Tesfa ZeMichael, BPhil.
Never in their history have so many disasters assailed Ethiopians at the same time. Political, economic, cultural, moral, spiritual, and diplomatic crises are threatening the very existence of the country. The person responsible for this existential crisis is the PM of Ethiopia, Dr. Abiy Ahmed. Within two years of his coming to power, he has become the Horseman of the Apocalypse bringing destruction, famine, war, pestilence and death to the four corners of the nation.
The indicators of these crises are distressing. 28 million Ethiopians suffer from undernutrition or hunger. Almost 5 million are IDP. The Tigray war cost the lives of more than 500,000 Ethiopians. Hundreds are killed every month in the war Dr. Abiy wages in Oromo and Amhara regions. He has instituted a political, security, and judicial system based on the premise that every Ethiopian who does not agree with him is an enemy.
The economic situation of the common people is so dire that daily life is an exhausting obstacle course. Inflation runs at 30%, making the most basic items necessary for a decent human life out of reach. His disastrous wars in the Tigray, Amhara, and Oromo regions are having calamitous effects on food production and availability. In 2023, Ethiopia defaulted on her international debt, thus creating a stark economic future. Dr. Abiy has driven ordinary Ethiopians into an economic abyss.
Yet, despite the economic hell in which Ethiopians are living, Dr. Abiy is engaged in prestige projects, one of which is a palace that is expected to cost when completed 13.8 milliard dollars. Some economists calculate that this amount is approximately equal to the annual national budget. Instead of ensuring the accessibility of basic necessities, he recently acquired Su-30 fighter jets and Akinci combat drones. They are estimated to cost Ethiopia millions of dollars. What for? For bombing Ethiopians who challenge his dictatorial rule in the Oromo and Amhara regions. Dr. Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has now the distinction of being the only head of state in the world who regularly and indiscriminately uses drones and fighter planes against his own people as a routine form of collective punishment.
Dr. Abiy embodies four dangerous behaviours. He considers himself above the rule of law, regularly scorns the truth, has contempt for peace, and has a total disregard for human life.
Dr. Abiy has subordinated the rule of law to his personal political needs and schemes. Under his watch, Ethiopians are arbitrarily arrested, detained, tortured, disappeared, or killed for having an opinion that differs from his, for sporting the green-yellow-red Ethiopian flag, or for being in the “wrong” ethnic area. Plays are banned; journalists are arrested, and cultural creations censored. Not even members of parliament, who have a constitutionally guaranteed immunity from being arrested, escape his insatiable appetite to arrest, detain, and punish.
Not only does he consider himself to be above the law, he considers himself to be above the truth. He is currently recognized nationally and internationally as a “pathological liar.” But to call him a liar is, I believe, to misunderstand him. Dr. Abiy Ahmed believes that, to remodel Dostoyevsky, “If history is dead, everything is permitted.” Dr Abiy believes that Ethiopian history is dead, and therefore any statement he makes and any act he does is permissible. Thus, for example, he puts up his picture in lieu of Emperor Menelik’s at the Adwa Celebration; he declares that Ethiopia is an exporter of cereals while Ethiopians are dying from hunger; he tries to reformat and ethnicize the almost 2000 years old Ethiopian Church and the equally old Ethiopian Islam. From his perspective, whatever he says and does is right, because for him Ethiopia’s history is dead and the resulting void could be filled by any of his statements and acts. These become true by virtue of the fact that they come from him.
Furthermore, he has a total contempt for peace, be it within Ethiopia or internationally. Internally, he is deliberately pitting the Oromos, the Amharas, the Tigreans, the Somalis, and other ethnicities against each other, creating ethnic animosities that institute violence as the dominant form of inter-ethnic relations and of doing politics. Internationally, he is beating the war drums against Eritrea. He cavalierly signed an MoU with Somaliland, an internationally unrecognized secessionist region, setting the stage for an international conflict in the region.
In addition to his total disregard for the law and the truth, he has a total disregard for the sanctity of human life. He behaves as if massacring Ethiopians with modern military weapons is his God-given right. He is totally insensitive to the suffering of Ethiopians. He has never uttered a word of sympathy, let alone an apology, for the thousands of innocent Ethiopians who are killed by his army and security forces. Nor has he shown any empathy for the thousands of victims of ethnic cleansing in the Oromo and other regions.
One could try to explain his inhuman capacity to be deaf and blind to the anguish and pain of Ethiopians by his lack of imagination that prevents him from putting himself in their shoes and seeing their lives as they live it. But this cannot be true for, if anything, Dr. Abiy has too much imagination. Every time he opens his mouth, he invents new facts, conjures the inexistant into existence, and spins out alternate realities.
One could also try to explain his homicidal behaviour and incapacity for empathy from a theological angle: that he is an evil person. True, Dr Abiy has amply shown his willingness to reduce Ethiopians to objects and extinguish the subjectivity that defines their humanity. He has no qualms to damage their lives. Though there may be some truth in this explanation, it does not account for the fact that Dr. Abiy is a married man and a father who apparently loves his wife and children. Somewhere in his soul, there is probably something good that has been corrupted by a pathological drive.
An alternative explanation for his inhuman behaviour could be that he is totally intoxicated by ambition. Driven by his “mother’s dream” that he will be the “seventh king of Ethiopia,” he seems to have decided that he will not let things such as democracy, justice, rule of law, truth, and empathy stand in the way of fulfilling his mother’s dream, which he has internalized as his own. He has thus schemed to monopolize all means of power in pursuit of what he believes to be his “imperial” destiny. Dr. Abiy, in possession of absolute power, is willing to kill millions of Ethiopians in order to impose his uncontested “imperial” dictatorship. In his drive to be the supreme and unchallenged power, he has transmogrified himself into the Horseman of the Apocalypse.
Is Dr. Abiy trying to create, as some claim, an Oromumma empire that extends from the Red Sea to the Somali coastline? Though there are tantalizing acts by Dr. Abiy and his Oromo Prosperity Party members that suggest such a possibility, the available evidence is not firm enough to affirm that he is planning to create an Oromumma empire. At this juncture, what is crystal clear is that he is in pursuit of absolute personal power. Hence, his total contempt for the rule of law, the truth, peace, and the sanctity of human life. In his pursuit of unlimited power, he has made the life of Ethiopians “solitary, poor, nasty, and brutish.”
“What is to be done?” One cannot argue with or change the Horseman of the Apocalypse, for it is in his nature to destroy all that is in his path. The only solution is to expel the Horseman of the Apocalypse from Ethiopian politics. But how? Only a unity of Ethiopian citizens and democratic organizations could pull the rug from under the hoofs of the Horseman.
As I have argued elsewhere, there is currently a democratic force struggling for democracy: FANO. FANO’s implicit maxim, “Amharas will be free when all Ethiopians are free” is rooted in the conviction that when an ethnic clique is in power, whatever its ethnicity, Ethiopians cannot be free. According to ISSA, there are about “ 400,000 FANO fighters, working under five separate, but communicating, commands. In the late-December 2023 and early-January 2024 timeframe, some 40,000 more ENDF troops had crossed the lines and joined the FANO.”
There are also democratic forces among the Oromos, Tigrayans, Somalis, and the peoples of Southern Ethiopia that are opposed to Dr. Abiy’s dictatorship. There is an elective affinity between all these forces and FANO. Since FANO is by its very organization decentralized, is not dominated by a single person, and is rooted in the people, it is inherently democratic. Its democratic structure thus gives it the possibility of reaching out to democratic organizations and forces in all parts of Ethiopia, and negotiate to create a democratic unity that could evict the Horseman of the Apocalypse from power.
Only a commonly shared democratic effort could deliver Ethiopia from Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s nightmarish ambition to become the Mussolini of Ethiopia disguised as the “seventh king of Ethiopia.”
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