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Can Ethiopia’s first Oromo prime minister pull the nation back from the brink of civil war? – New Statesman March 30, 2018

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Abiy Ahmed in 2017

Can Ethiopia’s first Oromo prime minister pull the nation back from the brink of civil war?

by Martin Plaut*, New Statesman, 29 March 2018

Abiy Ahmed has come to power following a period of intense unrest and violence.

 

For months now, Ethiopia has been trembling on the brink of a civil war. Anti-government protests that began in 2015 over land rights broadened into mass protests over political and human rights. The government responded with waves of arrest, punctuated by hundreds of killings. Then, last month, the government announced a six-month state of emergency.

In the middle of February, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn finally threw in the towel and resigned. For weeks, the country has been without a leader. Now, finally, a brief announcement on state television has declared that Ethiopia’s ruling coalition has voted in Abiy Ahmed as new prime minister.

But Ahmed is something of an outsider; a member of the Oromo, who – despite being the country’s largest ethic group, at 34 per cent of the population – have never held power in Ethiopia’s modern history. Living in the centre and south of Ethiopia they were forcibly incorporated into the empire during the reign of Menelik II (1889-1913). Using imported firearms, Menelik embarked on a program of military conquest that more than doubled the size of his domain. Despite their numbers, the Oromo were routinely discriminated again: being referred to by the derogatory term of “galla” which suggested pagan, savage, or even slave.

The problems of ethnicity were supposedly eliminated in 1991 when rebels of the Tigray People’s Liberation Movement swept to power in Addis Ababa. Under the brilliant, but ruthless, Meles Zenawi a new system of “ethnic federalism” was introduced. Each ethnic group was encouraged to develop local self-government, while being guaranteed representation at the centre.

A system of ethnic parties was established and nurtured. These came together in the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of four political movements.

But there was a strong belief that behind each party stood a representative of the Tigrayan minority, which controlled the coalition with a rod of iron.

Gradually, however, each of the four constituent parties has developed its own political culture. Abiy Ahmed emerged as a key player in what became known as “Team Lemma”, which has been steering change in recent months. The team resisted Tigrayan hegemony in order to transform EPRDF from within, while at the same time governing Oromia legitimately and serving local needs.

It would appear that this has now finally succeeded. Some cast doubt on Ahmed’s ability to lead this complex transformation, pointing out that he is well connected to the security services. Others suggest that his mixed religious background — he has a Christian mother and a Muslim father — his education, and his fluency in Amharic, Oromo, and Tigrinya as making him well qualified for the job.


*Martin Plaut is a fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London. He is the author of Understanding Eritrea and, with Paul Holden, the author of Who Rules South Africa?

 

Related (Oromian Economist sources) :

Irrespective of whichever media outlet’s one may read, the following five key connections are either implied or purposely made about the connection between the election of Dr. Abiy and demands of the Oromo people. And they are all wrong.

Dr. Abiy Ahmed is an Oromo, But he is not Oromo Prime Minister!

I did not like how the election of Dr. Abiy Ahmed as the chairman of the EPRDF and as the Prime Minister designate of Ethiopia, pending approval by the Parliament, is being framed and set up by both local and international media and the implication of his election on the demands of the Oromo people in Ethiopia.

Irrespective of whichever media outlet’s one may read, the following five key connections are either implied or purposely made about the connection between the election of Dr. Abiy and demands of the Oromo people. And they are all wrong.

1. Dr. Abiy was not elected to represent the Oromo people. He is an Ethiopian Prime Minister representing the entirety of the Ethiopian people including the Oromo people. The Oromo people did not nominate or elect him to represent them in the Office of the Prime Minister. He is elected as an individual, possibly, representing the OPDO, the Oromo wing of the EPRDF. Therefore, it is wrong to assume that Dr. Abiy is becoming the chairman of the EPRDF and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia by representing the Oromo people.

2. Dr. Abiy was not elected to calm down and sooth the Oromo people and the Oromo protests. To begin with, the demands of the Oromo people was not to elect Dr. Abiy to the office of the prime minister. Second, it is wrong to assume that the Oromo people will be calmed down and being soothed by the election of an Oromo individual to the office of the Prime Minister unless the office Dr. Abiy represents, the Office of Ethiopian Prime Minister, responds to the demands of the Oromo people and all the demands of the #OromoProtests are addressed. In fact, the Oromo protests will continue their struggle until the political, economic and social exclusion and marginalization of the Oromo people in Ethiopia ends. The Oromo people knows he is an Oromo but he does not represent the interests of the Oromo people alone. As a Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Dr. Abiy represents the interests of all Ethiopian people. The Oromo people will not expect either specific favor other than what he could do for all Ethiopia’s or being disappointed if he fails to deliver any of his promises. But, with Dr. Abiy in the office of the Prime Minister, the Oromo people will work with him to end those marginalization and exclusions. The same holds true about the demands of all other Ethiopian people. Simply put, the struggle will continue including by working with him to address the demands of our people for justice, equality and freedom.

3. Dr. Abiy’s success or failure as the Prime Minister is not Oromo people’s success or failure. Dr. Abiy’s success or failure as the Prime Minister is just that. It is his individual success or failure. The Oromo people will not be praised for his success nor condemned because of his failures. But, will I be, as an Oromo, happy at his success? Triple Yes! Yes! And Yes! In fact, I will do everything in my power for him to succeed to advance the causes of equality, justice and freedom in Ethiopia. I believe the Oromo people, the same as all other Ethiopians, will do the same and work hard for his success. Other than that, attributing his failure or success to the Oromo people will be totally wrong.

4. Dr. Abiy, as an individual, is not a superman to do miracle in solving Ethiopia’s multifaceted problems. Rather, his administration, the ministerial cabinet and other executive authorities he appoints, the support of progressive forces in the EPRDF, and the support his administration gets from the Ethiopian public including from those in the opposition will determine whether his administration succeeds or fails. Therefore, instead of focusing what Dr. Abiy could do or not do, let’s look into what we could do both as an individual and as group to help him and his administration bring the much needed transformative regime change in Ethiopia.

5. Dr. Abiy is not an Oromo Prime Minister. He is an Ethiopian Prime Minister. Designating him as an Oromo Prime Minister is a tacit attempt to imply that the Oromo people assumed political power in Ethiopia. That is simply wrong. The Oromo people, together with other Ethiopians, are struggling to establish the government of the people for the people by the people in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian people’s political power to elect and remove from office their representatives through democratic elections are not yet to be secured or even formally acknowledge by the current Ethiopian regime. Therefore, implying as if the election of Dr. Abiy signifies the transfer of the political power to the Oromo people is totally wrong.

I hope both the international and local media will not make these and similar mistakes as they continue to report on this issue.

 

ቄሮዎች ስለ ዶ/ር አብይ ምርጫ ምን ይላሉ?

ባለፉት ሁለት ዓመታት በኦሮሚያ በሚደረጉ ተቃውሞዎች እና አድማዎች ጉልህ ተሳትፎ የነበራቸው “ቄሮ” በሚል መጠሪያ የሚታወቁት በወጣት የዕድሜ ክልል ያሉ የክልሉ ነዋሪዎች ናቸው፡፡ ከጥያቄዎቻቸው መካከል የኦሮሞ ብሔር በፌደራል ስርዓቱ ውስጥ ተገቢውን ቦታ ማግኘት አለበት የሚለው አንዱ ነው፡፡ የዶ/ር አብይ አህመድ ምርጫ ጥያቄያቸውን የመለሰ ይሆን?

ODF Statement on the election of Dr. Abiy Ahmed as Chairman of Ethiopia’s ruling party

 

 

 

 

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