Opinion: Ethiopia PM Abiy’s rule by crisis set to indefinitely continue Ethiopia’s agony 



By Michael Abebe

Early 20th century Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, had a famous quote “there are decades when nothing happens, and then there are weeks where decades happen,”. 

Nearly a century later, Ethiopia an ancient civilization of 3,000 years which survived through numerous ups and downs over three millennia is facing an existential crisis, worthy of the Lenin quote. 

This is happening by way of current Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who came on a wave of hope five years ago, but has become a living nightmare for tens of millions of Ethiopians with his arrogant, shamelessly corrupt, erratic and sadistic rule.  

Foreign explorers dating back to the 16th century have not been shy to characterize Ethiopia as a country of emergencies, referring to the frequent palace intrigues and conflicts.

In contemporary time, Ethiopian leaders have been faulted rightly or wrongly for mistakes. However, until PM Abiy came to power, historical manuscripts and practices haven’t shown of leaders whose motto of rule is purposely “rule by crisis and conflict entrepreneurship”.  

Emperor Menelik II was faulted for his bloody conquests of other Ethiopia regions, but is credited with creating a strong, unified Ethiopia.

Emperor Hailseselassie I was blamed for his feudal and autocratic style of leadership, but is appreciated for helping create strong inter-generational institutions like Ethiopian Airlines and Addis Ababa University. 

Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam was vilified for his brutal method of disposing real and imaginary opponents, but oversaw sweeping land reform programs and initiated a string of industrialization programs. 

Late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi oversaw the formation of a divisive ethnic federal state and facilitated Ethiopia’s current agonizing status as a landlocked country, but he nonetheless built Ethiopia as a diplomatic power house and in later years helped spark economic renaissance exemplified by the launching of the Grand Ethiopia Resistance Dam (GERD) project in 2011, a year before his death. 

Despite, starting with overwhelming and near universal support, PM Abiy has shown that he is a leader who rejects the good practices of previous leaders, embraces their worst instincts and injects his own style of division and hatred among Ethiopia’s already fragmented population. 

My opinion piece, was partly inspired by the disappointment many Ethiopians have felt with Abiy, post-Pretoria peace agreement signed in November 2, 2022, which ended the Northern Ethiopia war and which his supporters and officials had used as an excuse to cover the PM’s numerous faults while they were espousing the PM’s “potentially transformative personality”.

Instead of providing light and hope over the last six months, PM Abiy administration has been engaged in a series of actions that can only be seen as an effort to rule by blood and fear the population of a historic country. 

Some of the destructive actions during this six months period include illegal efforts to violently force students in Addis Ababa sing offensive Oromia region anthem song, deadly drone strikes in Oromia region that have killed scores of civilians, deadly crackdown on ordinary citizens celebrating Adwa victory day, continuing massacres of ethnic Amharas in Oromia region some of it at least perpetrated by security forces and government backed violent efforts to split the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewhado Church (E.O.T.C) one of the very few remaining institutions of cross-ethnic harmony.

Federal, Addis Ababa city administration and Oromia region administration are also currently engaged in discriminatory and merciless demolition of thousands of homes in and around Addis Ababa, government officials starting from PM Abiy to the lowest public officials  are engaged in extravagant and corrupt expenses amidst general economic decline and while tens of millions of Ethiopians are currently suffering from high cost of living while at the same time the federal government is forcing aid agencies to purchase in hard currency forcibly seized farmers wheat produce in order to feed hungry Ethiopians in an example of unprecedented cruelty. 

Added to that state imposed discriminatory movement restrictions on ordinary Ethiopians, relentless and violent crackdown on civil society members, non-state media aligned media workers and generally any Ethiopian who dares to ask for the respect of basic rights as well as the stifling nepotism, bigotry and corruption in government offices.

The PM and his protégés in his administration have responded to the litany of abuses Ethiopians are facing by a mixture of at times scorn, often times deafening silence and almost always crackdown on truth messengers and aggrieved citizens. 

PM Abiy seems determined to cling by any means possible to absolute power indefinitely and recently told Ethiopia’s parliament Ethiopia’s fate as a country is in his single hands.

Meanwhile Abiy’s officials are overlooking the pervasive injustice in the country for fear of loss of privilege and maybe freedoms, while a disempowered and traumatized population is vainly looking for salvation in divine solutions and exile. 

In the meantime, vast majority of Ethiopians are living a life akin to what the great British 20th century writer, George Orwell wrote in his dystopian world themed novel Animal farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.

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