By Col. Jamal Ahmed [OPINION]– After taking office the new prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed (PhD), has been touring the nation preaching unity. His coming to power was not an easy journey. It came with a fierce struggle within the ruling coalition – the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Party (EPRDF).
The news of his coming to power was welcomed by many people. His preaching of unity is considered as a relief for the country already divided for past 27 years by the so called, ethnic federalism promoted by the revolutionary democrats who went to battle field several decades ago reading the Vladimir E. Lenin’s Revolutionary Democracy.
But when they came to power in 1991 winning the civil war with the Derge Regime, which was also Marxist ideology follower, the world was different. Marxism was almost dead. The main promoter of the ideology, the former Society Union was collapsed and became Russia Federation after many of its former territories were declaring independence becoming new nations.
The confused former rebel fighters decided to continue the revolutionary democracy with ethnic federalism declaring that Ethiopia is a free market economy without market fundamentalism.
But not long after taking power their revolutionary democracy ideology, which is dependent on the concept of “if you are not with me then you are against me,” proved itself to be wrong. Ethiopian professionals began leaving their country for their independent thinking was not welcomed by the regime.
Most the civil service is crowded by the people, who do what they are told to do without raising any critical question. Like a soldier obeying orders from the top without questioning was and still is the life of most of the civil servants in Ethiopia.
Higher institutions and universities known for actively involving in politics and socio economic development of the country decided to keep quit because they saw many of their professors and students thrown to jails.
The media and civil societies who were active and flourishing up until the bloody 2005 national election, are systematically silenced thanks to the repressive and threatening laws such as, the anti-terrorism, the charities and press laws, among others.
Likewise in the economic front, the implementation of free market in Ethiopia was nothing but fake. Any independent business outsmarting business as usual has been target by the hardliners in the regime. During a recent radio interview, we heard from the once successful entrepreneur Ermis Amelga, how his real estate project for the middle income was hijacked by a certain colonel affiliated with the hardliners in the regime.
Not only those private independent companies were systematically kicked out of business by companies of the ruling party, which entered into every business from trading to manufacturing sectors. Most of all the youth coming from the universities have begun losing hope of getting jobs. While thousands of Ethiopian youth die trying to leave the country through dangerous routes.
Because of the fact that major businesses are being dominated by a certain group/circle associated with the hardliners within the regime. One has to be politically or ethnically affiliated with these hardliners to get a decent job – not like the less than a dollar per day pay job our children get at the industry parks such as Hawassa.
This is the regime and the party the new prime minister of Ethiopia is coming from. But why did he get acceptance of the majority and managed to silence those bloody and destructive protests? That is a million dollar question.
In my view many Ethiopians including me put their trust on Prime Minister Abiy for at least three reasons:
- As he is only 41, Abiy is not part of that generation who came to power killing their brothers and seeing their brothers killed because of ideological difference. If happens to be genuine, which I believe, his speeches show that he has a different thinking from what the party calls, ‘our line (Mesmer)’.
- Unlike the previous Prime Minister Hailemariam, Abiy didn’t come to power by accident. After the killings of hundreds of Oromo protesters by the military, it was clear that his party, which is one of the four members of the coalition – the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO) – was aggressively struggling with the hardliners in the coalition who vow to sustain the statuesque.
- He thinks and acts like any independent minded person, who has a positive intention and acts accordingly. This was witnessed during his recent cabinet reshuffle. The fact that he replaced the people in the position of ministry of defense and attorney general, who have very bad reputation by the majority of Ethiopians who lost lives of their beloved or managed to escape the death rows such as, Kaliti and Meakelawi prisons. with new faces removing
On the contrary those who don’t buy into this optimism about the future of Ethiopia under Prime Minsiter Abiy, argue that he is nothing but a new generation of revolutionary democrat who is playing the same old rotten drama of the regime. They say he is still under the control of the hardliners in the coalition specifically, the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF).
These people argue that unless he manages to replace the intelligence head and the military chief of staff who is still in control of the army and most generals.
Whatever the case might be, in my view the demand of the people of Ethiopia for democracy, economic justice, fair treatment and equality have gone too far. It will be suicidal for the regime and the hardliners within the regime, who are already corrupt and alienated from the mass, to think and attempt to take back this mass struggle.
I suggest they regret and change their course of divide and rule strategy to join their young unifying leader Prime Minister Abiy, at least for the coming two years till the next election. It is much better for them to be part of the reform by joining the optimism of Ethiopians and their quest for change.
Of course I can imagine the fear of the hardliners, who have been working day and night to sustain their dominance at any cost. One can also imagine why they may not embrace the fast moves of Prime Minister Abiy, who in the past few weeks gave green light to the UN Human rights investigators to come and dig out how many civilians were killed and who gave those orders, etc…
Wishing all the best for my Ethiopia!