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Ethiopia: Communities in diaspora held massive rally to show their support for PM Abiy Ahmed’s reform July 11, 2019

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BBC: Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed: The leader promising to heal a nation January 3, 2019

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Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed: The leader promising to heal a nation

BBC, 3 January 2019

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (C) greets a child as he arrives to welcome Eritrea's President at the airport in Gondar, nothern Ethiopia, on November 9, 2018

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been widely praised for introducing sweeping reforms aimed at ending political repression, writes BBC Africa editor Fergal Keane after visiting the country.

The crowd at the airport in Jimma in Ethiopia’s Oromia region was handpicked and universally rapturous.

But these were not the praise-singing party hacks who so often grace the arrivals and departures of powerful men in Africa.

Men and women, old, young and very young – beaming babies were held above the crowd – had gathered to witness the arrival of a political sensation.

“We are so very happy,” an elderly man shouted to me above the sound of the military band, “it is like a renaissance. We have waited so long for this.”

Shift from autocracy

Then Abiy Ahmed was among us, descending the steps of his plane to delighted cheers, testing the nerves of his security detail as he reached into the crowd to kiss a baby here, embrace an old man there.

I was conscious of an extraordinary fusion between the driven energy of an individual and the hope of a nation. Africa has rarely seen anyone like him.

Cheering supporters of PM Abiy
Image captionPro-democracy activists have welcomed the changes in Ethiopia

At 42 he is the youngest leader on the continent but his impact is far greater than his age suggests.

When the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition elected him prime minister nine months ago the country, Africa’s second largest in terms of population with more than 100 million people, shifted decisively from a long period of autocracy.

He ended a 20-year conflict with neighbouring Eritrea, freed thousands of political prisoners, unfettered the media and appointed women to half the cabinet posts.

Parliament also accepted his female nominees for president and head of the supreme court.

On top of that, he asked a dissident leader to return from exile in the United States to run the electoral commission.

Quote: Thousands, if not millions, of people paid [a heavy price] to see this kind of change in this country

The pace of change has delighted pro-democracy activists and thrown more reactionary elements off balance.

Fourteen years ago, Birtukan Mideksa spent 18 months in prison as leader of an opposition party before leaving for exile in the US.

She was as surprised as most observers when Mr Abiy invited her to return and chair the National Election Board.

“Thousands, if not millions, of people paid [a heavy price] to see this kind of change in this country… to see this opening,” Ms Birtukan told me.

“To have a former opposition leader, former dissident, to lead an institution with significant independence of action… means a lot.

“For those people who paid a price in the process, it’s really significant,” Ms Birtukan added.

‘Use ideas not weapons’

But change has inevitably emphasised the significant challenges still facing Mr Abiy.

When I caught up with him at a graduation ceremony for medical students in Jimma he appealed to them to “use ideas not weapons” and to follow the example of a nation like Japan, which recovered from World War Two to build a sophisticated economy.


Key facts: Abiy Ahmed

Abiy Ahmed
  • Born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother on 15 August 1976
  • Speaks fluent Afan Oromo, Amharic, Tigrinya and English
  • Joined the armed struggle against the Marxist Derg regime in 1990
  • Served as a UN peacekeeper in Rwanda in 1995
  • Entered politics in 2010
  • Briefly served as minister of science and technology in 2016
  • Became prime minister in April 2018

Ethiopia has one of the fastest growing economies in the world but still has a vast number of unemployed young people.

This is both a reservoir of potential talent and potential dissent if Mr Abiy’s moves to liberalise the economy and tackle corruption do not succeed swiftly.

The prime minister was addressing the graduates in Jimma against a backdrop of deepening ethnic conflicts across the country.

Ethiopia has more than 80 different ethnic groups.

The divisions are old and deep rooted, but they flared up with a new intensity in the first half of last year when 1.4 million people were forced to flee ethnic conflict in the west of the country, according to the UN.

Chart showing the ethnic make-up of Ethiopia

Overall, some 2.8 million people have been uprooted from their homes in recent years. The other major concern is the fighting on the borders of the Oromia and Somali regions.

Over decades, the central government used force and a whole battery of repressive legislation to quell ethnic unrest.

Predictably, this merely gave an impression of national cohesion while unaddressed grievances festered. They erupted into protest in 2016.

‘Steel in Abiy’s voice’

Demonstrations by members of the Oromo community – Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group – precipitated the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and the election of Mr Abiy.

Mr Abiy is the first leader to come from the Oromo community but has stressed that he is a leader for all Ethiopians.

Map showing Ethiopia's regions

When I caught up with him in Jimma I asked if he was the man to unite an increasingly divided country.

He was being ushered away from the crowds by his guards but the question made him pause.

Looking around he caught my eye and shouted above the noise: “Of course I am. No doubt about it!” There was steel in the voice. And then the smile returned.

Last month, Mr Abiy established a reconciliation commission to deal with some of the issues.

This may provide an outlet for the airing of uncomfortable truths about the past but the greater challenge is the federal constitution which divides regional government along ethnic lines.

Respecting ethnic rights while fostering the idea of a nation will demand considerable political and legal sure-footedness.

Presentational grey line

Abiy’s reforms in 2018

Celebrations as border is reopened
Image captionPeople celebrated as the land border between Ethiopia and Eritrea was reopened
  • May – frees thousands of political detainees
  • June – lifts state of emergency
  • July – alongside the Eritrean president declares the end of war between the two nations
  • September – reopens land border with Eritrea
  • October – appoints women to half of ministerial posts
  • November – appoints ex-opposition leader to head electoral commission
Presentational grey line

In the Tigray region, in the north, there have been ominous stirrings.

Although Tigrayans compose only a small percentage of the population they dominated the previous government.

In recent months, prominent Tigrayans in the army, security services, as well as business figures, have been accused of human rights abuses and corruption.

Travelling in Tigray one frequently hears concerns about the alleged marginalisation of the once-powerful group.

Quote: "He represents the kind of tendency to gloss over things... to try to telescope decades into months, years, to rush things"

A former communications minister, Getachew Reda, told me he thought Tigrayans were being turned into scapegoats.

It was as if only Tigrayan leaders were responsible for past abuses under the ruling coalition, he said.

Although still calling himself a friend of Mr Abiy he believes the young leader risks creating a failed state.

“He symbolises the kind of ambition, the kind of courage to storm the heavens that youth would represent.

“But he also represents the kind of tendency to gloss over things, the kind of tendency to try to telescope decades into months, years… to rush things.”

For the moment Mr Abiy has the momentum and no shortage of energy.

Posters of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed are seen on a tuc-tuc in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on November 07, 2018
Image captionPrime Minister Abiy Ahmed plans to steer the nation to elections in 2020

Even in Tigray, the ordinary citizens I spoke to saw him as an inspirational figure.

Elsa Tesfaye is a small-holder farmer who lives close to the border with Eritrea and lost a brother to the war between the two nations.

For her Mr Abiy is the man who brought peace “and I thank him for that”.

‘Revivalist preacher’

She worries about ethnic divisions and whether her son – an engineering student – will be able to work in other parts of the country if the situation deteriorates.

“[The reforms] are great. But it still needs a bit of work. If ethnic conflict… and hate could be removed I would be satisfied.”

Mr Abiy is a devout Pentecostal Christian and there is something of the revivalist preacher in the way he evangelises for his vision. He has the energy, the passion and the certainty.

The question is whether he can prevent an escalation of conflicts without resorting to the repressive methods of the past, and maintain his reformist momentum up to the next elections in 2020.

Presentational grey line

Read more about Ethiopia’s reforms:

Presentational grey line

Before he left Jimma I managed to speak with Mr Abiy again.

He greeted me with a traditional embrace and kiss. This was Mr Abiy being the consummate politician.

The world should look at the example of Ethiopia, he told me, to see how people can live together in peace. Given the vast numbers of displaced it seemed more a statement of ambition than reflective of any current reality.

But on the central question of reform he was adamant.

“Would anything stop you?” I asked.

“Not at all,” he replied with a vehemence that left no room for doubt.

Related from Oromian Economist Sources:-

Abiy Ahmed: The Ethiopian Prime Minister who captured Africa’s imagination, CNN

Click here to read Analysis by Farai Sevenzo, CNN

AFRICAN LEADERSHIP MAGAZINE: BREAKING: PRIME MINISTER ABIY AHMED EMERGES AFRICAN OF THE YEAR 2018 December 15, 2018

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BREAKING: PRIME MINISTER ABIY AHMED EMERGES AFRICAN OF THE YEAR 2018

The African Leadership Magazine Persons of the Year Awards committee has unveiled the winners for different categories in the just concluded polls for the African Leadership Magazine Persons of the Year Awards 2018, with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed resoundingly emerging as the African of the Year 2018, with over 85% of total votes/submissions.  

The keenly contested poll, across 7 different categories, attracted 123,446 votes on our website, 33,000 entries across our social media platforms, and 3400 submissions from both our emails and offline hard copy submissions. Winners shall be decorated and presented with the instruments of honour on the 22nd February 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa, at a colourful ceremony that shall attract a wide spectrum of African policy, diplomatic and business leaders. The winners were unveiled by the Publisher of the Magazine Mr. Ken Giami, at the UK Head Office of the group, after the awards committee working with the editorial team concluded the collation of both online and offline votes and submissions from the over 1 million subscribers / followership base of the publication.

The final winners are:

African of the Year 2018:

H.E. Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali, Prime Minister of Ethiopia – winner

African Female Leader of the Year 2018:

Amina J Mohammed, Deputy Sec. Gen. UN, Nigeria

ALM Person of the Year 2018-Educational Development

Mohammed Indimi, Oriental Energy, Nigeria – Winner

ALM Person of the Year 2018 – Employment Generation

AtikuAbubakar, Nigeria – Winner

ALM Person of the Year 2018 – Political Leadership

President John PombeMagufuli, President of Tanzania – Winner

ALM Person of the Year 2018 – Philanthropy & Charitable Contributions to Society

Tony Elumelu, Heirs Holding, Nigeria – Winner

ALM Young Person of the Year 2018

Bogolo Joy Kenewendo, Minister of Investment, Trade & Industry, Botswana- Winner

The African Leadership Magazine Persons of the Year Awards, which has become the leading vote-based third-party endorsement in the continent, recorded an upsurge of 20% votes from the African Diaspora this year.   In addition to the winners, a special ALM Commendation citation shall be presented to the most distinguished runners up, which includes:

African of the Year Commendation citation:

H.E. SeretseKhama Ian Khama, former President of Botswana

African Female Leader of the Year Commendation citation:

H.E GraçaMachel DBE, South Africa,

ALM Person of the Year -Educational Development Commendation Citaton

Fred Swaniker, African Leadership development Academy, Ghana

ALM Person of the Year Employment Generation Commendation citation

Christo Wiese, Shoprite, South Africa

ALM Person of the Year  – Political Leadership Commendation citation

H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana

ALM Person of the Year  – Philanthropy & Charitable Contributions to Society Commendation citation

Mohamed Al Kettani – CEO Attijariwafa Bank, Morocco,

ALM Young Person of the Year Commendation citation

SanguDelle, CEO, Golden Palm investment, Ghana

The Publisher, Mr. Giami, maintained that, all the nominees are deserving of the crown -considering their personal contributions to the continent’s growth and development. In his words, ” the nominees have demonstrated great faith in the Africa project, and are ‘walking their talk’ in their communities. They all are true lovers of Africa, determinedly contributing, sometimes amidst very difficult circumstances, but undoubtedly making their communities a better place for its people. ” –

The African Leadership Magazine Persons of the Year which is in its 7th year, is an annual award reserved for distinguished Africans, who are considered to have blazed the trail in the year under review. A shortlist of nominees are selected from results gathered via a Call for nomination – traditionally promoted via a paid online and offline campaigns across the continent, Europe, and the Americas. The call for nomination is the first step in a multi-phased process.

This year, the selection committee considered, among others, four broad themes: – Africans whose activities, policies and actions have contributed to ‘Investments into Africa’s young people, jobs & wealth creation; promotion sustainable peace & development, delivering of democratic values; & the promotion of Africa’s image globally’; in arriving at their decisions. Sustainable peace is a precursor to development in the continent, hence the need to encourage state and non state actors to contribute towards the pursuit of sustainable peace on the continent.

About African Leadership Magazine:

The African Leadership magazine is published by African Leadership (UK) Limited, a company registered in the United Kingdom. The magazine focuses on bringing the best of Africa to a global audience, telling the African story from an African perspective; while evolving solutions to peculiar challenges being faced by the continent today.

Since its maiden edition, African Leadership Magazine has grown to become a leading pan-African flagship leadership-focused publication read by over 1, 000, 000 targeted international investors, business executives, government policy makers, and multilateral agencies across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, Europe, and the US. It is distributed at major international and African Leadership events around the world. The magazine has over 900,000 subscribers/Followers on Facebook and a virile readership on other social media platforms. It is a niche and unbiased African voice born out of a desire to ameliorate a lot of Africans by focusing on individuals and corporates that are known for their legacy-based approach to leadership.

Ethiopia’s New Leader Relies on Support from Youth November 3, 2018

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7 million strong freedom-loving #Oromo have converged onHulluuqoo Kormaa, Dirree Masqalaa (Meskel Square) in Finfinnee to welcom OLF leaders, 15 sept. 2018#OromoProtests, Oromo students movement for freedom

Ethiopia’s New leader Relies on Support from Youth

Reuters


They were tortured for their political beliefs. They saw friends shot dead by security forces. They were forced to cut their hair and give up other cultural traditions. This year, they say, they caused a revolution.

Young men from Ethiopia’s Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group, proudly declare “we won” when describing their role in the rise of 42-year-old reformer Abiy Ahmed, also an Oromo, to become prime minister.

Across the Oromiya region, many of those young men claiming victory now want Abiy to deliver – and fast. The “Qeerroo”, an Oromo term meaning “bachelor” adopted by politically active young men, are demanding answers.

Will there be justice for friends who died during strikes and protests over the past three years? Will their rights as Oromos be respected? When will Abiy’s pledges of change help their impoverished communities?

Whether Abiy can answer those demands without favouring his home region over the rest of the country will dictate whether the young men remain an asset to him or become a dangerous liability. Before he came to power, the Oromo youths had already demonstrated they could shut down parts of the country with protests and strikes, and that pressure on the ruling EPRDF culminated in the resignation of Abiy’s predecessor in February.

Even as they celebrate Abiy, the Oromo youth are still frustrated with life under the EPRDF, a one-time Marxist-Leninist movement which has controlled nearly every aspect of Ethiopians’ lives since seizing power 27 years ago.

Frustration has spilled into violence. In September, Oromo youths were reported by Amnesty International to have carried out deadly mob attacks on other ethnic groups near Addis Ababa. Police said 28 died.

Elsewhere in Oromiya, young men are starting to challenge the state. They want local officials sacked and have booed them out of rallies.

“I appreciate Abiy for the reform he brought, and blame him for not removing those corrupt and evil killers from their positions and bringing them to court,” said unemployed accountant Dambal Dejene, 26, at a rally in the town of Woliso.

Abiy became prime minister in April after the EPRDF decided reforms were essential for its survival.

His appointment was a small step towards breaking the power of the Tigrayan elite who have controlled the state since they took power in 1991 and founded the EPRDF as a coalition with other ethnic political parties.

Youths wearing traditional Oromo costumes attend an Oromo Liberation Front rally asked what they want from the government, more than a dozen young Oromo men told Reuters:

“Freedom.”

“No more torture.”

“Justice.”

“Economic opportunity. Jobs.”

“End to corruption and unfair land deals.”

“Respect for our culture. Dignity.”

“Democracy.”

“Free and fair elections.”

A man wearing traditional Oromo costume rides a horse during an Oromo Liberation Front rally.

Abiy announced reforms several months ago but these have stalled in part due to a spike in ethnic violence.

More than one million people have been forced to flee their homes since Abiy took office. In the most serious violence, Oromo communities have clashed with other groups.

Acknowledging a breakdown of the rule of law, the EPRDF said last month: “Anarchy is witnessed in the country.” In a speech to parliament, Abiy said: “Lawlessness is the norm these days. It is something that is testing the government.” He has reshuffled his cabinet and formed a “Ministry of Peace”.

Gelana Emana (right), 36, the leader of a group of politically active youth from the Oromo ethnic group, sits in a cafe with fellow activists Alemu Kumarra (center), 26, and Dinaol Dandaa, 27.

Some young Oromos seem emboldened to settle old ethnic scores, said Felix Horne, Ethiopia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Since Abiy came to power, things have changed,” he said. “The ethno-nationalist narrative is much more dominant than it used to be … a lot of the young Oromos are not willing to take ‘second place’,” Horne said.

“The youth have already shown that they can be very influential. How they choose to be influential is an important question,” said a senior western diplomat in Addis Ababa. “Their support, or non-support, for the reform agenda will directly impact how quickly and how well the reform agenda succeeds.”

Abiy’s chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokesman for Abiy’s political party said changes were needed at the grassroots.

“Anyone who was slapping you, shouting at you, seeing that face may dissatisfy the people. We feel it,” said Taye Dendea, public affairs head for the Oromo Democratic Party.

He requested patience from the youths while the ruling coalition implements change.

Magarsa Kanaa teaches in his classroom.

But like many young Oromos, Magarsa Kanaa, a 28-year-old teacher, said he is still very upset at the crimes committed by security forces against his friends.

He named one who was shot dead at a protest last year, and said he and other young men “are starting a committee to seek justice for him and other guys”.

Magarsa Kanaa stands on a hill.

Proud to be wearing his hair in an Afro, he spoke bitterly of how the government had not allowed Oromos to practice their culture. Men his age, he explained, like to wear their hair in the shape of the “Odaa”, the Oromo word for the sycamore tree that is significant as the site of rituals and meetings to resolve disputes.

Instead, he said: “We were forced to cut our hair.”

Activist Jawar Mohammed promotes an “Oromo first” ideology. Click here for the images

The 32-year-old with 1.4 million Facebook followers returned to Ethiopia in August from the United States. He told Reuters that although he used social media to coordinate Oromo youths in strikes and protests, he also “built a solid ground network” in every town in the region. Jawar is the movement’s hero.

“Jawar Mohammed is my pride,” said Dambal, the accountant. “He took the Oromo struggle to the next level. We were lacking someone to lead the youth … he made us line up all together all over Oromiya and win.”

Interviewed in a villa in Addis Ababa surrounded by bodyguards provided by the government, Jawar justified Oromo nationalism: “When the state particularly represses an ethnic identity, you are forced to defend it.”

But his “Qeerroo” are disciplined, he said, and will stick to non-violent resistance.

At a rally in the town of Kemise, north of the capital, Jawar told thousands of young men chanting “Qeerroo’s Father is here!”: “Obey Abiy. Don’t be emotional in order to help the reforms.” But on social media, his language is often less restrained.

Speaking to Reuters, he argued that Ethiopia is experiencing a “promising and terrifying” moment where the “power of the people” is rising and the state’s legitimacy has collapsed.

“People power” – particularly from the Oromo – is a strength for Abiy, but rebuilding and controlling the state is an urgent problem, Jawar said.

“If (Abiy) doesn’t move quickly to take full control of state power, so that he can use it to answer some of the demands of the youth … these people will turn against him.

“They think this is their government … So it’s just a ticking time bomb. We’ve gotta move fast,” he said, referencing elections that are due in 2020. He said Abiy “has good intentions, but he has no plan, no deadline.”

Older Oromo politicians agree.

“The youth moved the struggle we have been undertaking for the last 50 years one step forward,” said Merera Gudina, 62, leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress. “The PM makes a lot of promises. If he cannot walk his talk, then he’ll face the youth, definitely.”