Tag: Dictatorship

Is Ethiopia’s Digital War Worth it?

With the most recent ethnic clashes in the Somali region, Ethiopia has now entered another crisis. According to government reports, 50 people have been killed and 50,000 displaced by violence that erupted last month along the disputed border that separates the Oromia and Somali regions.

The Oromo/Somali dispute is a microcosm of the wealth and power disparity that exists within Ethiopia. The state is built on a misguided premise: that a system of segregation based along ethnocentric lines can be both separate and equal. But in reality only one ethnic group, the Tigrayans, reigns dominant. Comprising of just six per cent of the country’s population, the Tigrayans have access to the highest centres of political and economic power. It is this disparity that lies at the centre of Ethiopia’s ongoing crises.

Through 2014 and 2015, residents in the Oromo and Amhara regions began to protest over land acquisition and their increased marginalisation. The Ethiopian government responded to the demonstrations with aggression, with the resulting clashes leaving more than 500 dead. Alarmed by the rising level of dissent, a ten month state of emergency was imposed and a heavy internet crackdown left many Ethiopians alienated from the outside world.

Some analysts have argued that the Tigrayan dominated government has capitalised on regional conflicts and used them to legitimise excessive use of force against demonstrators. This has tightened the government’s control over the country and attempted to silence those that have previously challenged its authority. The combined use of force and restrictions on internet freedom have been condemned by human rights organisations, who have accused the government of violating the privacy rights of the Ethiopian populace.

Cyber surveillance has been used extensively not only to fight terrorism and crime, but as a means of silencing dissenting voices in the country. Felix Horne, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, told The Intercept that “anyone that opposes or expresses dissent against the government is considered to be an ‘anti-peace element’ or a ‘terrorist.’” These labels also apply to journalists who have used the internet to express their dissatisfaction with the government. In 2016, the government shut down the country’s internet service more than three times whilst also jailing a number of dissenting journalists.

Digital resistance

Though Ethiopia is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, the country has some of the lowest internet usage on the continent with internet penetration at only 12%. But the reality beyond the figures is more complex, and it is hard to get a sense of how many Ethiopians actually have access to the internet: those that do often navigate through spyware, hacking, and other surveillance software that the government has allegedly deployed.

The draconian laws surrounding internet usage indicate the government is still afraid of Ethiopians both having contact with the outside world – and using it to communicate and organise themselves domestically. But in the Oromia region, younger generations have used their digital skills to fight the government’s digital war. Through a small circle of digital developers, virtual private networks (VPNs) have been developed to give users access to data in case of an internet blackout.

Though the government tried to retaliate by switching off the ports connecting the unsecured VPNs, their reach wasn’t widespread enough. Realising that educated people in urban areas are able to outmanoeuvre the crackdowns, the government has focused its efforts on restricting internet access in rural areas. Though this has successfully denied internet access to the majority of the population, in urban areas the Ethiopian government is losing the digital war.

And they’re losing in more ways than one. The Ethiopian economy is still in its infancy, and internet blackouts are causing major economic instability. According to the centre for Technology Innovation at Brookings, the internet shutdowns between 2015 and 2016 have cost the economy nearly $9 million. Internet disruption slows growth, weakens innovation, and undermines foreign investors’ confidence in the country’s economy. As Ethiopia goes on to foster internet-dependent businesses and transactions, the damage rendered from connectivity disruptions becomes even more severe. This, in combination with the country’s staggering debt it owes China, leaves the Ethiopian economy in a very vulnerable position.

The Ethiopian government could channel more resources into winning the digital war in the hope of gaining wider control over the internet. But as authoritarian states around the world are discovering, curbing internet access in 2017 is in many ways a losing battle; savvy young people will keep finding new ways around restrictions. And if Ethiopia wants to maintain regional stability and fast economic growth, its stance on human rights and freedom of speech may have to be revisited.

Source: Raddington Report


Difference between Tyranny and Dictatorship

Difference between dictatorship and tyranny

Conceptual Background

Delving deep in to the history of state governance would tell us that no negative connotations were attached to the two words; tyranny & dictatorship. In ancient Greece, rulers of city states traditionally held the title ‘tyrant’, and the subjects never had any reservation for the same, as no negativity was stigmatized to it. In Athens, before democracy set foot there, the last tyrant ruler was particularly unfair in using power, and the term got a bad name. Subsequently Plato and his followers, by their political discourse, gave permanence to the attachment.

On the other hand, in Republican Rome, a dictator was a senate appointed constitutional incumbent who held absolute power in matters of governance as well as military duties. Titus Flavus was the first dictator of Republican Rome. Augustus Caesar was the last dictator of Rome, who killed his dictator-grandfather, and this act of him gave a bad rap to the term ‘dictator’.

Difference in Meaning

Dictator: A dictator is the head of a government which is run according to the will of the dictator, who acquires power without the consent of the people and is aided by a bunch of loyalists. Under dictatorship all political power is monopolised by the dictator, and the pillars of governance namely judiciary, administration, and legislature are controlled by him and run by the coterie. Dictatorship is an authoritarian form of government where both public and private lives of citizens are subject to scrutiny and regulation by the government. All voices of resent are brutally suppressed by the dictator, through private militia or state force. Adolf Hitler of Germany, Idi Amin of Uganda, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, and Aga Khan of Pakistan are few of the world in-famous dictators.

Tyranny: Tyranny is a form of government where the head of the government possesses very oppressive and ruthless character, and often looks after his own interest instead that of the subjects. The administration, judiciary, and legislature are controlled by people hand-picked by him. History is witness to the fact of many monarchs turning tyrant due to greed and oppressive character. The tyrant rules his subjects through the weapons of fear, and torture. Tyranny is supposedly worst form of governance, where the ruler is corrupted to thefullest. All the tyrants are filthy rich, where the wealth is amassed through all possible illegal ways imaginable. Pol Pot of Cambodia, Pinochet of Chile, Henry VIII of England, Genghis Khan of Mongolia, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, and Caligula of Rome are some of the worst tyrants the world has seen.

Qualitative Difference

A dictator may rise to power either in a democratic set-up, or through an armed coup, often by ambitious military officers. Such leaders definitely possess leadership quality to launch an armed offensive against the ruler. Initially, after coming to power, such leaders have been seen to implement strict discipline into the society, and take measures to bring in financial accountability in governance. But dictatorial power, politics of appeasement, lure to become rich and live 5-star life-style ultimately make the dictator a tyrant, when he starts to consider his whims as law and destiny of the citizens. The tyrant takes all possible measures to silence any voice or resent and large-scale elimination takes place.

A military dictator initially rules by law, stifling personal freedom of people, but may not nurse any personal financial-ambition. But after staying in power for a long time, all the administrative and military posts are filled by people chosen by the dictator so that governance becomes smooth and conducive to serve self interest, and also seeds of revolt are destroyed at birth. This is when the dictator becomes tyrant. This is what happened to some dictators like Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Zia Ul Haque and Musharraf of Pakistan, and many others. Thus length of tenure and degree of mis-use of power differentiates between a dictator and a tyrant.

Welfare of the People

A dictator, in the initial years of his rule, may make significant contribution towards economic welfare of the people, with better infrastructure, highly subsidized compulsory education, and health care facilities financed through increased rates and collection of taxes, increased industrial production, and all round discipline in the government. Cuba under Fidel Castro, India under Indira Gandhi, and Pakistan under Zia experienced such things. But tyrants are bereft of any positive contribution towards societal welfare. Idi Amin of Uganda, Henry VIII of England, Stalin of Russia, Pol Pot of Cambodia and many other tyrants will be remembered by the world for the unbearable misery they brought for their subjects.


A tyrant essentially is a dictator. The difference between a dictator and a tyrant is determined by length of tenure and degree of misuse of power. A dictator assumes power without consent of the people, either through an armed ouster of the ruler or through heredity. He might be a good leader and may bring some prosperity for the people. But as the dictator stays in power for long period, he may become tyrant treating the citizens according to his whims.

Source: The difference between