How hopeful should Ethiopia be over the launching of a brand new and much anticipated rail project?
In the summer of this year, Ethiopia went to elections and the results were special. The party won all 100percent of the seats in parliament, as the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) came back to power, with a coalition. After winning somewhere around 546 parliamentary seats, the results have generally been viewed as being so because opposition parties do not have the chance to engage in debate, much like citizens.
This is the norm in Ethiopia for EPRDF because previously, they had won approximately 99.6 percent of parliament seats. There has been countless crackdown on supporters and opposition parties, corruption is rife, and there are a lot of terrorism charges on political candidates that are more beefed-up, than anything else.
Parties have also expressed the huge difficulty in getting candidates registered and procuring funds they are supposed to receive. Security forces have arrested and harrassed people organizing rallies, forcefully removing equipments and denying permits in a rather unfair manner. There have been violent deaths in circumstances often described mistrustful, than what would generally be deemed acceptable.
There were no international observers during the elections because the country provided little scope to monitor a vote, independently and properly. The European Union and United States of America are generally considered to be two of Ethiopia’s political allies but they have been silent on the matter of political crackdown. For any in hindsight that perhaps thought the United States and the EU agreed with of all the violence with little hope for free and fair elections in the country, that would be incorrect and Ethiopia views this perspective as both short-sighted and threatening.
The election results have been viewed in Ethiopia as a depressive environment, where ordinary people do not get to express their perspectives on daily life because the coalition is too busy not permitting freedom of speech or the ability to have any political views that does not match that of the government. Amidst it all, a light-rail project has been launched that is both 32km long and looks very modernist, in Addis Ababa. This is sub-Saharan Africa’s first light-rail system and citizens have been queuing up to make use of it since the very first day. As remarkable as this initiative has been, it is important to note what the train highlights: a marked sign of progress for Ethiopia from all of its many political troubles.
The train project is to expand to 39 stations across the capital and is probably going to carry somewhere around 15,000 people in one travel direction. The infrastructure has been anticipated for a very long time in Ethiopia and has been built by a Chinese company at St. George underground station.