Abiy Ahmed’s Premiership: Opportunity Or Temptation?

A few days into the new leadership after swearing in of Abiy Ahmed as prime minister of the FDRE, I have been continuously receiving messages from various people and friends asking me for my views and take ins about his premiership and his inaugural speech. I decided to go public with my views albeit with fear of being misconstrued into something like “anti-peace element” during this uncertain time of suspended constitution by State of Emergency. 

First and foremost I would like to congratulate Abiy Ahmed Ali on his being elected chairman of EPRDF and appointed prime minister of the FDRE. It took courage, commitment and continuous struggle for him to assume the post. Congratulations Mr. Abiy Ahmed Ali!

  • The post of the prime minister in Ethiopia is the highest one in country. Assuming it at any given time is no easy responsibility. Now is arguably the highest historical tension in the country’s modern history. The political and economic crises the nation is in is extremely worrisome to the extent that many even fear  that it might be condescending into primitive civil war. I partly share the concern. Alleviating this fear takes “democratizing a united Ethiopia”. Doing so amounts to saving the country from what many feared for. 
  • Abiy Ahmed is between the quest of revolution and the bureaucratic reform. People’s demand is a revolution (Defence Minister Siraj Fagessa called it “colour revolution”) while Ahmed’s Front prescribes “(deep) reform”. If the quest of the revolutionists collides with the chronically inadequate supply of reformist, the throne will continue being a political furnace that consumed Hailemariam Desalegn. I very much would like to see otherwise.

His Inaugural Speech

  • I listened to it with inspiration. It was “a come home call”. The way he acknowledged his mother and wife was absolutely heartening. I cannot guarantee anyone that I won’t be biased about the way he talked of his mother because of the obvious reason that I also love my mom to death. His address to women, youth, farmers and pastoralists, professionals, experts of all sectors, diaspora and opposition political parties was inclusive and broad in its spectrum of diagnosing the sociopolitical maladies of the nation. I have to be honest here. I’m not disappointed by what many accused Abiy of because I didn’t expect much from Abiy’s inaugural address to include issues like that of  evictees from Ethiopian Somali border conflict, Irreechaa Massacre, Calanqoo Massacre, Woldia Massacre and the recent Moyale Massacre and the subsequent evictees that are seeking Kenyan asylum in Marsabit County. Why? Because he is not purely from the revolutionists. He is a chairman of the ailing EPRDF. Do I hope that he will address these in action with fairness and justice? Well, that depends on Abiy’s willingness to live up to his words and his Front’s political flexibility. His main challenge to deliver his promises is the “wounded beast” that resides in the Front.  Another remarkable promise is his commitment to reconcile with Eritrea. 

Concluding Remarks

  • Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, an international religious leader, philosopher, award-winning author, and respected moral voice who was awarded the 2016 Templeton Prize once said “The single most important distinction in life . . . is to distinguish between an opportunity to be seized and a temptation to be resisted”. At this critical moment in our country’s political history, I consider the post of premiership in Ethiopia to be both. Here is why. It’s an opportunity to be seized because only the courageous who shows  vulnerability and integrity simultaneously can navigate the uncertain future. Uniting the ethniolingustically divided Ethiopia, securing sustainable peace in the midst of hotbeds of recurrent civil war of the Horn of Africa and realizing development ambitions amount to saving the nation
  • Successfully delivered, Abiy Ahmed’s soaring speech will be a message of hope. Seizing this opportunity is answering a historical call for a national redemption. Who would pass this opportunity? Only the coward does.

I also have a grave concern about how can Abiy Ahmed possibly navigate the reactionary forces in his Front. Real change in the country is none less than system change or reform of all sectors (political, economic, judicial, military, security and intelligence, police etc). EPRDF’s central tenet of “democratic centralism” undermines democratic principles. The party’s culture of “criticism and self criticism” undermines the principles of transparency and  accountability. Taking the highest post in the country at this time of political tsunami chairing Abiy’s ruling coalition is “a temptation to be resisted” if there is no real hope of reform. I very much would like to see Abiy Ahmed’s reign to be that of “opportunity to be seized” to redeem the nation from its multifaceted political and economic maladies. Only time will tell what is going to happen. Till then I will be measuring Abiy Ahmed against a good yardstick; his words. Shallom.