Why Ethiopians fed up with Abiy Ahmed’s administration

Abiy Ahmed _ Ethiopians
Abiy Ahmed attending consultation on national agricultural transformation  in Adama. Photo : Office of the Prime Minister

May 28,2019

More than enough has been said, in the mainstream media or otherwise, about the positive reform measures that Abiy Ahmed’s administration introduced since the ruling coalition picked him as prime minister over a year ago.

Noticeably, most o reform measures were window dressing with little or no relevance for systemic transformation in the long term. The security situation in many parts of the country is a concern to most Ethiopians a year after the alleged “change.”

At this point, more than three million Ethiopians have been internally displaced mainly due to ethnic-based violence, as has been reported by the Financial Times. And the worst of ethnic-based violence does not seem to be over and many Ethiopians tend to think that way.

Ethnic-identity has been over-politicized over the past 28 years to the point that dispute between two individuals on personal matters could easily escalate into outright ethnic-based violence. It has happened in many university campuses. It has happened in regional state cities, as they call them. it has happened in zone towns and districts.

On the other hand, and oddly enough, Prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration and supporters who tend to view criticism against Abiy’s government as a form of “betrayal of the change” would want us to believe that the crisis that Ethiopia is going through, in terms of security or otherwise, is unavoidable aspects of the reform process, nothing else. Many opposition figures seem to buy into that thinking. The trend demonstrates the success that Abiy Ahmed achieved in his game of domesticating the opposition quarter in the name creating a peaceful working relationship with opposition parties. Essentially, there is no opposition party in the country at this time with a conviction and resolve to put pressure on prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s government as the predominant view in that quarter is “to support Abiy Ahmed’s government.” On the contrary, there is a militant and armed radical ethnic Oromo opposition (Oromo Liberation Front) that is bulling Abiy Ahmed’s ethnic party and seemingly mastering control over most of the governance structure. This same group has “robbed” 19 banks within a space of two days and the party leaders are still rubbing shoulders with Abiy Ahmed’s party officials.

The task of enforcing the rule of law in the regional states that constitute the Federal government has become difficult for the Federal government due to an ethnic-based administrative arrangement. The Federal government has to get first the permission of regional states before intervening, for example, to stop an ethnic-based massacre in a given regional state, and it has happened before.

The political situation in the country clearly calls for structural and systemic change and bold decision along that line. But the ruling coalition, now under Abiy Ahmed’s chairmanship, is basking in a superficial political ritual in which ethnic-based regional governments organize inter-regional travel for region-based political elites to hold a town hall meeting and they call it “people to people” relation. In fact, they seem to think that that is the direction to resolve inter-ethnic violence in the country which actually sounds unsound. At the same time, regional governments seem to exploit these “people to people” political trips to build a political alliance with ethnic-groups of regions with the plan to activate the alliance in the event of inevitable power struggle, which is expected- in the mind of the ruling coalition politicians-, to be struggle between “contending ethnic-groups.” Oromo regional state, for example, has been doing a lot of “people to people relation” in recent weeks involving Gambella, Afar, Benishangul, Southern nations and nationalities.

Apart from hesitation to transform the system into one that mitigates inter-ethnic conflict, the administration of Abiy Ahmed also seems to be curtailing democratic space including press freedoms. There have been two arrests of journalists this past week alone – one in the capital Addis Ababa and the other one in Oromo region – a region that Abiy Ahmed’s ethnic party (Oromo Democratic Party) is governing. And there is now a growing criticism, rightly, that prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s ethnic support base is developing a sense of entitlement and political privilege one alleged grounds that the “change” is the result of “Oromo struggle.”

The issue of Addis Ababa has become another layer of skepticism towards prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration. Thousands of residents in Lege Tafo and koye Feche were reduced to homelessness when Oromo regional administration ordered demolition of houses on grounds of “illegal settlement.” The Mayor of Addis Ababa, who is also from Abiy Ahmed’s ethnic Oromo party, also vowed that thousands of “illegal houses” will be demolished and he framed his policy as an effort to enforce rule of law as was the case in Legaetafo and Koye Feche.

Currently, it is noticeable that a considerable number of people who initially supported Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has lost faith in his administration. Some politicized Ethiopians anticipated from the outset that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration would be weak for his political support base including his ethnic party is influenced by the militant Oromo groups. but there was a belief that his government would ultimately free itself from the influence of radical Oromo politicians within his party and in the region, and become a government for all Ethiopians which does not seem to be happening. Abiy’s stand on the question of Addis Ababa and in light of the Lege Tafo incident demonstrates that radical oromo politics influence over Abiy’s ODP party is not over.

In fact, there is no sign that his administration would introduce fundamental structural reform that would promote peace and mitigate conflicts. One argument from Abiy Ahmed’s government is that there has to be an election first to carry out structural and administrative reform. The point is an election, even if it is possible to organize one under the existing circumstance which many seem to question, organized within same structural and administrative arrangement is likely to produce the same result. That is why his administration needs to act boldly to do things in the order of importance and in the interest of Ethiopians. Peace and security is a priority for the country and Abiy Ahmed’s leadership should not expect Ethiopians to forget that and hail his prestige projects and impressionist events he is organizing one after another.

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