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HomeOpinionWhy Abiy Ahmed is Positioned Towards Oromo-Centric Politics

Why Abiy Ahmed is Positioned Towards Oromo-Centric Politics

Left to right – Lemma, Jawar, Abiy and Workneh Gebeyehu (Photo : file)

Tibebu Taye

In the past two short years, Abiy’s political epitaph seems to be rooted in one particular dimension, i.e., ethnicity. He is being increasingly associated with Oromo-centric politics and is facing fierce criticism from the opposition poles. Abiy Ahmed’s pivot towards a more Oromo-focused political stance became apparent after his impactful speech, in which he asserted the presence of strong anti-Oromo feelings in Addis Ababa. This shift was further underscored by his recent visit to Nekemt, where he delivered messages that were both ethnically charged and somewhat embellished, using the local vernacular. His statements reflect intricate power dynamics, historical context, and strategic considerations. Inspired by Moges- Zewdu’s commentary on a similar topic, in this analysis, I highlight 8 possible motivations behind Abiy’s political positioning and its implications.

  1. Vision Alignment: Deconstructing and Reconstructing Ethiopia

Abiy’s vision of deconstructing and reconstructing Ethiopia aligns with one of the central pillars of Oromo political discourses. In his rhetoric of subordination and freedom, in his Nekemte speech, Abiy portrays himself as the liberators of Oromo communities and the armor and shield of their future security and existence. Abiy also envisions himself as the architect of the new Ethiopia that is to come, a perfect coincidence with the political ambition of Oromo-centric politicians as vividly expressed by a popular Oromo politician such as Abo Lencho Bati. 

  1. Oromo Influence and Electoral Impact

Oromos are considered to constitute the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. Therefore, The anticipated potential impact of the largest ethnic group on general elections will significantly justify Abiy’s prime attention to the community. However, his focus on Oromo politics seems puzzling given Ethiopia’s history of limited democratic processes when it comes to free and fair elections. To find out how long Abiy wishes to continue to rule despite the wishes of the people, one need only consult with his phoney prophets, pastors, and pseudo-spiritual, pseudo-cadre leaders. His over attachment to Oromo politics may directly enhance his power legitimacy, but it will cost him as his moves alienate followers who are from other ethnic backgrounds.

  1. Oromo Sentiment and Political Dynamics

Oromo elites, communities, and the diaspora share a strong attachment to Oromo politics. Their apparently divergent modus operandi but profoundly cascaded with common ideals and interest have amassing impact on Ethiopian politics, to the point where their influence is felt throughout the nation’s politics even when they remain silent. Abiy appears more wary of the political demands of Oromo politicians than any other political forces in the country. The ever growing economic and military build-ups in the Oromia region adds to this dynamic, with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) armed forces out matching other similarly armed groups. Their military capabilities have evolved over time. Comparing the weaponry of OLF armies to that of other groups, such as Fano (an Amhara youth group), reveals tremendous disparities. OLF fighting groups may possess more sophisticated arms, acquired through various channels. While the diasporas of Tigray and Amhara are weary of fundraising and outsourcing their support to the political struggles within their respective regions, Abiy spots a sizable portion of the Oromo diaspora who remains unaffected by this. Regardless all the uncertainties, Abiy’s ambition to gain military control over the nation could be bolstered by the combination of a large, ready-to-deploy youth population, the already well-armed OLF, and a potential source of financial support from the Oromo diasporas.

  1. Symbolising the Obscured Network Wielding Ethiopian Politics

Behind the scenes, a network of veteran politicians, media figures, and prominent activists—such as Obbo Lencho Letta, Bethlehem Tafesse, and Jawar Mohammed—shapes the present-day course of Ethiopian politics, as actualized by Abiy Ahmed and his cronies. This invisible network plays a crucial role in creating agendas and guiding Abiy’s actions. Abiy and his Oromo allies believe that they are successfully deconstructing the ‘old’ notion of Ethiopia and its appearances and now seek to reconstruct it in their vision, closely tied to Oromo-centric aspirations. 

For instance, if you carefully examine Bethelhem’s remarks, on several occasions, regarding her perceptions of the old flag of Ethiopia made of green, yellow, and red colours, the 60’s revolutionists, and old politicians including Andargachew Tsige and Lidetu Ayalew. For example, in her recent interview on Andafta YouTube channel, she remarked on Lidetu’s callous optimism to return home from exile thinking that TPLF would swiftly defeat the forces of Abiy. However, the ironically strong message she tries to convey is found in the next statement when she asserts that in contrast to Lidetu’s cruel optimism, she says, “the government is deepening its roots, effectively eliminating its enemies, and extending its influence over the nation” (Video, skip to 18:00’). 

In his recent interview on Addis Standard, Jawar Mohammed is proposing a “progressive patriotism.”  Doesn’t the prefix progressive align with Abiy’s ambitions for ‘prosperity’? In my opinion, Jawar is utilising his political deceit by pretending to advocate a new political culture while having a secret obligation to address the divided and already confused Ethiopian political populace in favour of Abiy’s need to gain control over them. In his statement, he plights that the ideological principles of the Oromo struggles are abandoned. What ideology is he talking about? He says, the ruling class under the Prosperity Party has abandoned the foundational ideological principles of the struggles of the Oromo and other nations that aspired to build Ethiopia as a multinational state and shifted instead towards building a unified, albeit multicultural nation-state (Addis Standard, link – ). What ‘multicultural nation-state’ is Jawar talking about that Abiy is taking a turn to? Today, everyone knows and agrees that Abiy is no longer fond of the old Ethiopia thing, many are even doubtful if he was in the first place. 

  1. Abiy’s Perplexing Continuation as PM: a Rush to Recover His Validity

Despite Abiy’s dingy path in his history as a premier of Ethiopia, including the irrational Tigray war, he remains in power, badly suffering from loss of his popular support, diplomatic crashes, and more internal instabilities. Knowing the fact that there is a narrow chance for him to stay on as a populist leader, as he was at first, Abiy thinks that converting his leadership into a charming dictatorship is a safe way to stay in power. Thus, his desire to portray himself as such stem from the need to rehabilitate his image to the populace at home and to the international diplomatic communities alike. To understand Abiy’s objectives in presenting himself as an ambivalent dictator, look no further than his most recent public statements. Selectively and dramatically displaying these traits minimizes potential backlashes. His complex relations with Amhara elites, FANOs (Amhara youth groups), and the people of Tigray further influence his political choices. Oromia, both ethnically and politically, provides a safe haven for Abiy, as he believes they view him ambivalently due to his Oromo background.

  1. Politics of Deception: Abiy’s Past and Present

Abiy’s involvement in Oromo protests and activism reveals a complex political journey. He once covertly supported the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), despite being a member of the then leading party. Publicly advocating for Oromo rights, Abiy’s true intentions remain a subject of speculation. He has all those traits in the politics of deception. He publicly presented himself as an advocate for Oromo rights and representatives, but what do you know about what he is/could covertly be doing? Collaborating with the network of Oromo veteran politicians, media figures, and prominent activists? Whether we like it or not, leaders have strong sentimental attachment and loyalty towards the community they came from. That is also not shocking. 

  1. Strategic Use of Afan Oromo Language

Abiy often employs the Afan Oromo language when delivering powerful messages to the Oromo community. His choice of language serves a dual purpose. 1) Translation Ambiguity: by using Afan Oromo, Abiy believes that any allegations against him—whether they involve spreading divisive or incitement—can be conveniently attributed to translation errors. This linguistic veil allows him to evade direct accountability. 2) Optimism within Oromo Communities: Abiy assumes that Oromo communities will interpret his messages optimistically, overlooking potential malice. Their optimism, he believes, shields him from scrutiny, enabling him to escape consequences for his controversial statements.

  1. The Gamble of Division: The Duality of Instilling Fear

It is evident that Abiy is acutely aware of the fact that the essence of dictatorship is rooted in the cultivation of fear—specifically, the populace’s dread of their ruler. It is within the realm of linguists and psychologists to dissect and reveal the underlying characteristics of Abiy’s deliberate employment of linguistic cues, complemented by his non-verbal communication, such as facial expressions, gestures, and the direction of his gaze. Nevertheless, his oration in Nekemte is emblematic of a dual-edged strategy, meticulously crafted to sow terror among both the Oromo populace and those he labels as adversaries of the Oromos for a century. For the Oromos, he is insinuating that the present armed and unarmed political opposition from other ethnic groups signals an impending resurgence of a century-long oppression and the potential downfall of the Oromo people. Conversely, Abiy is methodically propagating the notion that the dominant Ethiopian groups, who presently hold sway over the nation’s political and economic levers, stand poised to unleash their might should any of his detractors gain traction in their campaigns.

  1. Inflated Perception of the International Politico-Economic Dynamics

Abiy Ahmed now perceives himself as having a keen understanding of the international politico-economic dynamics. Following his experience from the Tigray war, he now thinks that he can adeptly pushback international media campaigns, manipulate demands from Western leaders, and withstand pressure from international organizations and justice institutions. He perceives himself as skilled in handling scrutiny from international bodies. He also thinks that he can easily navigate and turn around AU or UN induced investigations and inquiries without significant consequences. Remarkably, Abiy extends this confidence even to serious offences. He believes that not only hate speech and incitement but also war crimes and genocide can be evaded with relative ease. 

  1. Jeopardising the Horizon: Sinking the Future Ahead

Abiy’s rhetoric, whether intentional or not, has crystallised a vision where the future of Ethiopia is inextricably linked to the Oromo. His narrative suggests an inevitable pivot of national identity towards an entrenched animosity against the northern inhabitants, the potential oppressors, particularly targeting the Amhara people. In this projected future, he paints a picture where other ethnicities and peoples within Ethiopia are conspicuously absent from the nation’s destiny. His discourse implies that the Oromo region is predestined to claim ownership over the nation that is yet to unfold. Consequently, this outlook forecasts a tumultuous period for the Amhara people residing not only in the Oromia region but also in key urban centres such as Addis Ababa. 

Enjoy your Sunday

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


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  1. The author raises valid points about Abiy Ahmed. Initially, Abiy Ahmed was transparent about his goals and did not hesitate to articulate them. However, he was not taken seriously, leading to deception among the people. His decision to appoint Oromo individuals to crucial military and security roles and to select an Oromo mayor for Addis Ababa clearly indicated his intentions. Despite warnings from figures like Eskinder, Abiy’s widespread support from the Ethiopian populace enabled him to challenge the TPLF. The marginalization of the Amharas during the 27-year TPLF rule was evident, but they lacked the ethnic-based organization seen in the OPDO and did not see themselves as contenders for Abiy’s position. The Amharas must learn from past mistakes, organize themselves as ethnic Amharas to achieve liberation, and collaborate with other ethnic groups along separate lines.


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