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A historic African moment is in the offing: Ethiopia’s first democratic election. Despite its long history, Ethiopia has been a fractured society and a deeply authoritarian polity. Elites of certain ethnic/religious groups, or tyrants, have dominated the country, with Mengistu Haile Mariam’s regime being perhaps the most notorious in modern times. These regimes failed to engender civic belonging and national cohesion among its diverse people.

Mythical Ethiopia was the land of serfdom, and the rulers’ brutality produced rebellions throughout the ages. A progressive student movement challenged the feudal monarchy in the late 1960s and early 70s. However, the military hijacked the resistance and installed a violent government, precipitating open rebellion across the country...

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