Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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DEREJE Workayehu, Lecturer, Department of History and Heritage Management, University of Gondar, Ethiopia

In spite of its central and sensitive nature, the origin, role and professional development of the Ethiopian police force is one which has received little scholarly attention. This paper investigates the degree to which there has been political involvement in the Ethiopian police force. Both published and unpublished primary and secondary sources were consulted including Annual Police Reports, documents/minutes from the annual conferences of provincial commissioners together with other archival sources. issues of the official Police Gazette – Polis Enā Erimijāw literally (Police and its Progress), later renamed Abiyotawi Polis, literally (Revolutionary Police) – following the revolution were used, as well as interviews from serving and retired officers and other secondary sources. This paper discusses how the police force acted as the institutional arm of the derg leaders and police officers were considered to be political agents. The force was used as part of an open, overall strategy against the so-called “reactionaries” or “anti-revolutionaries”. In the provinces, administrators intervened directly in police duties and gave arbitrary orders, including reshuffling police officers’ roles. This paper describes how changes in police organisation made the force more political, through means such as the introduction of a new political department, indoctrination, and party membership. For example, party members were given priority in education opportunities, promotion and transfers. The rampant political interference and political insecurity among the police affected the force negatively by sapping its discipline and performance. The paper looks at the negative impact of political interference in the police force.