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Centre of African Studies: Research


Paper Details

Author: Sarah Vaughan

Title: The Addis Ababa Transitional Conference of July 1991: Its Origins, History and Significance

Year: 1994

When the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) entered Addis Ababa on 28 May 1991, it had pledged to convene within one month an all-inclusive conference of Ethiopian political groupings. The conference would agree the basis for, and establish, a Transitional overnment, which would rule until democratic elections could take place. This initiative was hailed as a fundamental break with an autocratic Ethiopian political tradition. This dissertation aims to consider aspects of the history and policy of a number of the major actors, in an attempt to understand why the Transitional Government was established in this way. In doing so, it assesses in some detail the interrelations between the major opposition group, and traces the formulation of a series of transitional proposals in the final period of the Dergue regime, with particular reference to the dominant issue of unity. The paper provides a detailed review of the period immediately prior to the conference, in order to illuminate how, and with what perspectives, the various participants became involved. Two themes frame the paper, emerging from the historical analysis given, and also amongst conference themes discussed. The first is the issue of self determination of nationalities, widely viewed as a perennial cause of conflict in Ethiopia. Representation on the basis of nationality was a key dynamic of the convention of the conference. Its significance in 1991 is considered alongside the ieology of the TPLF/EPRDF which had long pronounced it the primary contraditction facing the country. The second theme is that of the correct relation between a political organisation and the populatin. Debate on this issue affected the nature of political mobilisation, coalition-building, and the form of emocracy sought by different groups. In conclusion, the significance of the conference is considered in the context of difficulties arising frm these two themes.