“We will address all the troubles witnessed in the country, and I promise to deliver for the people of Ethiopia and reverse their grief. I call on all Ethiopian people inside the country or abroad, it is time for us to forgive each other, close the yesterday’s chapter, and move on to the next chapter with national unity and consensus.”- Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
The prime minister of Ethiopia. Abiy Ahmed came to power precisely one year ago with lots of aspirations and hopes for most Ethiopians. He has electrified Ethiopia with his informal style, charisma, and energy earned comparison to Nelson Mandela. In this piece, we look at the political, economic, internal and foreign affairs achieved in his one year in office.
Political Reforms: When Abiy was selected as a PM by EPRDF coalition one year ago many called the political reform as ‘a shift from autocracy.’ He had freed political prisoners to promote the unity concept called Medemer. Moreover, the change included unfettering the media. According to the report of Human Rights Watch, least 60 journalists have fled their country since 2010 while at least another 19 languish in prison. Due to the reform journalists including Eskinder Nega, Temesghen Desalegn, and Zelalem Workagegnehu were among the released. Furthermore, 264 banned websites including the diaspora outlets Oromia Media Network (OMN) and Ethiopian Satellite Television, and Radio (ESAT) were allowed to an open office in their home country.
Another major step taken by the Prime Minister was the promotion of women to his cabinet that makes up half of the posts. On top of that, he assigned former political prisoner Birtukan Mideksa to return from exile in the US and lead electoral board commission. She expressed her surprise to the BBC as “thousands, if not millions of people paid a heavy price to see this change in the country. To have a former opposition leader, former dissident, to lead an institution with significant independence of action means a lot.” Furthermore, the appointment of ‘prominent women’s rights activist,’ founder and executive director of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), Meaza Ashenafi as the president of Federal Supreme Court considered being one of the achievements of PM Abiy.
The fast-paced reforms at the ruling EPRDF starting from February 2018, the political space opened up for all Ethiopian forces including previously exiled opposition parties such as the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Patriotic Ginbot 7 and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), all were in the lists of terrorist organizations. These brought in new actors within the opposition party block; now there are about 107 registered parties including the ruling coalition.
Economy: Although Ethiopia has one of the fast-growing economies in the world, it has a vast number of unemployed young population. Since coming to power PM, Abiy Ahmed inaugurated one industrial park, and currently, there are six government built industrial parks and four private industrial parks that are operational, according to the Ethiopian Investment Commission. Debre Berhan Industrial Park (DIP) which will create jobs for 13,000 employees in the textiles industry, gradually expected to operate in two and three shifts doubling and tripling the number of employees. Collectively the six state-owned industrial parks have currently created jobs to 58,000 Ethiopians. Also, Dire Dawa, Arerti, Kilinto, Jimma, Bahir Dar, and Ayisha industrial parks are under construction.
The issue involving Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is another Abiy Ahmed highlight of his premiership. It was during his tenure that GERD project manager Engineer Simegnew Bekele committed a suicide. Following the discouraging performance by Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC) for turbines/electromechanical work PM addressed the issue “We have handed over a complicated water dam project to people who have not seen a dam in their entire life, and if we continue in this direction, the project may never see the light of day,” he said. Finally, he signed a $40.1m contract with China Gezhouba Group Co. and a $113m deal with Voith Hydro Shanghai to complete the dam.
Hard currency is still a severe problem for Abiy. A hard currency crunch caused partly by spending on big infrastructure projects has reduced foreign currency reserves to less than one month’s worth of imports, according to analysts’ estimates. Foreign investors and local businesses say all sectors of the economy have been hit. After Abiy met with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed UAE deposited $1 billion in Ethiopia’s National bank. Abiy also Managed to secure repayment schedule extension from ten years to 30 years with China. Partial and total privatization of some of giant State-owned Enterprises (SOE’s) in Ethiopia. Including the national flag carriers, Ethiopian and the Ethiopian Shipping and Logistic Enterprise, many other SoEs are up for partial or full privatization.
Abiy has not made an encouraging move on the economy compared to political according to The Reporter mentioning Demis Chanyalew (Ph.D.), a published economist “Collectively, we are too much focused in our politics; we have ignored the economic dimension to our problems. I think the real attention that the economy deserves to get from the top leadership the country is not yet happening.” Many economists are questioning the PM not having a long term economic plan.
Internal security: Another attention worthy thing in Ethiopia is Internal Security. In the village of Gotti that hosts 20-30 thousand ethnic Gedeos’ who have been in a humanitarian crisis were displaced from their residence in Oromia region because of ethnic violence. More than a million Ethiopians were displaced from their homes by ethnic violence in 2018 the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) of any country last year. The worst of it took place in the south, where an estimated 800,000 mostly ethnic Gedeos fled the district of West Guji in Oromia, the country’s largest region. This is a higher number, and over a shorter period, that occurred at the height of Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis in 2017, According to the Guardian report. The government said more than a million displaced people had returned to their villages. This seems to include even Gedeos who firmly believe it is unsafe for them back in Oromia.
One of the political breakdowns in our country is ‘extreme opinions’ said the PM last week on the panel discussion about one-year performance. Every issue went to extremes now in Ethiopia.
About Addis Ababa: Oromo youth activists and some Oromia state officials believe that Addis Ababa (Finfine) is Oromo’s city so that the ethnicity should have a special privilege.
On the other hand activists in Addis Ababa proclaim that Addis is the city of every Ethiopians, and no ethnicity have special privilege.
About democracy: one group advocates about ethnic democracy which combines a structured racial dominance with democratic, political and civil rights for all.
The other group believes ‘ethnic democracy can divide us and kill the sense of nationalism, so democracy based on nationality is the best option.’
Things are not being so easy for the prime minister.
The prime minister is still hopeful “we expected it at the beginning that things don’t go smooth. One year is a short time to settle every issue.” He said on the panel discussion.
Abiy has lots of work to do to; bring extreme opinions to the middle, and Manage unresolved issues with the Tigray region and implement the rule of law.
Foreign Relation: one of the significant achievement of the PM is foreign relation. Over the last year, the 42-year-old premier has ended a decades-old conflict with neighboring Eritrea. The move reunited families and reopened long-dormant trade networks. He also mediated to reconcile Kenya with Somalia and Djibouti with Eritrea to solve their diplomatic quarrels. He has done much work to strengthen regional integration