By Dawit W. Giorgis
A few months back Ethiopia was on the brinks but today we have our country back. The failure to support and encourage Prime Minster Ably Ahmed at this critical time is a failure for Ethiopia. It will be a missed opportunity with consequences that will haunt Ethiopians forever. Ethiopians have to follow their conscience and not the agendas of those who have a lot to lose with change. Those of us who used to condemn and criticize EPRDF (TPLF) have to now use our pen to support the approach that the PM is following and contribute constructively. Whatever change we see has yet to be institutionalized but one thing is certain: Ethiopians have Saved the Country. The concerted efforts of the Ethiopian people, the sacrifices paid and the magnificent work of Team Lemma have saved Ethiopia.
A few months ago the future of Ethiopia was vigorously being debated with a cloud of uncertainty as to where the country was heading. Ethiopia was on the brinks of civil war and possibly become one of those failed states of Africa. I referred to Rwanda, Somalia, Yemen, and Syria as examples and warned our people of the possible catastrophe unless we remain united. We wrote about how difficult it would be to get back our united Ethiopia once it descends into anarchy and civil strife. We saw the challenge that Ethiopia was facing as existential. Many elites and political pundits had no answers how Ethiopia can come out of this quagmire peacefully. Tradition, history and the strong bondage of our people prevailed and today we are assured that nothing can stand between Ethiopians. We have saved the country and this has been assured to us by a Prime Minister who has taken bold measures to consolidate this victory. That is the biggest and most historic achievement of the struggle which has been going on for 27 years. WE HAVE A UNITED ETHIOPIA. The struggle now should be not to reverse this historic gain. What we do with this country and how we do it is politics. Let the politicians act with caution and wisdom so that whatever issues are discussed do not threaten what has already been achieved with enormous pain and sacrifice. Don’t let anybody try to take us back to the situation where we were in a few months ago.
In my article titled The Beginning of the End of TPLF in the middle of April, I wrote:
“The PM should face head-on the TPLF leadership and advise them not to try to thwart his efforts to dismantle EPRDF and transform Ethiopia in a direction that the people wish to. Autocrats fight for their survival. It would not be easy for the TPLF to abandon power and accept the dismantling of the EPRDF, which has been used as its Trojan horse. Non of us believe that it is going to be easy but when a leader has a universal support it will make his work for transition easier. TPLF might prefer to fight the PM and the Ethiopian people tooth and nail to maintain the status quo. The Ethiopian people are ready for that. The PM should be ready for that as well. If Dr Ably has an idea to continue as EPRDF cadre and try to maintain the status quo through cosmetic changes, he will be mistaken. We advise that he exercise courage with wisdom and reason or else he would face the wrath of people who have waited for change for too long.
Hitler of Germany, Stalin of Russia, Duvalier of Haiti, Ferdinand Marcos of Philippines, Pol Pot of Cambodia, Mobutu of DRC, Bokassa of the CAR, Mengistu of Ethiopia, Charles Taylor of Liberia, Gadhafi of Libya and the list goes on, have all been crushed by the popular wave of anger. TPLF is now close to joining that list.
In the end, success will depend on the crossing of a fear barrier by Dr Ably and the people around him and his faith in the Ethiopian people. The Ethiopian people have crossed that fear. The question now is ‘Can PM Ably and his team cross that fear and take the bold steps towards democratic transition?’ If he fails, he has no one to blame except himself. The people are more united than ever and they will not hesitate to continue the struggle for a final and lasting outcome.”
And indeed, his decisions so far show that he is crossing that line of fear. He cannot reach the finishing line without the people’s support. Good governance is about decision-making and implementing decisions, and the process is thorny. To identify expectations and determine priorities, to be accountable, to maintain balance between the various interest groups and stakeholders and build consensus, to be at the same time transparent and responsive and to establish rule of law in a country where it did not exist for over 40 years; are all not easy as some elites who have never handled such a responsibility want us to believe. New leaders like Dr. Ably also have to know that oratory and rhetoric alone will not take democratic leaders a long distance. Winston Churchill was the prime minister of Great Britain during one of the most difficult times in the history of the country, during the Second World War when Britain was challenged by Nazi Germany. He is well known for his wonderful oratory and patriotic rhetoric. But oratory alone was not enough to defeat Hiller. Eventually, he not only delivered rhetoric and oratory but also delivered policy results that enabled a virtually bankrupt Britain to continue fighting and win the war. Churchill is now remembered as the greatest statesman Britain ever had. We want Prime Minister Abiy to succeed so that generations of Ethiopians will remember him as one of Ethiopia’s greatest statesmen.
People should be aware that there is now what could be considered as a parallel government in Ethiopia headed by hardliners within the TPLF and their supporters. The Prime Minster’s detractors would do anything to stop him. He can exist and continue to move the country forward if only the people allow him and continue to support his reform agenda but also guide him towards the final dismantling of the EPRDF (TPLF) repressive machinery. We have to protect him and assure him that the people will be with him so long as he is on the true path of change. This should not in any way stop people from pressuring Prime Minister Abiy to do more towards fundamental change. In fact, we should continue to constructively contribute to the ongoing debate on how we can reach the goal of a united democratic Ethiopia in which its people live with equality, freedom, and justice living in peace with themselves and with the rest of the world. But for now, there should be no doubt that Prime Minister Abiy’s actions, decisions, and speeches have transformed Ethiopia and given hope to all.
The writer, Dawit W. Giorgis, is the author of “Red Tears“. He is also former Commissioner of Ethiopian Disaster and Relief Commission and Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of Ethiopia.