What has been going on in Ethiopia is truly historic, and it has been on my mind ever since it began. What’s important, however, is that we focus on what this means to the citizens themselves. The current administration seems too caught up in dissecting the macro-level situation to pay attention to the important effects on daily life. Just call it missing the battle for the bullets.
When thinking about the recent turmoil, it’s important to remember three things: One, people don’t behave like migratory birds, so attempts to treat them as such inevitably look foolish. Migratory birds never suddenly set up a black market for Western DVDs. Two, Ethiopia has spent decades torn by civil war and ethnic hatred, so a mindset of peace and stability will seem foreign and strange. And three, hope is an extraordinarily powerful idea: If authoritarianism is Ethiopia’s glass ceiling, then hope is certainly its tabletop.