By Tesfu Telahoun – It’s the rainy season in Ethiopia now but what with the wholly unexpected emergence of an almost messiah-like prime minister, it might as well be the warmest of springs.
As we are gingerly but steadily being led out of a persistently bleak political wilderness devised by the very same Front our new PM belongs to, we Ethiopians can hardly believe our ears and eyes but are very aware of the excited thumping of some 100 million hope filled hearts.
Ridiculed and roundly reviled only three months ago, state run television and radio channels look and sound almost alien: honest journalism had withered so much over the last 27 years of lies, hypocrisy and decadent corruption that, hearing the truth on the same hated and hateful (hitherto) state media is somewhat unnerving – yet in an exhilarating way with which we are rapidly getting used to.
So may it continue! ABIY may have just had one of the most successful first 100 days of any world leader in my memory. Following is a random listing of 20 notable accomplishments during his prolific statesmanship to date.
- Frees thousands of political prisoners.
- Secured the release of thousands of Ethiopians from jails in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Kenya and Djibouti among others.
- Opens up political space and calls opposition groups ‘competition’ and ‘my brothers with different ideas for the same ‘Ethiopia first’ objectives.
- Reshuffles top military brass.
- Admits to state terrorism and culture of systemic human rights abuse.
- Fires corrupt judiciary and nominates new prosecutor general.
- Visits ten countries in the region solidifying international diplomatic relations.
- Obtains 3 billion USD from UAE, easing the critical shortage of foreign exchange.
- Reassure, inspires and consults at public meetings with ministers, artists and performers, business community, youth, residents of regional towns, military officers and other population segments.
- Strikes off Ginbot 7, ONLF and OLF from terrorist blacklist.
- Tactfully, discreetly but unreservedly deconstructs ‘great leader’ myth and personality cult of EPRDF regime mastermind, the late Meles Zenawi.
- Instructs state owned media to report the unvarnished facts and avoid propaganda.
- Sets up non-partisan committee to study and recommend changes to onerous anti-terrorism, civil society and media laws among others.
- Fired and/ or jails prisons administration officials and sadistic officers for human rights abuses.
- Begins to integrate non-EPRDF persons into various state organs.
- Announces that valued state owned assets will be semi-privatized.
- Managed to reconcile deeply divided leadership of the Muslim community.
- Brings to his side the vehemently anti-EPRDF, three million strong community of foreign based Ethiopians.
- Repatriates from Saudi Arabia young Ethiopian in irreversible coma after botched medical procedure. Secures from Saudi authorities compensation and lifetime medical costs coverage.
- Resets Ethiopia- Eritrea relations. ONE of my favorite sound byte moments is when Pakistani Nobel laureate Malala Yusufzai, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, was quoted as follows:”one child, one pen, one exercise book and one teacher can change the world!”
How right she is. For us-Ethiopians, Eritreans and indeed the entire Horn of Africa also, it has taken just one man bearing one single-minded goal: strength and prosperity through a shared unity. For all his popularity, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was not a widely known figure in Ethiopia’s opaque politics.
Doubtless we and the world will get to know him quite well. Already however, we can be sure of two things.
- Abiy is not afraid of making difficult decisions.
- Abiy follows through on his decisions.
The decision to reset the relationship with Eritrea (or lack thereof) must have been difficult- even seemingly impossible given the mutually ingrained hostility and opposition from the TPLF/EPRDF old guard and die-hard ‘revolutionary democrats’.
There are also some who feel that the costly sacrifices made during the Ethiopia-Eritrea border war are still too painful, too raw to warrant even a frigid rapprochement much less the comprehensive normalization of relations envisaged by PM Abiy Ahmed.
The tide of public opinion however is solidly behind him and it is clear that he has been drawing on the overwhelmingly positive even delirious backing of the population.
With so much accomplished in just three months, we wait with baited 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!