Not ready to lead! Assessing Abiy Ahmed’s administration

By Sorettii Jarrssoo, January 12, 2020

When he became the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, said some inspiring and vindicating words that previous leaders never said.  He acknowledged that the government is the issue and not the protesting people.  He said Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and those in power are the one’s who terrorized and tortured protesters and activists.  He promised his government will level the political playing field and he invited opposition parties to return home, organize their constituents and campaign peacefully and participate in the next election.  However, he also praised past controversial leaders like Minilik who by any historical account broke and colonized the Oromo and other peoples.  As a leader of ethnically diverse country, why praise an emperor who colonized one of the major national groups in the country?  He could have crafted his speech in a balanced way, for example, speak good things the King did but also denounce the mutilations and killings of the Oromo people under Emperor Minilik.  Criticizing Minilik may be a risk he has to take with Amhara nationals as they may come after him, but he has history to back him and the time has called for strong and gutsy leader.  However, he failed by trying to appease one political group and hurting others.

Abiy Ahmed also failed to honor the agreement made between his government and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).  He spoke like a confident leader that his government will open up the political playing field for the opposition parties so that free and fair election can happen.  He even says if the people chose another leader, he will peacefully hand over power to the legitimately elected leader.  However, his actions did not support his words.  Political maneuvering started immediately or the day the OLF returned home.  When communication between his government and the OLF broke down in late 2018 and early 2019, he failed to facilitate the peaceful integration of the OLF army to Ethiopian Army or Oromia police.  The OLF could not open offices and the one’s opened were forced to close, vandalized and looted by OPDO cadres.  Abiy and his agents went further and attempted to maneuver and entice the OLF army to surrender.  No need to repeat how it went down but it is suffice to say that currently there are active OLA in Wallaga and Gujii area.  Confident leaders honor their words and do what they said they would do.  Capable leaders know that if they do the right things for their people, they are winners’ whether they win an election or not.

While PM Abiy is unwilling to honor the terms agreed upon, he has surrounded himself with advisors recruited from one ethnic group.  Events and activities broadcast from the palace reflect the old Ethiopia and little diversity.  Ethnic violence is popping up in all parts of the country; Oromo youths are dying and Abiy is mum about it.  It was like the country is without a leader.  Effective leaders speak and try to appeal to both sides to bridge the gap.  For whatever reason, Abiy clearly took side and while the Federal Police and his cadres are doing the killing, he remains silent.  Even when he speaks, Abiy comes across as lecturing, very rhetorical, focusing on trivial things and not inspiring, not memorable and not effective. Sometimes he sounds he does not understand that Oromo/Ethiopian people are smart and understand politics and know what is happening.  At times he is insulting and comes across as ignorant. To give an example, in the video he narrated about the renovation of the palace, he stated that diasporas are appreciating beauty of foreign land but ignore breath taking beauty of Bale forests and Oromia’s/Ethiopia’s wild life.  He fails to understand that diaspora would love to return and live in their country if there is peace and security.  People living in diaspora are those who fled the brutality of the many Ethiopian dictatorial governments.  In another occasion, when he appeared in one of the Oromo Political Parties reconciliation/coming together, he stated that political questions from 40 years ago do not work in current political situation.  If he has any leadership trait, he would not have said  such a stupid thing.  Political questions raised 40 years ago are relevant today because those questions were not addressed.  If the question 40 years ago was self-governance, what makes the question irrelevant in today’s political situation?  His speeches and remarks are full of statements that lack insight and deeper understanding of Ethiopian politics and history.

Then comes talk for the formation of a new party to get rid of EPRDF.  Why?  Abiy is playing politics to ensure he stays in power for many years to come, like his predecessors.  The main goal was to expand his party, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front(EPRDF) to include smaller nations and nationalities that were not part of EPRDF.  Soon after the news of party merger came out, Abiy traveled to targeted smaller regions to court those nationalities.  After the usual political maneuvering and “negotiations”, the formation of EPP(Ethiopian Prosperity Party) was announced. Soon enough, it was rumored that the Somali political party was opposed to the “E” in EPP.  The Somali Political Party rejected the “Ethiopian” stating that their constituents will not accept the “E” as their struggle was for the Somali people and the E (Ethiopian) will prevent them from representing their people and will compromise their standing.  The ODP(OPDO) led by Abiy have no choice but to agree to PP.   However, it is no secret that there is ODP faction that is opposed to PP but their fate is not yet known.   Other than ODP cadres, the Oromo people have nothing to do with PP or EPP.  The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is opposed to PP and the elimination of EPRDF and they are threatening to sue Abiy.  It is very well understood that for Abiy it is more about his survival and power than solving the country’s problems.  Even some Amhara Political Organizations are against Abiy and his administration. His lack of political maturity and lack of leadership skills are showing up in his poor decision making.  He also tends to use rosy words as if those words translate into actions.  Only because he named Prosperity Party, it is not going to bring Prosperity to Ethiopia.  Solving the political issues and bringing the people and nationalities together will bring prosperity.  Peace will bring prosperity.

The actions and inactions of Abiy for the last two years showed as that he is not ready to lead; he does not have a good understanding of Ethiopian political history.  He is not a good communicator, it is very easy to see through his BS when he speaks.  Under his watch, killings and imprisoning Oromo youth and members of the opposition party have continued.   It is estimated that tens of thousands of Oromos are currently in prison.  The same TPLF terrorism law is used against prisoners to keep them locked up for a long time without charge.  The list goes on.  Therefore, one should ask, if Abiy cannot deliver for the people now, why should we expect anything different if he is elected.  His performance so far earns him F and it will not be any different if he is elected and continues as PM.  Therefore, the Oromo people and other peoples of Ethiopia must keep this in mind and make sure to elect the party/parties that will advance their interests.  Oromia/Ethiopia needs and deserves a new beginning, and EPRDF/PP, new name but the same people, will not and cannot deliver. They are corrupt, have been in power for too long and they lack what it takes to govern.

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