By Addissu Admas
When PM Abiy Ahmed ascended to power through inter or intra-party horse-trading five and half years ago, most Ethiopians were thrilled by the hope that the nightmare days of TPLF’s tyranny and ethno fascism were about to end, and that a new dawn was about to break in the country. His days before the start of the war in Tigray portrayed a leader intent at changing rapidly the status quo, righting the wrongs committed by the previous regime, and raising so much enthusiasm in Ethiopia, especially in the diaspora, that it was easy to think that our country was finally sent the kind of leader she needed most. No one expressed this sentiment better than the late and revered human rights advocate Prof. Mesfin Wolde-Mariam, who said, “He, meaning Abiy Ahmed, must have been sent by God to save Ethiopia ”. I am quite certain that the good professor, being a critically minded person, would have been aghast today by the PM’s erratic turns and reversals.
At first, the PM appeared to favor due process by actually emptying the horrendous prisons of political dissidents and journalists. We thought that finally, rule of law was given a chance and systematic purge and silencing of the opposition had come to an end. However, not even two years into his administration, the prisons began to refill at an alarming speed, and persecution of the opposition and the press resumed unabated. Today, Ethiopia is one of the most cited countries for imprisoning journalists and opposition politicians. In essence, we are back to where the TPLF left off.
When the government of Abiy Ahmed began to indict and capture TPLF’s most corrupt and ruthless members, the whole country rejoiced. However, there was some apprehension about the timing and the reaction of the TPLF who was still too powerful to submit to the will of the PM’s government, and to let its members be prosecuted and imprisoned. Sure enough, the TPLF ignited a war by murdering still an unknown number of Ethiopian soldiers. This was an unambiguous message to the PM that the TPLF was planning to go it alone and would never submit to the federal government. This meant obviously that it would never allow any incursion not only in TPLF’s affairs, but not even in all of Tigray.
Even though I understand the PM’s reaction to TPLF’s unprovoked cruel action, a cooler head would have opted for a more peaceful solution until he had purged the EDF of its TPLF members and sympathizers. Additionally, he would have certainly waited for the law to take its normal course once the rule of law had been established. However, as we have witnessed with horror and despair, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians on both sides got killed, maimed, violated while the world stood watching. For what? Today the TPLF has been rewarded by being invited to reestablish itself comfortably in Tigray, free to continue to persecute and imprison members of the Tigrean opposition. In other words, as the saying goes, it is back in business!
What has Ethiopia gained from this bloody fratricidal war? Peace? I doubt it. When Premier Abiy is done igniting war all over Ethiopia, the TPLF, with the connivance of the Oromo Liberation Parties may be able to return to some kind of power. Today, the PM, in his feverish conceit, thinks that he can use the TPLF to counter-balance or even contain the steady ascendance of Amhara with the proponents of Oromummaa. That is a pipe dream! Does he really think that the Amhara people have less resolve and determination than Eritreans and Tigreans to defend their ancient enclaves and their constitutional rights against a misguided, ill-trained and confused EDF? The EPLF (Eritrean People’s Liberation Front) fought for nearly 30 years to achieve Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia. The TPLF fought for 16 years to unseat the Derg and take over state power. What makes Abiy Ahmed think that the Amhara – a far more populous ethnic group, occupying a far larger territory, and above all far more incensed by a war they neither chose nor provoked – are less determined to achieve their ultimate goal: Today Amhara, Tomorrow Ethiopia? There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that they mean it, and they will achieve it!
The PM may believe in his own mind that he is at the same time a reborn Atse Tewodros II in whose legend Ethiopians have all grown, or an African Kissinger whom he appears to admire and imitate. However, with the war in Amhara, the PM appears to have been chosen by fate to preside over the destruction of Ethiopia, unless a countervailing force prevents him.
The PM has not told us clearly what he believes. He seems to waffle all over the map. Is he really for Oromummaa? This, as is clear to any Ethiopian, among whom are of course most Oromo people, cannot in any form or shape become a governing principle: in essence, it is a partisan and anti-democratic ideology. It is indeed an African colonialist doctrine, if indeed there can be one. It cannot be counter-posed to what scholars have called “Amharanization” since this is not a doctrine, but a practice of expediency to manage an empire. Does the PM believe in the ideology of colonization? That, in essence, what Oromummaa amounts to!
When PM Abiy came to power, we were convinced that he was following on the footsteps of Ato Lema Megersa, who famously stated that “Ethiopiawinet” (i.e. Ethiopian-ness) was an addiction. We, the Ethiopian people, accepted in good faith this pronouncement and believed that PM Abiy had already endorsed such an opinion. Consequently, we were convinced that he would have led us out of ethnic quagmire and hostility into a period of peaceful coexistence. We did not ask that the whole federal system be replaced by a unitary state system à la ancien regime. We only wanted that the divisive and rough edges of the constitution be smoothed by well-thought out, well-honed amendments to foster a stable and productive state.
What we have witnessed so far is, rather than a rational and well-considered approach to the constitution, the PM is playing fast and loose with it. The very principle of self-determination that underpins the constitution has been ignored, and the Killils are being scrapped and redrawn whimsically by the PM’s administration with total disregard of the concerned ethnicities. This has not only rankled and disheartened profoundly Ethiopia’s smaller minorities, but has exacerbated an already volatile situation. Did the PM woke up one day to divide up the SPPNR into Southern Ethiopia and Central Ethiopia just because it looks good on paper? How many Killils does it take to make Ethiopia “whole” again? The entire enterprise of dividing Ethiopia further is either another vanity project, or inspired by some sinister design.
The fact that Abiy Ahmed’s administration shows such total disregard and disrespect for Ethiopia’s smaller minority populations to the point of denying them their constitutional rights would be a cause for them to begin an armed rebellion. The only reason that they are submitting to the administration’s arbitrary territorial divisions is that they lack the human and material resources to rebel without being totally crushed
What is the fate of these so-called nationalities and peoples? To be indoctrinated in the ideology of Oromummaa and incorporated into the larger Oromo nation? Surely, Oromummaa is not designed for the Amhara, Tigrean and Somali nations, i.e. the larger ethnicities. It’s only clients can only be the smaller minorities of Ethiopia who are forever the pawns in Ethiopia’s power struggle. It would have been definitely in their self-interest to unite and oppose the onslaught of this deranged ideology, and the government that appears to have adopted it. It is in fact reasonable to assume that it is precisely to pre-empt any rebellion from a united southern minorities’ front that Abiy Ahmed’s administration is breaking up the SNNPR into ever-smaller Killils.
The PM would have done very well if he had stuck to the moving principle of his party, i.e. prosperity. Meaning that he should have focused on the economy, and less on ethnic politics. Though the published economic indicators keep telling us that Ethiopia’s economy is growing at an enviable rate, how can one explain the country’s insatiable need for foreign aid? I am not an economist, and I do not pretend to know much about the subject. However, even a layman like me can detect easily that the numbers don’t add up. Cooking the books will not get us far! PM Abiy would do tremendous good to himself and the nation if he would tell us the whole truth about our economy instead of lying and prevaricating his way through.
We have observed with growing concern his propensity of emptying state coffers, and even borrowing beyond the country’s financial capacity for vanity projects designed more to cement his own legacy rather than laying the infrastructure of Ethiopia’s future. It is unconscionable to build an exorbitantly expensive new “presidential” palace while we have one that has served and is serving perfectly the purpose for which it was constructed. The creation of a ring-like city around the Capital at a cost the country can never afford while Addis Ababa is in dire need of reliable water supply, electricity, internet, sewer system and trash collection is puzzling to say the least. Not to mention, of course, the other fundamental services of security and public service that a capital city like Addis Ababa, center of many important continental and international organizations, requires. Most of the grandiose projects that the PM has initiated so far are more the expressions of his dictatorial inclinations, rather than meeting the genuine needs of the people.
The PM has said and done quite many embarrassing things that I am not inclined to list here. Rather than check his words, facts and opinions, he seems to be carried away often by hyperboles, exaggerations, misdirection and good old lies. This is not only unbecoming to a leader of a country, and to boot a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, but undermines the very credibility of the country itself. No one, for example, has any good reason to prevent Ethiopia from exploiting the Nile by constructing and managing a dam of the kind we already possess (i.e. the GERD). Nevertheless, the PM’s handling of the negotiations leaves much to be desired. Similarly, his most recent pronouncements concerning Ethiopia’s need to have direct access to the sea are jarring, irresponsible and concerning, coming from a leader of a nation.
It is of course not right that a nation of 125 million should be deprived access to the sea because of past Italian colonial greed and design, or the total and unforgivable incompetence of the Derg regime, or the unfathomable and shortsighted calculation of the TPLF. However, regaining access to the sea is not like shopping for real estate on the open market. It is a kind of issue that can easily plunge a nation into a war. Suffice to remember what the Polish Corridor ended-up doing to the geography of North-Eastern Europe. Instead of thinking aloud in front of the world and venting to the wind his unformed and undigested thoughts, the PM would do better to surround himself with persons that can prevent him from following his worst instincts, and committing unpardonable blunders.
Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com
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