Abiy Ahmed: 2020 Elections the Real Test
April 2, 2019 (Ezega.com) -- Today marks a year since Abiy’s appointment as the Prime Minister. His appointment came after the resignation of his predecessor, HaileMariam Desalegn, to calm the unrest and pave way for the much-needed reforms. Much has changed since then, for better or worse for the country.
Shortly after assuming office, Abiy lifted the state of emergency, freed political prisoners, allowed dissidents to return to Ethiopia, and restored several websites and news channels that were previously banned.
One of the most significant developments was his acceptance of the Algiers accord, ending a two-decade stand-off with neighboring Eritrea. His diplomatic endeavors have reshaped diplomatic engagements in the Horn of Africa.
While delivering his speech, Abiy pledged to ensure there was peace, stability, and sustainable economic growth. He’s managed to open up the country’s economic space, but peace and stability is still a work in progress.
He’s also ensured the youth and women are included in the socio-economic and political affairs of the country.
But his real test will be the forthcoming elections - his ability to provide the necessary conditions for free and fair elections, including security, stability and unity.
Much of the progress achieved is as a result of constant pressure from the citizens, as well as the government reformers (such as Abiy Ahmed and Lemma Megersa) willingness to explore different perspectives.
But that doesn’t mean that Abiy’s first term wasn’t marred by pitfalls. There were plenty, some of them grave.
Uncertainty still a concern a year later:
Though the premier’s performance has marked a significant departure from previous undesirable practices, many are of the opinion Ethiopia is presently dangerous. As the political space opens up, people now have an opportunity to voice historical grievances.
Some of the issues touch on land, identity, and governance. And many of these grievances are settled along ethnic divisions; including violent conduct and forceful displacement of people. The government has also faced enormous challenges in dealing with the issue that’s threatening to derail the gains made.
Ethnic violence has been witnessed in different parts of the country as security breakdown happens. The local governments have been absent while the situation worsens. Social media is awash with hate messages and insecurity has forced millions to be internally displaced.
A government run as a one-man show?
Abiy hails from the Oromo ethnic group of Ethiopia, and he is the leader of the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP). He also chairs the EPRDF coalition. The Oromo’s make up 35% of the country’s population. Abiy Ahmed has made tremendous progress, but there are some laws that are still stifling the country’s political space.
Apart from that, his reforms have left people pondering on the future of the ruling coalition. EPRDF has a democratic model in which a consensus must be reached by each member party before any economic or political reform is executed.
But as Abebe Aynete, a research fellow at the Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies (EFRSS) tells the Aljazeera, Abiy’s latest actions go against EPRDF’s previous consensus-based, bureaucratic methods. His moves have created unease within the ruling coalition, creating a perception the country is run like a one-man show.
In Ethiopia’s radical transformation, the TPLF has been cast aside. Subsequently, the Amhara and Oromo political entities under the EPRDF are under pressure from previous ethnic nationalist youth groups. In this regard, next year’s elections will really test the premier.
Abiy is also walking a tight rope, trying to please Oromo activists who are trying to reclaim historical rights over Addis Ababa, while assuring everyone the city doesn’t belong to one ethnic group.
Abiy has been treading carefully while governing a country entangled in a matrix of religious and ethnic identities. A nation in which inefficiency, discrimination, nostalgia, and dissatisfaction run high.
Experts argue problems like the status of the capital, the ethnically based system of governance, the role of the special security agencies accused of gross human rights violations, the current constitution, among others can only be solved by a democratically elected leadership.
Contrary to what was witnessed in the two previous national elections, Abiy must ensure Ethiopia holds free and fair elections. It’s the only way to address the concerns raised by the different opposing interest groups.
The outcome of the 2020 elections will determine the future of Ethiopia’s politics as well as Ahmed’s political path. The year 2020 will test Abiy’s commitment to democracy and his ability to unite a fractured nation, calm tensions, restore law and order, and build upon the progress he’s made.
By Solomon O. for Ezega News