30 March 2019

Ethiopia: It Wasn't a Dull Year

Photo: Al Jazeera screenshot
PM Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki (screenshot).
analysis

By the general public, academics, observers, detractors, supporters and media outlets, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has been described as reformist, patriotic, populist, controversial, evasive, bullheaded, ambitious, narcissistic and even insensitive. Few have been able to argue, however, that his year-long premiership was dull.

By the general public, academics, observers, detractors, supporters and media outlets, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has been described as reformist, patriotic, populist, controversial, evasive, bullheaded, ambitious, narcissistic and even insensitive. Few have been able to argue, however, that his year-long premiership was dull.

He came on to the scene as a less known member of the EPRDF, largely under the shadow of the Oromo Democratic Party's then chairperson, Lemma Megersa. This was until a leadership reshuffle and a majority vote by the party coalition's council catapulted him to the Premiership. It only took the now famous inaugural speech, with its myriad promises of reform, on April 2, 2018, for him to be afforded public acceptance in the first months of his time in office.

By the general public, academics, observers, detractors, supporters and media outlets, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has been described as reformist, patriotic, populist, controversial, evasive, bullheaded, ambitious, narcissistic and even insensitive.

His legacy is more pronounced in the political and diplomatic realm. He struck a historic peace deal with Eritrea's President Issayas Afeworki after almost two decades of stalemate. He also extended an olive branch to opposition parties, pardoning and dropping charges brought by his government against dissedent politicians and journalists opened the political space up for any group or party willing to participate peacefully.

Abiy has been particularly proud of his gender-balanced ministerial cabinet appointments and the ongoing dialogue with opposition parties to reach a consensus on the institutionalisation of power.

By the general public, academics, observers, detractors, supporters and media outlets, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has been described as reformist, patriotic, populist, controversial, evasive, bullheaded, ambitious, narcissistic and even insensitive. Few have been able to argue, however, that his year-long premiership was dull.

His premiership though has been clouded by lawlessness and internal displacement in almost every region of the country. Ethiopia had the largest number of internally displaced people in the world last year. The compounding instability has led to the loss of lives and property and the postponement of an already belated national census.

If there was speculation last year shortly after the Prime Minister took office on whether Abiy would be a reformer true to his words and could address the nation's mountainous challenges, no one has a clear answer yet.

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