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A “Noble Way” of Driving a Country to a Ditch

A “Noble Way” of Driving a Country to a Ditch

By Aynalem Sebhatu 08-20-20

It is public secret now; Colonel Abiy Ahmed cleverly rode the Oromos and the Amharas’ political elites’ coattails to the top of the political power.  Since his ascent, Abiy Ahmed as the PM of Ethiopia, there has been no shortage of analyses on his personal being and on his leadership capacity. For an evaluation of the PM’s personal traits and his psychological profile, it is informative to watch an interview of Colonel Binyam Tewelde by Awol Media.  Colonels Binyam and Abiy Ahmed used to be co-workers as intelligence officers. 

If one looks into Abiy’s record of two years in office, by investigating his actions as well as his rhetoric, it is clear to see the alarming widening gap of his governance in practice and his every day political rhetoric. His practices do not conform what he promised the country in the last two years. Worst of all the killings and the imprisoning of people around the country during his tenure is climbing up at alarming rate. His security forces have cracked down the opposition parties and have put all the known leaders of the opposition parties back into prison.  In short, he is turning out a political chameleon who has tailored and embellished his resume with significant support of the West.  Now people are asking what exactly did the West as well as the Nobel Prize Committee see in him what a significant number of his country’s fellow people have not seen in this PM?  To put it differently, was there anything on his record that would show that he would face the crises of the country with imagination and decisiveness? Looking back Abiy Ahmed’s promotional interview clip in English of 2018, I submit that indicates the opposite and shows only he is a plagiarist.See the link: Charlatan or reckless

All well-meaning and reform-oriented Ethiopians, who have been captured by Abiy’s sleek bamboozled effects at the beginning, are finding it painful and difficult to acknowledge the circumstances they are in.  The country’s law and order is broken so badly people are so scared to move around the country. The ongoing crisis in different areas of the Oromia region is unnerving. The recent killings of people in Wolita zone and in Oromia zone were so disgusting the offense could be considered a crime against humanity in general.   What is the political calculus or the political necessity of trading bullets for a peaceful request of a constitutional right from the people of Wolita? Where were the law enforcement when people were slaughter like animals? The absence of protection and the lack of respect of the rule of law are in short supplies in the country and these arestunning developments.

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Given these circumstances, people are increasingly becoming insecure in conducting their day-to-day activities and are increasingly worrying that violence and killings are becoming normal. These life circumstances are begging questions of fitness and sanity of the leadership in the country. Increasingly it is becoming hard in figuring out what the prime minister stands for. What really is the core value of this man’s belief beyond his childlike need for attention and his singular pursuit of concentration of power? 

During the last two years, Abiy Ahmed statements have been full of inconsistencies if not outright lies. The one consistent belief the PM has told us is:  his congenital weakness (or strength depending on one’s point of view) of his dream of becoming a king since he was a kid. With his concentration of power, money and media outlets (including an army of well-paid bloggers inside and outside the country), sooner than later people will be forced to chant “the prince’s will has the force of law.”  Perhaps the second consistency he hasis on his belief on positive thinking and prosperity theology as a model of development for the country. Needless to say, he baptized the EPRDF and named it Prosperity Party. Even though I have hard time finding a coherent political platform and the political programs of the new party, the rationale for the new name was not hard to discover.

Thus, when all is said and done, I have discovered little of what Abiy’s thinking framework is in securing the country’s future as a prosperous and democratic country.  Reading his book, Medemer, I again found little of what his core beliefs have meant in precise institutional terms to individual Ethiopian or nations and nationalities of Ethiopia. Instead we are supplied with amalgamation of hotchpotch of ideas in addressing the country’s difficult and challenging problems.In addition to Abiy’s writings and listening to his speeches, one gets a sense of his simple explanations and solutions to difficult problems faced by Ethiopians. Yet he never stops talking about his “Medemer philosophy” as if the field of study of philosophy did not start days he took up his pen to write Medemer. Indeed, it is my main contention that, if we are to understand the meaning of such conceptions of democracy, equality, justice, liberty, the rule of law, we must look to institutional forms for the essential answer.  In this regard Abiy Ahmed never seemed to get the memo and he seriously lacks a solid foundational perspective in bringing the country out of the abyss.  Stunningly he always wants to lecture on almost everything and he lacks one of the most important attributes of leadership, that is, listening and putting his ears on the ground.

In order to understand the debates about the PM and to usefully catalogue the current political rhetoric, let me spell out the two dominant positions held by Ethiopian politicians.  From his old comrades, the TPLF, at one end of the spectrum we have learned that Abiy Ahmed is a charlatan, a deceptively sleek person propelled to the highest rung of the political ladder by colluding members of the now defunct EPRDF. From the reformers of the EPRDF (from inside and outside of the front) at the other pole, we hear that Abiy Ahmed as a person of integrity who is capable of leading the country to a more prosperous and liberal country.  The first group waves the glory of the flag of federalism and economic expansion of the last three decades, while the other mobilizes data to prove the failure of the EPRDF in moving the country forward thereby trying to replace the current federal structure by unitary state.

The ethnically entrenched regional powers, which are the foundation of the current constitution, are designed to serve as a potential counterforce against centralized authoritarianism. Ironically, the very factors that have brought the Prosperity Party to power and a formation of political alliances with diaspora Ethiopians have also made possible the creation of centralized control from the federal government against self-governance of regional governments.The current struggle over self-determination (such asWolita’s case) and self-governance of nations and nationalities of the country are not wholly without constitutional justifications in pointing out that the national/federal troops employed to disperse dissenters are also employed to destroying of self-governance of regional governance.   With the weakening of the constitutional rights of nations and nationalities of the country and with erosion of federalism as an operational concept, decision-making on national and regional matters became increasingly the monopoly of oneman seating in Addis Ababa. Indeed, we have recently seen Abiy Ahmed,directly or indirectly, intervene in the internal affairs of all regional governments. This sort of intervention by the PM undermines the institutional framework of federalism and thereby cheapening the constitution of the country.

When an observer looks at the current Ethiopian political, ideological and historical debates, one notes a huge diversity of opinion. From this one might falsely conclude that there is a tolerance of opposing or different views among Ethiopians. However, from a different vantage point, what are missing and overlooked is that Ethiopia is extremely heterogenous country with so many layers of identities and sub cultures. It is my contention that the diversity of opinion is a consequence of not tolerance and mutual respect but of the existences of many nations and nationalities within the country each with its own political, cultural, historical and economic interests. One could easily find a microcosm of intolerance and as a happy hunting grounds of the “other” Ethiopian in the trench warfare of media outlets of the government (and non-government entities).  In other words, our lack of tolerance and mutual respect are curtailing our freedom of expressing our opinions thereby poorly running our local/national/federal governments in undemocratic ways.  In addition to lack of tolerance, the weakening of the mediating federal and local institutions that are capable of bridging these diverse interests are compounding the problems of moving the country forward.

Of course, we cannot expect the existing institutions, however inexperienced and new, alone to keep peace and stability of the country; these institutions can in long run be no stronger than the capability of leadership that supports them. This is why Abiy Ahmedshould act likea leader, be willing to stick his neck out in the cause of the constitution of the country and the rule of law.Instead what he is showing is his lack of conviction on anything. As a Nobel Laureate, it should not be that hard to understand the basic purpose of political power:to create conditions and to make the most possible improvement of human conditions. Instead he is spending his time on shiny things,exacting political revenge on political opponents and on self-aggrandizing.That is sad and the cost of reversing such kind of political leadership is huge and incalculable on the fate of the country.



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