Contributing to a larger canon of work that investigates how the presence of civil society organisations in authoritarian settings influences the durability of regimes in power, Camille Pellerin’s research sets out to explain how the relationship between the Ethiopian state, under the rule of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), and civil society organisations, affected regime stability.
She demonstrates that the EPRDF tried to use civil society organisations to bolster its rule through: (1) curbing the power of civil society organisations to prevent challenges to its rule; and (2) mobilising civil society organisations as part of its developmental state programme. However, she argues that the EPRDF prioritised control at times at the expense of developmental objectives. While this prevented open contestation from civil society organisations, it indirectly weakened the EPRDF’s rule in two ways. First, the oppression of civil society organisations reduced their ability to function as a bridge between the Ethiopian people and the state, creating a vacuum between the state and citizens. Second, the control established over civil society organisations decreased the EPRDF’s ability to mobilise them behind its developmental state programme on which it tried to build political legitimacy.Drawing on 14 months of fieldwork, her research renders the micro-politics of civil society – state relations visible. The analysis goes beyond the publicly observable “silence”, characterised by the absence of open contestation by civil society organisations, and demonstrates the existence of negotiation and conflicts between actors and organisations operating in both spheres. Instead of taking the concepts of civil society and the state for granted, her research explores their empirical manifestations in Ethiopia. The contribution of her research lies in the nuance of the analysis, shedding light on how different state and civil society organisations, and the actors working within them, are linked and engage with each other.
L’intervenant / the speaker
Camille Pellerin is a lecturer in development studies at the Department of Government in Uppsala and affiliated researcher at the French Centre for Ethiopian Studies in Addis Ababa. Her research focuses on civil society – state relations under authoritarian rule, particularly in contemporary Ethiopia.