Part one – By Tesfu Telahoun Abebe – About 10 months ago-July 11, 2018 to be precise-I penned a piece on this newsmagazine titled, “100 Days of Sunshine on Ethiopian Skies and Beyond”. It was a heartfelt commentary largely in praise of the almost fairy tale like emergence of Abiy Ahmed and of his eloquently stated positions and affirmations of national unity, human rights and democracy.
It was and still is sweet music to a population which somehow has endured over a quarter century of being brutalized under what must have been the world’s first ever regime which hated its homeland.
The self-internally exiled remnants of this aberration in political history still hate not only the nation which they have so dangerously fractured and almost completely ruined but also the very concept and very real probability of a strong, unified, post-ethnicity and democratically tolerant Ethiopia.
I would be remiss not to remind them that the toxic propaganda, misinformation and provocative programs aired on Dimts Weyane and other anti-unity platforms (ugly as they are) are testament to the genuine freedom of speech made possible by the TPLF’s expulsion from (at least) the center of national power.
My article also intended to mark the beginning of the end of the pseudo-ideology dubbed, ‘revolutionary democracy’, expounded ad nauseam by the late dictator Meles Zenawi et al.The so called ideology-never really defined-was in actuality, a shrewd, calculated and ultra-deceptive long-game strategy to ensure the continuity of the universally malignant and kleptocratic dictatorship of the TPLF.
Abiy’s frequent speeches, exhorting Ethiopians to sail their ancient nation to anchor in the sheltering calm of national unity, is light years ahead of the divisive barbarism of so-called revolutionary democracy (the words are in fact an oxymoron-two incompatible terms such as: brilliant-darkness or voluntary-duty or humane-brutality.
My July piece was timed to coincide with the end of that somewhat arbitrarily instituted honeymoon period in politics dubbed ‘the first 100 days’ during which newly elected (appointed in this case) leaders place their cards on the table and set the tone for their mandated term of office.
I listed over two dozen of what I consider(ed) to be Abiy’s most notable achievements-the now usual litany of releasing prisoners of conscience, multi-party political space, genuine freedom of speech, rapprochement with the renegade former province and now so called sovereign state, etc. These and other accomplishments are bold, ‘thinking outside the box’ sort of actions which require courage.
I recall commenting that our then brand new and shiny prime minister was: 1 not afraid to make difficult decisions, And 2 follows through on those decisions.
By the way, it was the first time ever that Ethiopian media, political analysts, politicians and the general public have dared to exercise the ‘luxury’ of evaluating an administration’s first 100 days-in itself a victory for Abiy Ahmed and the reformist minded people around him.
Not a few acquaintances of mine have commented that though they agreed with most of the points I made, my piece sounded giddy and euphoric if not downright sycophantic. I do admit that I was extremely excited then-like tens of millions of fellow Ethiopians and ethnophiles.
And may I remind my acquaintances of the hundreds of birrs they forked out for Abiy t-shirts, flags minus the hated weyane emblem, face paint and other items celebrating the unexpected emergence of a new era. Yet, despite my obvious enthusiasm, I did conclude my piece on a cautionary note. “With so much accomplished in just 3 months, we wait with bated breath for what is to come as we fervently pray that this is not all a dream-and if it is, we don’t want to wake up!”
Sadly, it seems that it was all only a mirage as we have all been rudely awakened into an ugly reality which threatens to tear apart what remains of the nation after TPLF corrosive rule.
So, what has gone wrong since those first 100 days? Plenty in fact.
To begin with we had all underestimated the ancient regime’s willingness and capacity to utilize its meticulously crafted ‘infrastructure’ of ethnic division to spoil and frustrate Abiy’s reform agenda by destabilizing the nation.
The TPLF, by the way, is a known quantity which is adept at all sorts of mischief but if I were to allocate blame for our present circumstances in percentages, the TPLF and its henchmen would be liable for 50% of the problems.
The rest are largely attributable to the current administration. To cite a few: 1 in contrast to Abiy’s initial declarations on national unity, there is a growing feeling that he still harbors a soft spot for Oromo irredentists and even separatists and/or he does not wield adequate authority within his own ‘party’, the OPDO. (I put ‘party’ in quotes because by definition at a nation level, a political party cannot be ethnically based).
There seems to be an unspoken accommodation of the OLF’s radical outlook by the OPDO-making the non-issue of Addis Ababa a core cause is one example of such pandering to secure support from among OLF cadre and supporters.
The prime minister, the gender equal cabinet and the entire administration have displayed admirable restraint in their responses to numerous provocations and lethal events, not to mention Mekelle’s treasonous refusal to recognize and obey Abiy’s constitutional mandated authority.
However, much as I admire Abiy’s oft repeated (and correct) assertion that force of arms has never been a solution and that, if it were so he has sufficient military power to deal with any threat, has worn thin indeed.
The patience is actually killing the patient! The states inaction in the face of clear and present dangers has gone overboard and to an apprehensive population, Abiy’s government seems more like a paper tiger-impotent and reactive instead of authoritative and proactive.
This crippling indecisiveness stands in stark contrast to the bold decisiveness of the first few months. Since then much unpleasantness has occurred and continued to occur. All of the bad news has played Abiy into the grubby hands of the TPLF-they are delighted that the apparent weakness of the new administration has made them look somewhat less disgusting. In fact, they are eating and keeping the ‘ambasha’ by skillfully fomenting and/or provoking ethnic, religious and territorial conflicts of which they then accuse Abiy of not being able to handle.
Abiy should have known better than to fall into this self-dug hole. The new government’s intransigence has fueled the emergence of conspiracy theories so many of which allude to some ‘hidden agenda’ that the PM had to officially and publicly deny the allegations.
However, despite Abiy’s popularity, it is understandable that rumors can arise of him harboring a secret ethnocentric agenda. Ethnic related killings continue. Oromo nationalism threatens to tear up the society.
Millions of born and bred Addis Ababans are potentially about to become disenfranchised due to the, frankly, spiteful demand that the capital city of a 110 million people nation belongs to one ethnic group. Unwarranted demolition of literally thousands of homes and mass evictions which can only be termed as ethnic cleansing, etc.
In these and other emergency situations the state has at best taken passive measures and at worst has been virtually absent. No wonder that negative rumors and counter-rumors are so plentiful. The PM has lost an invaluable portion of the abundant political capital he had generated and I fear that level of popular support has gone away to stay.
(To be continued)