As a founding member of the United Nations, Ethiopia’s role as a peacekeeping nation has been illustrious since the 1950s. Most of Ethiopia’s recent peacekeeping missions have centred around the Sudans. The country also maintains an open-door policy for hosting asylum-seekers and refugees, hosting over 900,000 refugees – mainly from neighbouring countries such as Eritrea and Somalia. 

Since Abiy Ahmed became Prime Minister in April 2018, the country has witnessed an unprecedented acceleration of social change. In the months following election, Ahmed released thousands of political prisoners, ended a two-decade conflict with neighbouring Eritrea (by relinquishing disputed border territory), and appointed women to half of his ministerial cabinet positions. Ahmed himself served as a peacekeeper in Rwanda in 1995. 

As one of the first five African countries to confirm participation in the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), Ethiopia is committed to protecting refugees through the ambitious criteria set out by the UN General Assembly in its 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. Ahmed should use this challenge as a means to continue his roll-out of social change in this largely under-developed country. At the end of 2018, 50.7% of refugee children were enrolled in refugee camps-based schools, yet women and children are still at high risk of sexual violence in each of the twenty-six refugee camps in the country. 

Since 1995, Ethiopia has held general elections every five years, but in the latest, in 2015, no leader from the opposition party was elected. Several mass rallies have been held in support of the new Prime Minister’s policies. The country presently provides the largest number of troops per capita to the UN’s peacekeeping army. 

It will be interesting to see the impact of Ahmed’s relaxation in state control in Ethiopia, and whether the focus on maintaining a predominantly peaceful domestic policy will impact the country’s vital role in African peacekeeping and implementation of the CRRF. 

Photo: Somalian refugee camp in Ethiopia, UN Archive

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