By: Tariku N. (PhD)
The promises Abiy Ahmed made and hopes
When Abiy Ahmed, a young leader, born and raised in multi-ethnic and multi-religious family background, came to power, most Ethiopians were optimistic that the nearly three decade old tyrannical rule under the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) would come to an end. He came at a historical junction following a widespread public protest against the TPLF-led coalition-the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). In his first inaugural speech while sworn in as prime minister (PM) of Ethiopia, Abiy was able to induce new hopes painting a rosy picture of the country’s future in the minds of all segments of the society: women and men, young and old, far and near, who were sick and tired of politics in Ethiopia that was based solely on ethno-linguistic roots.
In his first public physical appearance in a rally in support of his premiership at the Meskel Square, a huge crowd gathered in support of his reform agenda. In this and subsequent public appearances, PM Abiy preached unity, the power of synergy (Medemer), love and brotherhood. He promised constitutional amendments (including election term limits), rapid economic growth and vowed to put the country at peace and on a new development trajectory. This won the hearts and minds of Ethiopians and earned him respect and widespread support at home and abroad among the diaspora community. The majority of the public voted for his party, the Prosperity Party (PP), and wished him good luck to deliver on his promises. Most people, including myself, hoped Abiy would soon announce the demise of ethnic politics in Ethiopia and propel the country’s growth forward.
The challenges faced on the way of delivering the promises
In no time, the optimisms started fading. The TPLF, still in disbelief of its loss of power, emerged as a contender to Abiy’s PP and his acceptance in the Tigray region and beyond. Then, ensued insubordination of the TPLF’s government to Abiy’s leadership and Tigray region increasingly became ungovernable. Subsequent escalations of tensions between the TPLF and the federal government led to a bloody civil war that resulted in deaths, displacements and permanent disabilities of fellow citizens in hundred thousands. Coupled with the effect of Covid-19, the war plunged the country’s economy into an abyss.
On the other hand, Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) forces, invited to enter the country without a binding and clear peace deals, picked up arms to fight Abiy Ahmed’s administration, infiltrated the political structures mainly in Oromia region, coalesced with TPLF and challenged the federal and regional governments: mostly Oromia and Amhara regions. OLF kidnapped ordinary citizens and sought ransom money from hostage families, killed and displaced citizens mainly ethnic Amharas, raped women and children, and controlled some areas in Oromia region. The regional government of Oromia, fought back in what seems like under-capacity. In some cases, the Oromia Special Forces were reported to have directly perpetrated atrocities and crimes against humanity as witnessed by victim survivors. Wollega became a blood bath of citizens with an incessant threat of murder, forced displacement and rape by the outlaws. The region increasingly became a living hell before the eyes of Abiy Ahmed’s premiership.
The writer of this article, as a former student of Haramaya University (2000-2005), remembers hatred and suspicion sown, grown, and coached among Oromo university students against students from northern Ethiopia. At the university, non-Oromo students always felt threatened and longed for graduation and departure from the area. There were certain incidents where clashes along ethnic lines were instigated among students resulting in deaths and injuries. This happened in many universities across the country. What was commonly experienced in universities at that time is what we see now in Oromia and other places in Ethiopia. That cohort of radicalized students who were fed and taught false and hyperbolic narratives of ‘’historical ethnic based injustices’’ are currently assuming leadership and other influential roles within the political space in Ethiopia at federal and regional levels. It is therefore a perfect time for those with a grudge in their hearts to correct what they call ‘’historical injustices’’. Abiy looks complacent to advances made that match this narrative.
The unfulfilled promises
To make matters worse, the general public is already suffering from rising costs of living. The pressure is highly pronounced among civil servants and low income families. Widespread corruption, crime, land grabbing, and shortage of hard currency and fuel are further exacerbating the situation giving another layer of complexity to Abiy’s administration. Currently, millions of people are in need of food assistance in Amhara, Oromia and other regions due to man-made and natural disasters most of which could have been prevented.
Same direction as the headwind blowing against the way of Ethiopia’s continuation as a nation, misappropriation of funds and lack of priority setting by the Abiy Ahmed administration is adding fuel to the fire. Abiy Ahmed has been using aid money and the meager hard currency to build parks, a new palace, at a cost roughly four times the cost of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, and his security and military apparatuses.
Four years into power, the unity, prosperity, peace and constitutional amendments promised are in vain. Leave alone meeting the promises, he makes inflammatory remarks that can further ignite ethnic violence. For instance, being asked why hoist Oromia regional flags in Addis Ababa schools-a legitimate question, he defensively answered that there is widespread anti-Oromo sentiment in Addis Ababa just to quell the question. He created wrong parallels between Oromo and Amhara Shenes, the latter of which never existed, to create a balance of evils between the two largest ethnic groups. His omissions are also remarkable. He usually ignored and kept silent or made overseas travels when people were killed and displaced in scores. He has still continued to ignore demands for constitutional amendments that are usually implicated as causes of ethnically motivated targeted attacks.
From hope to despair in Abiy Ahmed and his PP
Recently, Abiy Ahmed supported a splinter group from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) that broke dioceses and churches illegally and killed laities that tried to protect intrusions by uncanonically self-appointed bishops. His interference in the internal affairs of the EOTC, despite his attempts of mediation later, caused the most painful pinch and sent a shock wave across the nation questioning his legitimacy and credibility as a leader for all. People in one voice, regardless of religion, condemned his meddling in religious affairs. He lost a significant portion of his supporters. Under his rule, leave alone meeting promises, the very question of survival and independence of religious institutions have become questionable. Day by day, things are jumping from the frying pan into the fire. With his remaining time in office, the promises he made are far from being fulfilled and the country’s future has become increasingly uncertain.
Editor’s note : views in the article reflect the views of the writer, not the views of borkena.com
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