Africa. Watch this space closely…

Bonus track: Ethiopia’s most famous musician (unless you count The Weeknd as Ethiopian, which I don’t) is Alemayehu Eshete. He’s been called the Ethiopian James Brown. I’ll let you decide who’s the king of soul, but while you ponder it, kick back and lounge to this.

Last week, in Fulton, WI, together with election officials from the state of Wisconsin and the election technology company VotingWorks, Microsoft piloted ElectionGuard in an actual election for the first time.

As voters in Fulton cast ballots in a primary election for Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates, the official count was tallied using paper ballots as usual. However, ElectionGuard also provided an encrypted digital tally of the vote that enabled voters to confirm their votes have been counted and not altered. The pilot is one step in a deliberate and careful process to get ElectionGuard right before it's used more broadly across the country.

Read more about the process at Microsoft On The Issues.

The risk of a major technology blow-up between the US and Europe is growing. A few weeks ago, we wrote about how the European Union wanted to boost its "technological sovereignty" by tightening its oversight of Big Tech and promoting its own alternatives to big US and Chinese firms in areas like cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her top digital officials unveiled their first concrete proposals for regulating AI, and pledged to invest billions of euros to turn Europe into a data superpower.

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Communal violence in Delhi: Over the past few days, India's capital city has seen its deadliest communal violence in decades. This week's surge in mob violence began as a standoff between protesters against a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against India's Muslims and the law's Hindu nationalist defenders. Clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs in majority-Muslim neighborhoods in northeast Delhi have killed at least 11 people, both Muslim and Hindu, since Sunday. We're watching to see how Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government responds – Delhi's police force reports to federal, rather than local, officials.

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Ian Bremmer's perspective on what's happening in geopolitics:

What are the takeaways from President Trump's visit to India?

No trade deal, in part because Modi is less popular and he's less willing to focus on economic liberalization. It's about nationalism right now. Hard to get that done. But the India US defense relationship continues to get more robust. In part, those are concerns about China and Russia.

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27,000: The Emir of Qatar has decreed a $27,000 fine and up to five years in prison for anyone who publishes, posts, or repost content that aims to "harm the national interest" or "stir up public opinion." No word on whether the Doha-based Al-Jazeera network, long a ferocious and incisive critic of other Arab governments, will be held to the same standard.

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