Ethiopia is one of the World's poorest countries. Out of a population of around 80 million (2008) people, 35 million people are living in abject poverty. In one of the world's poorest countries, where about 44 per cent of the population lives under the poverty line, more than 12 million people are chronically or at least periodically food insecure. Ethiopia is affected by widespread corruption in in the form of outright theft and embezzlement of public funds, misuse and misappropriation of state property, nepotism, bribery, abuse of public authority and position to exact corrupt payments and gain are commonplace. The persistence of high levels of poverty, corruption, inequity and inequality pose key questions about the relationship between economic development and democracy in Ethiopia. Revolutionary theories of democracy in the country suggests the presence of contradiction between a system based on political equality of all citizens and societies based on extremes of economic inequality. Political inequality distorts economical equality and a democratic system must include the majority of the country in the gains of growth if the system is to maintain public acceptance.
In the last two decades, the so called democracy in Ethiopia did not coincide with an improvement in living conditions for the majority of its citizens, who continued to live in abject poverty. Despite the implementation of political procedures, little changed in terms of the material conditions of ordinary citizens, but as a whole, the revolutionary democratic rule does not improve the lives of the majority of the citizens, as a result this democracy loses support and legitimacy. Because of the majority of Citizens economic and social issues are not addressed, peoples become disillusioned with democracy in Ethiopia. Thus, the failure of EPRDF/TPLF governments to improve the lives of its citizens led to a lack of legitimacy and it was this lack of legitimacy that led people to turn to alternative vehicles of political expression that existed outside of formal political institutions.
TPLF members, supporters or officials owned public assets through illegal transactions and fraud, allegations of official corruption, elitism, lack of accountability and the pursuit of monopolized economic practices to the detriment of a wide sector of society are also among the factors, which have led to the public’s dissatisfaction with TPLF/EPRDF political party. Dissatisfaction among majority of peoples are/were caused by insufficient economic growth and the systematic failure of traditional institutions of representative democracy to ensure a better standard of living for everyone. Another, the most disturbing aspects of the TPLF political scene, is the lack of responsiveness to the needs of the majority of the people, even though TPLF been established formal mechanisms of democratic politics in most of the region to mislead the citizens and westerns.
We have seen that it was the failure of TPLF/EPRDF across the country to address issues of absence of rule of low, luck of freedom of expression(speech, write, public demonstration), inequality, inequity and poverty that resulted in citizens turning to social movements as alternative vehicles of political expression. The majority of the citizens are increasingly began to feel that elected leaders??? were not representing them and felt ostracised from the political process as the government were not responding to their needs. These new social movements are a response to a growing dissatisfaction and lack of confidence in the current power holder political parties’(EPRDF/TPLF) ability to serve the needs of the masses in the country. The poor and marginalised of Ethiopians have now begun to mobilize and demand that their needs are met. The promotion of a small hole democracy taught them that their voices should be heard and the political system should respond to them. As a result, people began to turn to social movements to channel their demands.
Although the confused and an in-understandable revolutionary democracy in Ethiopia fails to deliver economic prosperity, the persistence of poverty and inequality, high unemployment, the fact that democracy did not eradicate corruption, power continued to remain in the hands of the elites, the majority of the population were excluded from political participation, and all combined in a general sense of dissatisfaction among citizens. Totally, TPLF fail to satisfy the citizens in many aspects of democracy and development, thus Peoples are began to abandon EPRDF and turned to another parties who qualify their demands. The social movements will provide parties with the support required to back successful candidates and parties provide social movements with access to the formal political arena where they may affect policy outcomes. The failure of the TPLF government to address citizens’ socio-economic conditions has led to a crisis of representation and has therefore resulted in citizens shifting to informal means, such as social movements, as alternative vehicles of political expression.
The transition to democracy should brought open elections and party competition, but EPRDF doesn't give access to other political parties to form a government through free election and competition, therefore this creates important consequences for futures political systems function in the country. The EPRDF Revolutionary democracy links party and society, but in modern democracies political parties are the primary link between state and society, and that once democratic regimes are established, their stability depends on the development of key political institutions, social organisation, social capital and co-operation among elites. In Ethiopia democracies is weakly institutionalized, election results are erratic and continuity from one government to the next is less likely. As of party systems are not institutionalised in the country(unless to mislead the citizens and the westerns), there is no structure to the political process and politics tends to be unpredictable. This leads to gun and/or economic elites having privileged access to policy makers, and in the absence of institutionalised checks and balances, patrimonial practices and clientelism prevail.
While Ethiopia is democratic in name, but the reality is very different. Most western countries, humanitarian organizations, and donor agencies report on the current democracy situations in Ethiopia notes that, the leading political parties(TPLF/EPRDF) as agents of representation, are experiencing a crisis, as citizens have lost confidence in them and do not trust them as their representatives. Therefore, participation in elections in the country is unwilling and valueless. On the face of it, the country is now have the name of democratic because it has the so called free and fair elections, however, politicians and party systems are not representing the people and clientelism and corruption remain endemic. The theory of democracy ware welcomed, but did nothing to eradicate the country’s secular plague’s of corruption, a weak or non-existent rule of law, ineffective governance and the concentration of power in the hands of a few. The majority of political parties continue to represent elitist interests, and continue to ignore the needs of the masses. Therefore, they are no longer seen as representative and confidence in political parties and institutions has been eroded. Consequently, the new revolutionary democratic states of Ethiopia is weak and governmental legitimacy is shrinking.
Ethiopia has now a very unequal society, and politics have become the business of the elites who are direct descendants of one ethnic group. The Current dictators elites are the minority, they forcefully ruled the country to their benefit and the political culture is hierarchical, authoritarian and totalitarian. The peasants, urban working class, rural workers, members of the informal sector and the indigenous communities are largely excluded from the political arena or symbolically participate with out having decision power in any circumstance. Yet these sectors represent the majority of the population of Ethiopia, then the excluded masses, came to see politics as the “private business” of the elites. The elected officials have no ties to the majority lower classes and have no incentive to consider their demands. While the elected officials promise the exclude masses that they will help their plight during election campaigns, once in power they disregard their electoral platform, mainly because they never had any intention of alleviating the plight of the excluded masses.
It is clear that satisfaction with the political process in Ethiopia is at an all time low and that the majority of citizens are excluded from the political process. All the people of Ethiopia should have to be brought into the political process in order for democracy to survive in Ethiopia, as popular support for democracy is an indicator of consolidation, and without the support of the majority of citizens, democracy may not survive. Social movements are an important alternative vehicle of political expression and it can be important in keeping democratic institutions in check and are therefore important for democratic accountability.
Social Movements are groups of individuals, with a common ideology, who come together to effect social and political change, but who are not part of any existing political party or political institution. It is also a conscious effort to achieve a group’s objectives by challenging the authorities, power-holders and cultural beliefs through extra-institutional means. They act collectively and can take the form of neighbourhood associations, human rights movements, environmental movements, women’s rights movements, peasant movements, agricultural workers movements, student movements and indigenous and ethnic movements. Form a conscious, collective, organized attempt to bring about or resist large-scale change in the social order by non-institutionalized means.
Many assume that social movements are only aimed at achieving social goals, but political goals are also common objectives of social movements. Some movements with political objectives aim to achieve new rights, while some act in response to violence and suppression. In a social movement, members or leaders of the social movement must select the means and processes in order to best achieve their goals. Means and processes of collective action can be violent or nonviolent means, illegal or legal activities, and extremism or moderation. Whether the group chooses to use previous means of action or innovative ways to express their contention, their purpose is to achieve their goals. The goal of a social movement must be a large-scale community interest, not a goal related to only a particular entity.
A sustained movement not only needs to maintain participants’ interest, motivation and create a strong sense of value in the movement outcome, but it must also maximize movement membership. It is only with a large movement membership that a social movement can exert the power of the masses. A large membership provides the broad support base for the social movement, the necessary networks to transfer information and resources, and more. If majorities support a movement’s demands, the main task for movement activists is attracting mass attention to boost the salience of the issue and thereby encourage elected officials to respond to majoritarian preferences. A large volume of participants can be seen as a threat to the power-holders by the movement’s mass public attention. In this sense, movements that maximize their membership are powerful in forcing power-holders to grant movement’s demands. A large and broad movement membership is paramount to the success of a movement.