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HomeOpinionWhen did things start to go South for Abiy Ahmed ?

When did things start to go South for Abiy Ahmed ?

Abiy Ahmed _ Ethiopian News _ sept 9
Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed speaking during his party’s first congress (Photo : from the web/file)

 By Ermiyas Esayas 

Most people who supported him during the 2018 and 2019 of his political career are now either disappointed in him or they are stent enemies of him.  Ethiopians in the country and diaspora had hoped that he would build the country in the right way. Foreigners have recognized him, even giving him the most prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. However, they are (have been) recommending him to the International Criminal Court (ICC). As a matter of fact, the world is distracted by the Russian and Ukrainian wars, and they did not give due attention to the two-year war that killed one million people. Even further, the mass atrocities against Amhara ethnic cleansing in the Oromia region and the government military operation against the civilians in the Amhara region is an ongoing project of Abiy Ahmed and his party. With all this data, Who knows, in the near future, he and his enablers will be forced to face ICC. The question is, how come such a glorious carrier goes to the south? How did his career devolve (descended to a lower or worse state) to such a state? This writer firmly believes that there is a time window where things started to change for the worse for the present Ethiopian leader, Abiy Ahmed Ali.  This piece provides a sketch of this devolution, and readers can further fill in the missing aspects. First, let us sketch the most important context for the argument.

Dreaming to be a country leader

It is reported that his mother told him he would be a king when he was a child. When a mother inspires her child at an early age, it is highly probable that one entertains such thought for a long time and realizes it later. That is what happened in the case of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali. This has pros and cons. The advantage of knowing the role early is that he has prepared himself for a more extended period. The disadvantage is that he believes in it too much and tries to stick to power no matter what. After all, it is a dream coming true; without it, life has no meaning.  Now, he has become “the king,” as his mom said, but for how long will he be in that position, for one year, two or five, or even 40? Ethiopians are facing a person who believes that the power belongs to him, which is problematic. In the 21st century, leadership has to come from the representation of the people, and it has the role of servanthood. Serving the people! But we have a person who thinks everything should revolve around him only.

Preparing for the Premiership

When he was in lower secondary school, he joined the army, about 14 as a child soldier affiliated with the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO). In 1993, he became an Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) soldier and worked mainly in the intelligence and communications departments. Later, he served in the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). While in the army, he attained the rank of Lieutenant colonel.  He took part in founding the Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (INSA), where he worked in different positions, including as an acting director of INSA. After this, he decided to be a politician as a member of the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP); in 2010, he became an elected member of the House of Peoples’ Representatives, and later he became an executive member of the ODP.  2015, he became the Ethiopian Minister of Science and Technology (MoST). After that, he served as Deputy President of the Oromia Region (OR). All these engagements in ENDF, UNAMIR, INSA, ODP, MoST, and many other positions prepared him to take action to become a prime minister when a dramatic opportunity opened before him. After all, while jumping from institution to institution, his plan seems to get experience and an overview of things as he had been looking for the day to be ordained as the country’s leader (king). All this information is out there on the World Wide Web. We just want to emphasize how he focused on preparing for the position. The longer he prepared for it, the lesser the chance to give it up easily.

Adored and accepted by many

In the beginning, he was not known by the majority of the people (inside and outside of the country) as compared to his colleague Lemma Megersaa, the then OR president, who was perceived as one of the driving forces for the recent change in the country. At first, the words coming out of his mouth triggered hope and enthusiasm among most people in the country.  Many remembered his inauguration speech on 2 April 2018 as a pinnacle of his acceptance among most people. He promised big to promote the unity of Ethiopia and unity among the peoples of Ethiopia.  After that, he launched massive reforms, to mention a few:  pardoned thousands of political prisoners, including top opposition leaders like  Andargachew Tsige, Berhanu Nega, and Jawar Mohammed; the diaspora descent were allowed to come back home after decades of exile;  invited exiled media outlets to return; included women in many high-level government offices, including the position of president of the country; normalized relations with Eritrea and signed a “Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship,” which later help him to grab the Nobel peace prize that helped him position himself at the world stage.

With an Inflated Ego, he crushed his competitors

With such widespread acceptance among the people inside the country and the diaspora, the status on the world stage inflated his ego too much. He started to believe in himself and stopped listening to other people’s advice. Every expert who came close to him, like Dr. Yonas Biru, was frustrated with him for his stubbornness in many ways. He lectures everyone in his government using PowerPoint and slides. After the Nobel laureate status, he became dangerous for his opponents: TPLFites, Lemma Megersa (now Dr.), Jawar Mohammed and his other Oromo politician friends, and many others. For example, for the first time, after he knew he had won the Nobel Peace Prize, he officially said the following words to the TPLFites who were in Mekele: “Instead of drinking Whiskey, provide water to your people in Mekele.” His new status energized such boldness. He formed a new party called the Prosperity Party (PP). 

He even threw under the bus of his best comrade, Lemma Megerssa, and later, he crushed the massive political movement led by Jawar Mohammed, which enjoyed the support of most Oromo youth called Kero at the time.  His inflated ego has shaped his policy and actions since then. That is why he changed the whole government system and institutions as an extension of his project activities. Almost everything became an accessory to his massive projects: billions of trees planted, different parks, building lodges, palaces, a new city, etc. As said, “Pride goes before destruction,” and his inflated ego started to corrupt his decisions and actions. He could have avoided war with the TPLFites. But he decided to prepare in a hidden way. Most people trusted his assessment of the TPLFite’s intent and action at the time. He galvanized support among the military, the people, and the diaspora too.  He led a two-year war that killed one million people and destroyed billions of dollars of the country’s economy. He went out victorious from the bloody war, with most people supporting him in many ways.

The “King” changed his heart in the middle of the War

In the middle of the war, something was cooking within the elites of Oromo in the name of the elders of the people. It might be problematic to provide the list, but the likes of Lencho Leta, a stunt supporter and advisor of Abiy Ahmed, are among the people who approached the “king” to ask him to change his direction. It was the time when one million diaspora people were invited to come to Ethiopia to show solidarity with his leadership and defeat of TPLF and their enablers, as epitomized by the #NoMore movement. This group of people saw the danger of his supporting the #NoMore movement and Ethiopianism. It will definitely crush the Oromo elites’ (primarily the Oromo PP gangs and those who collaborate with them)  ambition to dominate the country, like the elites from Tigray (TPLF). They came and made a deal with him. They promised him to bring the support of all Oromo, including his stunt opponents.

For that, he should release the prisoners like Jawar and Bekele Gerba. In addition, he should align himself more with the ethnic politics that can favor Oromo elites. It is, in short, to repeat what  TPLF did in the past but more robustly and powerfully. Remember, he had not enjoyed the support of this group of people, which might include the Oromo scholars, the top Oromo PP members, the wealthy Oromo elites, the army generals, the elders (AbaGedas), the different Oromo opposition party members, and so on. These people might also challenge him; they will remove him from power if he does not accept their alignment. Even they could have asked him to abandon #NoMore. Otherwise, they will use this opportunity to collaborate with the neo-colonizers, as TPLFites did, and squash him from power.

As a result, he changed his heart. He aligned himself with the group. He did the unthinkable. He put himself above the law. He released many prisoners without the legal process in place, which he had a hard time explaining to the Ethiopian people. His ministry of justice, which is an Oromo elite, took the task of convincing and crafted some explanations that could not convince the people. What actually transpired was the Oromo Gada system was at work, where the elders came and discussed, and a decision was made that has to be respected, even if the law of the country is transgressed. Since that day, the prime minister’s path has changed from his king-style leadership, which centered on Ethiopianism, to an ethnic-elite-backed government. If you see through this lens, all the decisions that were made after that: Oromo region Anthem and Oromo Flag in Addis Ababa schools, the Sheger City, the attempt to build Oromo Synod in Orthodox church, blocking the people from the Amhara region to come to Addis Ababa coming, kidnapping drivers and asking huge money so that the Amhara will be discouraged to participate economically,  deciding to take the arms of the Amhara people, and so on gives meaning.

By the way, the Pretoria agreement was cooked in this context, too. The Americans got the opportunity to bring together the two Ethnic-based elite groups. This time, the Prime minister is with them. He has abandoned the majority of Ethiopians who loved their country unconditionally, the #NoMore movement, and the Amhara people who supported his three years of leadership. He has accepted the foreigner’s advice to lead the country by dividing.  He hopes he will elongate his leadership. In his calculation, the Oromo elite will guarantee his election in the next election, and the foreigners will acknowledge his leadership and support him. That is why he sold out Ethiopians, and that is why he sold out the Amhara people by excluding them from the Pretoria agreement. He sent the wrong people to negotiate in Pretoria and Nairobi to find arrangements to please the two ethnic-elite groups. Without transitional justice after two years of devastating war, he started to hang out with people whom he was fighting.  Disarming Amhara people just to please his former enemies so that he can provide Raya and Wolkait,  regions to TPLFites and their enablers. All these results stem from all the gambling.

Rushing things, Miscalculations 

In this writer’s view, the people who have convinced/forced/advised him to change his course have miscalculated things. They thought they had the military and economic upper hand, the diplomatic network, the propaganda machine, and so on in place. The forces that grabbed the nation thought it could succeed in their plans.  But it was a grave mistake of their rushed gambling.  They cannot win over all Ethiopians. The resistance from the Amhara people led by Fano has disproved them wrong, too. They lost all credibility quickly, both in the country and internationally. They have lost confidence. They are losing on all fronts: military, political, diplomacy (primary, public, and digital), people support, and propaganda. It is all the result of their miscalculations. It is the result of rushing things from the Ethnic politicians.  Now, the days of all the gamblers are numbered. Their gambling shadows the legacy of this ambitious young leader. People are asking how a Nobel laureate failed miserably this way in a short time. He chose the wrong way. However, Ethiopians will come out victorious from all these messes.

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

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2 COMMENTS

  1. The chronology of the paths PM followed as outlined by the writer is okay. I failed to understand the main message of the essay until I got to the last paragraph. It looks he regretted the support he gave to the PM, and he believes those who were leading the support machineries were now in hindsight; according to this writer; were wrong. He also pointed out the Ethiopians will win. To my reading any winning proposal must put the people’s interest in the centre. So far many of the grouping are running to accomplish things like, making the constitution null and void, doing away with the federal system, bring back Amhara dominance in the country. These are not winning proposition. Until the level-headed people take centre stage and lead this struggle, I think, nothing tangible result will happen; so, lets elevate the common things that bind people together, such as equality, justice and rule of law, etc.

  2. Overall, Esayas’ assessment provides a mixture of factual information and subjective opinions. To provide a fair and objective assessment of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s leadership, it is essential to distinguish between factual events and subjective interpretations. Additionally, presenting evidence to support claims, particularly serious accusations (claims of dragging the PM into ICC court) would enhance the objectivity of the assessment.

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