In a candid admission at the parliament, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde has expressed deep concern over the state of the nation. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s 2018 promise to unite Ethiopians and lead the country towards peace and prosperity appears to have faltered.
Since assuming office and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his reconciliation efforts with Eritrea, putting an end to a two-decade-long no-peace-no-war situation, tens of thousands of ethnic Amhara have tragically massacred in the Oromo region by radical ethnic oromo nationalist group with clandestine links to government officials and other parts of Ethiopia.
Under Abiy Ahmed’s leadership, the government engaged in a bloody two-year war with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), resulting in a devastating toll of over one million lives lost on both sides. Following a peace agreement with the TPLF in Pretoria, his government shifted the war zone to the Amhara region, where war had been unofficially ongoing since April. In August of this year, a cabinet meeting was convened to declare a state of emergency in the Amhara region, which was unanimously approved.
The country’s corruption levels have spiraled out of control, and the cost of living has become unbearable, with reported inflation exceeding 28 percent in August, according to the country’s statistical agency. The are views suggesting that the actual figure may be even higher.
Safety and security for citizens have deteriorated significantly since Abiy Ahmed’s government came to power, making travel between places a risky endeavor. Ransom kidnappings in the Oromia region have become increasingly common and political divide has been exacerbating.
Despite these socio-economic and political challenges, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government remains resolute in its belief that Ethiopia is on the path to prosperity, with Abiy often declaring, “No force on earth could reverse Ethiopia’s prosperity,” while viewing his government as the best in Ethiopian history.
However, the stark reality differs from this optimistic view. Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde candidly addressed these concerns during her appearance, on Monday, at a joint session of the House of Peoples’ Representatives and the House of Federation, where she presented the government’s plans for the year.
She acknowledged, “We have failed to unite our people” and lamented that “we have failed to form a legitimate state.” Despite Ethiopia’s historical achievements, radical ethnic nationalist organizations mired in the country into a politicized controversy over history to the point that even Ethiopia’s struggle against and trump over colonial war is not accepted positively by all.
With the protracted conflict continuing unabated in the Amhara region, where the majority of Ethiopia’s staple food, teff, is produced, and the looming threat of famine in various parts of the country, many fear the worst.
Creating a shared narrative that garners the agreement of all Ethiopians is a challenging task that may take years to achieve – if at all. The national reconciliation commission, established by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, itself has been diligently working on a national dialogue agenda for several years. However, there is growing skepticism that the Prime Minister may already be manipulating it, dashing hopes for a solution agreeable to all. Thas is an indication the effort to create a shared narrative could turn out to be a mirage. The battle is between the ethnic nationalists – especially ethnic oromo – who are at the helm of power with a determination to perpetuate ethnic-aparthied like system on the one hand and the disempowered Ethiopian nationalists who seek to unite the country ending ethnic-aparthied system where citizens are relegated to a second citizen outside of their ethnic region. This is particularly the case in Oromia.
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