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Ethiopia: The kleptocratic rule of Abiy Ahmed

By Abebe Gellaw

In April 2018, the world bore witness to the rise of Africa’s own Barack Obama. This young African leader, preaching justice, freedom, and equality, and selling his idealistic dreams captivated people from coast to coast. His mesmerizing speeches and eloquence, reminiscent of Obama’s, created a palpable excitement, enabling him to win hearts and minds across the globe. 

It felt as though we were witnessing a transformative force of nature ready to revolutionize the world as we knew it. Media outlets, both local and international, were in a frenzy, painting a picture of him as a transformative figure. I must confess that I too found myself swept up in the collective bandwagon of Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia.

However, what we thought was a rising star, a beacon of hope, turned out to be nothing more than a political charlatan. Beneath the charming facade and the enticing promises lay a conman who was deftly playing his cards. The realization of this harsh truth has been deeply unsettling. It was a bitter pill for the world to swallow. A world that had initially been so enraptured by his promises had even awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. The transformation we eagerly anticipated turned out to be a mere illusion, masterfully crafted by a corrupt political trickster. 

Today, this man, who led a two-year-long devastating war in Northern Ethiopia, stands accused of leading a government that steals food aid from the hungry. Given the records, the revelation that the federal government, as well as regional officials, especially in Tigray region, were involved in diverting food aid and selling it not only in the open market but also to millers that resell the flour to neighboring countries is neither shocking nor surprising. This is because close observers have already concluded that Ethiopia under Abiy Ahmed is undergoing a transition from a wartime regime to a kleptocracy. 

Kleptocracy refers to a form of government or political system in which the ruling individuals or groups exploit their power and authority to systematically and illegally enrich themselves, often at the expense of the general population. In a kleptocratic regime, corruption, embezzlement, bribery, and other forms of illicit activities are rampant and pervasive. 

Under the rule of Abiy Ahmed, the ruling class is engaged in widespread corruption, using their positions of power to embezzle public funds, engage in fraudulent practices, and illicitly amass personal wealth. The regime lacks effective checks and balances, allowing those in power to operate with impunity. Transparency and accountability mechanisms, such as independent judiciary systems and anti-corruption agencies, are weak or non-existent.

The kleptocrats also embezzle and divert public resources for personal gains, and government contracts are awarded to their own their cronies while neglecting the needs and development of the country. They suppress dissent of political opposition, muzzle the media, and limit civil liberties to maintain their grip on power and prevent scrutiny of their corrupt practices. Kleptocracy can have international repercussions, as illicitly obtained wealth is often laundered through international financial systems or invested in foreign assets, perpetuating the cycle of corruption and undermining global efforts to combat illicit financial flows.

The current state of affairs in Ethiopia, under the leadership of Abiy Ahmed is distressing. After two long decades in exile, I heeded Abiy’s call to the Ethiopian diaspora to visit and return to our homeland. During my sojourn in 2019, I seized the opportunity to meet with him a couple of times. We exchanged thoughts on our shared vision for hours of a new Ethiopia under his leadership.

One critical issue I raised was the simmering tension with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). I cautioned him that the TPLF might start a war as they were already beating the war drum. However, his response was dismissive suggesting the TPLF leadership was frail and posed no threat to the robust military force he had built. Despite his reassurances, I remained skeptical. The TPLF’s long history of military misadventures and violence was not something to overlook lightly.

As it was feared, the situation took a grim turn. The TPLF launched a surprise attack on key military bases of the Northern Command, plunging the nation into conflict on the fateful night of November 3. The war has turned Ethiopia upside down. 

According to researchers at Ghent University in Belgium, the devastating conflict in Northern Ethiopia including Tigray, Amhara, and Afar regions,  has led to an estimated death toll of up to 600,000 people. This horrific figure includes between 50,000 to 100,000 lives lost directly due to the fighting, a staggering 150,000 to 200,000 succumbing to hunger and malnutrition, and a further 100,000 fatalities resulting from a lack of vital medical attention. The ripple effects of this brutal war have resonated far and wide, impacting over 20 million people, with women and children bearing the brunt of this crisis, accounting for nearly three-quarters of those affected. The crisis has also displaced over 5.5 million people. 

Following a recent revelation of food theft by the Washington Post, USAID, which has provided nearly $1.5 billion in food aid in 2022, announced that it has suspended food assistance to Ethiopia. UNFP followed suit and suspended its emergency food aid program in Ethiopia. This won’t harm the kleptocrats in power, but it will hurt those in desperate need. It’s a truly tragic situation, created by people thoughtlessly vying for power and wealth at the expense of millions on the brink of death.

The man once hailed as Africa’s answer to Barack Obama is now leading a country to the edge of catastrophe. Human rights violations are rampant. One of the controversies engulfing Abiy Ahmed back home involves his launch of extravagant projects. At a time when the nation is in desperate need of a recovery plan, Abiy is instead constructing an opulent palace for himself on the outskirts of Addis, a project costing billions of dollars. Last month saw the initiation of another grand palace.  This one was intended for his right-hand man, the President of the Oromia region, Shimelis Abdisa. This construction has already been started by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).  This is on top of the so-called Sheger city project, which has already caused the massive displacement of hundreds of thousands of poor and vulnerable families. The demolition, which has been executed without due process, proved the unbridled cruelty of the regime. 

It appears that Abiy Ahmed drew inspiration not from Barack Obama, but from Africa’s kleptocrats, such as the late President of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Mobutu Sese Seko. The “Nobel laureate” seems to have become another casualty of the curse plaguing Africa’s kleptocratic despots. 

In her book Karmic Harvest Trilogy, Swiss-Filipino writer Angelica Hopes wrote: “Kakistocracy protects kleptocrats. They all wear the evil, manipulative gloves of greed and power play.” That is what the situation looks like in Ethiopia under Abiy Ahmed. 

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com 

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Those like Abebe Gelaw Yonas Biru Mesay Mekonnen Neamin Zeleke and co. who claim to be an elite or learned become the worst kind of unoriginal unprincipled cowards and town cryers. Because they went to some institution which gave them a two or three lettered ranking like BS MS PHD Dr they are imagined to know more. The reality is that my cousins who farm and till the land in Menz and Mehal Meda have more honesty and common sense human dignity and have a fear of God and loath liers and charlatans. They have for millennia governed themselves with rules and laws.

    So for Abebe Gelaw to try in futility to change the narrative of Abiy’s regime from that of a genocidal fascist which has ethnically cleansed Amharas for the past 5 years and will be put on trial in an Ethiopian tribunal to that of Kleptocracy is expected from Abebe.
    Abebe a coward whose claim to fame is that he screamed and shouted at Meles Zenawi in an auditorium. However Abebe has been complicit to the Amhara genocide.

    Go back to the rock you crawled out of!!

  2. Abebe Gellaw,

    Is there any shorter shortcut to power/wealth/fame than selling Ethiopia/GERD to Egypt & Egypt’s WSW* Patrons? So, why did Abiy defy America’s Trump-Pompeo orders?

    Abiy rescued Ethiopia from TPLF-devised collapse, kept Ethiopia afloat, and fought for Ethiopia’s survival with death hovering over his head: youtu.be/Pg3WuF1eXww?t=5

    So, have you done an iota of what Abiy has done for Ethiopia in ≤5 years in your entire life? I posted few below! Please enumerate yours ‘Ethiopia’s Hero & Custodian.’

    WSW*: White Supremacist West

  3. Abebe Gellaw, here is Abiy’s ≤5-Year Report Card – [A bird’s-eye view of his accomplishment]:

    1). Abiy kept Ethiopia afloat despite TPLF/OLF/OLA/IFLO*-staged assassination attempt; COVID; Egypt-WSW-orchestrated Riots/Proxy Wars; WSW-imposed drastic Birr devaluation/embargo/sanctions, loan/aid cancellations; locust; drought; IDPs; etc.

    2). Abiy kept TPLF-bankrupted Ethiopia afloat with $1 billion from UAE’s Prince MBZ. TPLF looted Ethiopia bone-dry to trigger Ethiopia’s Collapse & to stage easy come-back.

    3). Citizen-Rescuing Ethiopia: Released millions of TPLF prisoners & emptied over-filled Ethiopian prisons; flew home ≥850,000 refugees living degrading/inhumane life;

    4). Unlike the EDI*, Abiy REFUSED to sell Ethiopia to Egypt & Egypt’s WSW Patrons. He also repulsed Proxy Wars unleashed via their Dogs: TPLF, OLF/OLA/IFLO, etc.

    5). Green & Clean Ethiopia: Afforestation Campaign – Ethiopia planted ≥25 billion trees.

    6). Child-Friendly Ethiopia: Feeds ≥10 million students twice a day; gives free school supplies; built many primary & secondary schools with sale from his Medemer book;

    7). Citizen-Feeding Ethiopia: All-in-one Mega Bakeries built in populous towns sell bread at rock bottom prices; Addis feeds ≥50,000 twice a day at 17 community centers;

    8). Abiy built a World-Class Robust Ethio Defence Force & Law Enforcement Agencies from scratch WHILE dismantling the ones that served-and-protected TPLF for 27 years;

    9). Abiy built World-Class Industrial Parks that employ thousands of Ethiopians: Akaki-Kaliti, Nazret, Awassa, Debre-Berhan, Bahir-Dar, Kombolcha, Dire-Dawa, Jimma, etc.

    10). Agriculture has flourished: From begging for wheat to surplus; millions of hectares of mechanized & irrigated farms; farmers given thousands of tractors/machinery/pumps;

    11). Abiy’s Fund-Raisers for World-Class Projects: Adowa & Science Museums, Abrhot Library, Entoto/Unity/Friendship Parks, Gorgora/Koisha/Wonchi, Mesqel Square, etc.

    12). Massive miscellaneous projects completed or on track – AGAINST ALL ODDS:
    i). Electrification [Hydro/Wind/Solar/Geo], industrialization, mechanization, Telecom;
    ii). Addis shot from open-air public toilet [rivers, empty lots, etc.] to world-class city;
    iii). Public housing projects, shanty town upgrades, sports facilities, etc.;
    iv). Road Networks: 450 km asphalt in Gojjam alone, Abbay Bridge at Bahir-Dar, etc.

    →*EDI: Ethiopian Diaspora Intellectual / *IFLO: Islamic Front for Liberation of Oromia

  4. Abebe is one of many people who lives in the US and only criticise the current leader and denied the fact that Abiy inherited a corrupt, divided and, economicly weak country. Not only that the ruling government lead by TPLF start war aganist the goverment which Abebe tred to denied but l, TPLF was the cause for the was . This article the same as propaganda media’s who based on conspiracy. I wish Abebe do his part to support and help the contry move forward instead of waste his energy and knowledge only criticizing the current or previous leaders. No impact or significant work from him for Ethiopia.

  5. Abebe Gellaw is not the only Amhara activist accusing the Oromo leadership of prime minster Abiy Ahmed for violations,corruption and embezzlement. When the gallant Tigray forces were marching to Addis Ababa, the Amharas blamed the Oromo units in the army for abandoning their positions, surrendering and running away. They mobilized to reverse the advances of the Tigray forces and claimed victory. But the truth is that Tigray forces withdrew to their bases because of external (US) pressure and this created an opportunity for Amhara propagandists. Still the Tigrayan forces are capable of capturing Addis Ababa and unseating the government. The dictator in Asmara should not feel safe and secure.

  6. Thanks Abebe for writing the true in this clarity. I feel shame for all this PP propagandist as they try to hide Abiy shameful & cruel politics. Abiy Ahmed doesn’t care about human life. The only thing matters for him is staying in power.

  7. A fallen from grace thief and murderer Abiy Ahmed deserves no place in any capacity in any office. He cheated and lied his way out in everything he did. The Premier position, education and his past history. It did not take him long before he fell flat on his face.

  8. Abiy Ahmed Stop terrorizing and massacring Amhara people.
    Free 14 years old Beruke Beyene you imprisoned
    Free 80 years old Tadios Tantu
    Free All innocent Amharas political Prisoners , women, men and Teenagers.
    Stop Abducting, torturing, disappearing, Displacing and looting.
    Stop ethnic cleansing of Amhara people
    Disarm and prosecute the organized Oromo savage criminal groups aka OLF Shene, Queero and OLA
    Take your Oromo Amhara murders OUT OF GOJJAM AMHARA REGION NOW!!!

  9. Abiy Stop Abusing and the violence against Orthodox Chairman and Secretary Prists and followers now.

    Take your Evil crimes out of our religion.
    Orthodox Christians do not want your political gamble. Keep your evil politic out of religion.

    • Abiy Ahmed, live long and donot forget to put all mahibre kidusan members in and out of ethiopia to put in cage and give theem 40 lashes very day before breakfast.

  10. After Berhane Gebrekristos of the TPLF and his minions declared establishment of a transitional government in Ethioipia with the implicit support of the US , Ambassador Donald Yamamoto and company encouraged TPLF to enter Addis Ababa plus the US embassy in Addis to evacuate the city. That happened following the purported irreversible advances of the TPLF to occupy the city .
    It is hard to believe that the West pressured TPLF to reverse its advances in north Shoa and escape with disarray losing tens of thousands in the process. It is the epitome of delusional denial.

  11. Know-It-All from the East Coast just shot me an email and told me what Menelik said this to his wife ‘Hey, Europeans are colonizing Africans. I will colonize Africans too’. Then he went south and west and colonized. That is why there is no sense of citizenship in Ethiopia. Best example is when citizens there are bombed and raped nobody wants to talk about it. But in my Eritrea the sense of citizenship is so strong that citizens were never bombed, raped or arrested by their government. That is why they’re never been nation state or a sense of citizenship in Ethiopia. In fact Ethiopia never existed and does not exist even now. Some people just use that name illegally’.

    Then Af-mishar shot me an email and told me how Menelik did his colonization. He said ‘Ethiopian rulers can mobilize a huge army just like that. Menelik was able to mobilize more than 600,000 men and overwhelmed native people including my Somalis, Somali Abos and Somali Hararis. I have the list of names of those 600,000 men Menelik mobilized in 1880 and again in 1896. You know what he did to the Italians in 1896. He massacred 35,879 innocent Italians at Adwa that year who were there on humanitarian mission from the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières(Doctors Without Borders) and Amnesty International. He just murdered them. I have the list of names of all those 35,879 innocent Italians massacred by Menelik at Adwa in 1896. I am planning to file a lawsuit against Menelik for that crime alone at The Hague. My Somali Abo college professors from Minnesota, Georgia, Virginia, Michigan and Gourdie from Down Under will be there to support me when I file the lawsuit. Hey Menelik! You’re toast!!!’.

    I have been crying rivers for those innocent and unarmed Italians killed by Menelik at Adwa in 1896. I propose the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Af-mishar.

    • What Af-mishar was really saying is what Menelik mobilized was a 600,000 strong army of flies and flees and all of them were Amharas, Tigres and in majority of his raids Oromos were also whole-hearted participants. Amharas, Tigres and Oromos are genetically flies and flees who feed on human blood and flesh. No wonder why Af-mishar is the only one who discovered USA’s policy on the Horn of Africa has been flawed since the 1970’s and he is the only one who’s got the magic wand to solve all the problem of that region in a jiffy. Hey you Amhara, Tigres and Oromos! You are not even human beings. You are buzzing flies and flees. Hey, don’t harp on me for telling that. Af-mishar is the one who said that. Don’t kill the messenger here!!!!

  12. I caught him! I just caught him!
    Who did you catch, Ittu?
    I caught him! I caught PM Abiy!
    What did you catch PM Abiy doing now, Ittu?
    I caught with his new weapon.
    What is that new weapon?
    It is the first one in use anywhere. It is called hydroclear bomb?
    What is hydroclear bomb? What is it used for, Ittu?
    It is the most powerful weapon in the history of armament. It’s name is a portmanteau of the two words hydrology and nuclear. With a lemon size core it can drown a large region as big as the Amhara region in 30 seconds. That is what he just did. Genocide! Genocide!! Genocide!!!

  13. Finally after years of messy public disorder, violence , misrule, deceit and mischief public are getting the full picture of what Abiy is: a shameless sycophant and kleptoctratt with insatiable sense of power mongering and ruthless character .

  14. Fascist Abiy Ahmed must remove the Federal Army aka Oromo weaponsized murderers out of Amhara zone and send them where they belong, protecting Ethiopian territory from the enemy.

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