Peace may be on the horizon in Ethiopia. But tremendous obstacles remain before the cycle of famine and suffering will end. After 30 years of war, Ethiopia faces political instability, agricultural disruption, high death tolls, and internal refugees as well as those who have fled from war-torn, neighboring countries in this region known as the Horn of Africa. More than seven million people are threatened by starvation, including 1.2 million refugees from Somalia and Sudan.
Just weeks before Ethiopia's longtime ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam fled at the height of the civil war in late May, one government official told me, "Peace for me is just a concept, not a reality. Our people are ravaged by war, famine, and poverty because of the discriminatory policies and misguided decisions of this regime." This view of the Mengistu regime was shared by many Ethiopians interviewed during a recent fact-finding tour of the country.
There were also anxious questions asked during those tense days before the coalition of rebel groups known as the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) entered Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, and assumed government leadership: Would scenes of bloodshed and looting reminiscent of Liberia and Somalia be repeated here? Will a different government bring peace and stability? Yet amid the disquieting calm were also hope and a desperate desire for peace.