Researching the politics of development



The politics of dominating Addis Ababa (2005-2018)

Working paper 148

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Eyob Balcha Gebremariam
After surviving the most challenging electoral competition in May 2005, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) (now defunct) remained the dominant political force in Addis Ababa for a considerable time. This paper seeks to answer how the Ethiopian ruling coalition under EPRDF succeeded in dominating the socio-economic and political spheres in Addis Ababa (2005-2018). The paper argues that three interrelated strategies enabled EPRDF to effectively dominate and govern Addis Ababa during the above-mentioned period. The first, perhaps overarching, strategy is the use of state-led developmentalism as a legitimising discourse. Developmentalist discourses and narratives played an instrumental role in generating acquiescence among the public and as sources of legitimacy for the ruling coalition. The second, no less overreaching, strategy is legal manoeuvring. Politically inspired legal manoeuvring helped EPRDF to shape and reshape formal and informal channels of governance and control for the ruling coalition. The simultaneous role of the formal and informal channels of control was quite instrumental in constraining the organisational power of rival political coalitions. The third strategy is co-optation, which includes a contextual use of both ‘passive co-optation’ and ‘co-operative empowerment’. These context-dependent tactics enabled EPRDF and different social groups in the city to establish dynamic relationships that contribute to the ruling coalition’s agenda of dominance in Addis Ababa. The empirical section of the paper analyses the case of Urban Consumers’ Cooperatives (UCCs) and urban youth employment programmes in Addis Ababa.