August 28, 2005
Internet politics in Ethiopia
Aurelia E. Brazeal, the USA's soon-to-be-leaving ambassador to Ethiopia, has written a farewell essay which has been published in most of the papers. In it she talks about two factors that she believes shape Ethiopian politics.
One is what I would call "Identity politics" and the other, especially at this moment, is what I think of as "Internet politics".
Identity politics is when, as was the case in last year's elections in the US, a voter is too often urged to choose a candidate or party based upon their identification with a narrow issue or group, rather than on higher principals of national good. In the Ethiopian context, Internet politics is when a loud and vitriolic minority of voices, many of whom have not been in this country for years or even decades and have far less at stake than Ethiopians at home, urge those actually living here to act on the basis of old-think ethnic identification or frozen and aged images of how Ethiopia used to be.
I've got nothing much to say about Identity politics. But for proof that 'Internet politics' is alive and well, look no further than some of the comments left on this site. People have posted some pretty vitriolic and divisive stuff on Meskel Square in recent months. And once you check the logs, an interesting pattern emerges. The most vitriolic and divisive stuff comes from people, I am guessing expat Ethiopians, based in the United States of America.
The people who like to throw ethnic insults around, calling someone else an Amhara 'this' or a Tigrayan 'that', are more often than not typing their abuse into a PC in Washington DC. It is a pattern that you see amplified on other more newsy Ethiopian websites hosted in the US.
I am not saying that there are no ethnic divisions inside the borders of Ethiopia. But it is an interesting pattern nonetheless.
By the way - in a quick return to the "13 Months of Sunshine" debate, you may be interested to know that our windows are currently shaking under the onslaught of the most violent hail storm that I have ever experienced. It is a classic African torrential downpour. Just when you think it can not get any louder, the volume doubles.
Posted by aheavens at August 28, 2005 1:25 PM