The Diaspora Impact on the Ethiopian 2015-16 Protests: Ethiopia’s Institutional and Social Progress

Graduation Date


Document Type

Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science and International Studies

Department or Program Chair

Alison Howard, MA

First Reader

Gigi Gokcek, PhD


The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), comprised of a coalition of multiple ethnic parties, forged a constitution in an effort to increase political participation for all groups. Despite these efforts, in November 2015, the Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups began protesting the Ethiopian Government. The government has been struggling to support the influx of different ethnic groups migrating from rural to urban centers in search of opportunity. With the support of Diaspora communities, ethnic groups facing discrimination in Ethiopia have begun a movement that may potentially change the political and social landscape of the country. How has the Diaspora community impacted the institutional and social progress of Ethiopia? This paper argues that the Diaspora’s influence, through social media outlets and financial contributions, exposes the Oromo struggle and the fragility of Ethiopia’s ethnic based federalist system. Through social media Diasporas have positively impacted the social progress of the Oromo ethnic group by inciting an increased sense of autonomy, freedom, and respect for the group. Institutionally by highlighting the grievances of the Oromo population the Diaspora has shed light on the illegitimacy of ethnic based federalism and the divisive methods the EPRDF has implemented. On the contrary Diaspora media coverage has exaggerated the internal conflict, which has allowed the EPRDF to delegitimize the movement. Research has suggested that Diasporas play a significant role in inflaming ethnic differences and political discontent but has not accounted for recent civil unrest in the rapidly developing country.

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