Preparations are currently underway for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s visit to the United States this Summer. The most important and highly anticipated part of the Prime Minister’s visit is his get together with Ethiopians in various cities.
Committees are being formed to welcome PM Abiy and facilitate his meetings. Various Ethiopian civic and professional groups, including human rights advocates, physicians, entrepreneurs, journalists, religious leaders and others are requesting topic-specific meetings.
Last week, the Prime Minister, in a bold move, had asked the Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA), to address its annual gathering in July, but the board announced today that it cannot accommodate the request for logistical reasons. It is true that with only 4 weeks before the event, it would have been logistically difficult (but not impossible) for ESFNA to organize such an event in the small venue they have rented and already paid for. They would have had to find a bigger venue and obtain another more expensive insurance at a much higher cost. The majority members of the ESFNA board voted (14 – 11) not to take such a big responsibility. A few of the board members were also intimidated by Ginbot 7 cadres who were campaigning against the invitation. They simply voted to avoid the controversy. But the main reasons that tipped the scale for the majority board members were financial and logistical.
Ethiopians in the United States will have ample opportunities to meet with the Prime Minister in town hall meetings that are being planned in Washington DC and other cities.
PM Abiy is facing a set of extremely complex problems as the leader of a terribly traumatized and fractured society that has suffered under 40 years of brutal regimes. The tyrants of the past 4 decades have tried to divide Ethiopians along ethnic and class lines in order to prolong their rule causing unspeakable pain and suffering. It is a miracle that Ethiopia has escaped a Rwanda-like genocidal civil war. Despite a concerted effort by the Tigrean People Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Eritrean People Liberation Front (EPLF) to turn Oromos and Amharas, the two largest ethnic groups in Ethiopia, against each other, they chose to come together instead and rebuild their devastated country. President of the Oromia Region, Lema Megersa, and Gedu Andargachew of Amhara Region (to a lesser extent) have played a pivotal role in the political transformation in Ethiopia we are witnessing today. The two regional leaders have paved the way for Dr. Abiy Ahmed, a naturally gifted orator and smart strategist, to come to power outmaneuvering the much more experienced TPLF old guards.
The Abiy-Lema-Gedu troika is not fully in charge of the country yet. TPLF still controls the military and intelligence apparatus of the country. A military coup d’etat by TPLF is a real possibility. Ethiopia’s history is filled with lost opportunities and stillborn reform movements. It requires political genius, a great deal of patience, and incredible survival skills (on par with Menelik II) to navigate the extremely dangerous waters of Ethiopian politics.
What can Ethiopians in the Diaspora contribute to help PM Abiy’s reform agenda succeed?
We will have the chance to discuss this and other questions when the Prime Minister comes to the United States.