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HomeOpinionPM Abiy must get Ethiopia’s priorities right! 

PM Abiy must get Ethiopia’s priorities right! 

Abiy Ahmed _ Ethiopia _ Politics
Abiy Ahme (file)

By Addissu Admas

Since becoming prime minister a little over six years ago, Dr. Abiy Ahmed has been engaged personally in the beautification of our capital city. There is no need here to list all the projects that have been completed, or are in the process of being completed under his direct involvement, or to debate over their merit or demerit. Nor is it necessary to discuss whether his latest venture, i.e., the demolition of large swaths of historically significant areas of Addis Ababa, is to be commended or condemned. What I want to contend here instead is that, despite his genuine effort to benefit the country to the best of his abilities, the PM has Ethiopia’s priorities backwards. Instead of tackling first her most pressing issues, he appears to be engaged in projects, though necessary per se, are very far from being a priority. If I were in fact to rank Ethiopia’s priorities in their logical order, I would say that beautifying the capital city would come near the bottom of the list, if not outright at the bottom.

Ethiopia’s foremost priority today is ending all her internecine wars and stabilizing her relations with her belligerent neighbors. The PM, either through sheer incompetence or very bad calculation, has turned what could have been a once in a generation opportunity to bring together the country into a nightmarish disunity. Today, Eritrean troops are roaming Tigray’s northern areas with no end in sight to their stay. Since their presence was never acknowledged, no stipulation about their departure can be agreed upon formally. The TPLF, still armed to the teeth, is reclaiming lands Tigray never possessed prior to its rise to power over Ethiopia. The Amhara region is becoming, for the first time in history, the hotbed of rebellion against the central government. The ever confused and confusing OLA continues to massacre innocent civilians and spread ethnic hatred wherever it operates.  On the external front, the PM is committing the most egregious diplomatic blunders by provoking the ever sore and sensitive Somali government by concluding an agreement with an unrecognized virtual breakaway province (Somaliland). No government worth its salt would want to provoke an unwieldy old enemy in time of trouble. All these above mentioned conflicts and conflictual states could have been prevented through judicious and well thought out policies. The PM could have put to good use not only expert advice, but could have started a national discussion on what Ethiopia is and plans to be in the next decades. What he has achieved instead is a state of confusion that could change any moment into a state of no return, i.e. the virtual disintegration of Ethiopia. 

It is clearly evident to any keen observer of Ethiopia, that even if Ethiopia succeeds, by some unfathomable artifice, to remain undivided, the federal arrangement and the political culture created by the TPLF cannot and will not preserve not only her integrity, but the creation of a truly democratic state. PM Abiy is very much riding the same horse (i.e. state machinery) with but a few cosmetic changes. The fact that he has clearly flouted the constitution is not even an issue of contention here. Suffice to remember his going about creating new Killils and ignoring the will of some ethnic groups to form their own Killils. The question here is that, as a nation of some 80 ethnic groups, Ethiopia need not only a new federal constitution based on new federal arrangements, but is in dire need to redefine the very idea of “Ethiopiawinet” that must inform our political discourse as well as our policy making. In reality, this should constitute our superstructure that deserves precedence over economic reforms. 

To continue using Marxist concepts, when it comes to the base, i.e. the economy, Ethiopia has not made substantive change since the Revolution (Abiyot). Urban lands are de jure public property, which the government in power, as we have been witnessing for decades now, is at complete liberty to distribute as it deems fit. De facto, once assigned to the highest bidder or to the best connected (or both), urban lands are effectively managed like private property in perpetuity. In reality, Ethiopia’s economy is today neither capitalist nor socialist, and for that matter any recognizable form of economy. To debate the PM Abiy’s economic agenda as being similar to either Mao Tse Dong’s or Deng Xiaoping’s is unhelpful. The fact of the matter is that Ethiopia needs a new economic order that can pave the way to true prosperity. It need not be entirely capitalistic nor entirely socialistic. PM Abiy needs to surround himself with the finest economists the country has produced instead of following “his instincts’ ‘ which have only led from one economic crisis to another. 

Ethiopia’s educational system, though led by a well-intentioned and committed person, appears to not have emerged from the complete morass it has dwelt in since the rise of the Derg and the Woyane regime. The fact that this latter regime has multiplied the institutions of higher learning, both public and private, without any consideration to their quality, was more a political act of appeasement than a genuine desire to educate better the nation. For a nation of some 120 million people, Ethiopia continues to have a dismal record in producing, either quantitatively or qualitatively, an educated cadre that can serve and lead the country into the future. The federal government bears the responsibility for failing to provide not only the necessary funding for quality education, but for its unconscionable treatment of both higher and lower education professionals. Today these invaluable members of civil society are paid so abysmally that one wonders why they are staying in their jobs. There can never exist true prosperity, good governance and a healthy political culture without well-trained and adequately paid teachers that will do their jobs without wasting their time in other pursuits to supplement their incomes. Consider only the fact that a full professor at our national university earns only a small fraction of what a pilot at Ethiopian Airlines makes. I am not discounting the importance that ET has in our national economy, but is it productive or beneficial to have such gaping differences in earnings. Even the most capitalist countries like the USA cannot countenance such divergence in pay without damaging consequences to their educational systems. 

For a country of such a large population and growing at an alarming rate, Ethiopia is not only producing an insufficient number of physicians, but their preparation has suffered tremendously from lack of public funding. Our public health system, if indeed it exists, has shown remarkably little progress in the past fifty years. A city of nearly eight million, Addis Ababa has not added large public hospitals since the fall of the imperial regime. Much of the health care is in the hands of independently owned small hospitals or clinics that cater overwhelmingly to the moneyed class. The underclass is left to its own devices, to traditional medicine, or is at the mercy of the overcrowded, underfunded, unsanitary and decrepit public hospitals.  

In America, uninsured people go abroad to find affordable medical care. Middle and upper class Ethiopians travel abroad for medical treatment not necessarily to flaunt their wealth, but to find well-trained medical professionals and well-equipped hospitals that can provide them with reliable diagnosis and treatment. The fact is that to this day, not for lack of goodwill or good doctors, many medical treatments and procedures are completely unavailable in Ethiopia because of the total neglect of the government. 

To come to my last issue, material infrastructure that is fundamental to Ethiopia is not about the beautification of the city as such. Even though, I insist, it constitutes in its own right a priority all its own, what the country needs in general and Addis Ababa in particular, are reliable water supply, waste management, constant electricity and a good transportation network. If PM Abiy wants to consolidate his legacy, as he appears to do,  he should focus more on these infrastructures rather than those showy and shiny projects that are sprouting all over the city. What good is it to fill the city with imposing skyscrapers that are ill supplied with power and water? 

I think the PM’s youthful enthusiasm, energy and drive are used best, in my not so humble opinion, if he addresses the priorities I mentioned in the order I presented them. 

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


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  1. Though your priority areas you raised for Addis are right; Eth is not only A.A. and of all peace and security is the crux of every walks of life which our nation is suffering form, which you failed to touch! otherwise well composed!


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