Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been praised for ending the long-term conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia and earned the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing the 20-year logger to a close. The war cost both countries considerable amounts of resources and casualties until the conflict finally came to a closed agreement in 2018.
A rapid rise to fame
The marginalized ethnic group of the Oromo, of which Abiy is also a part, turned hopeful attention to the leader in expectation for greater political inclusion. The prime minister responded to his elected position with a period of rapid action that saw the release of political prisoners, independent media restrictions lifted, and exiled opposition groups returning to the country. Despite his best efforts, though, ethnic clashes and attacks continued across the country, leading to excessive amounts of people having to flee their homes, and the assassinations of prominent figures escalated.
A lot of questions
Once the euphoria of his appointment died down, was it simply a matter of time before the long-lived tensions in the country became too much and revealed the man beneath the youthful enthusiasm? His partial opposition boycott in the electoral polls but victorious swearing-in to exultant cheering by crowds and African leaders only seemed to mask deeper currents of division in Ethiopia. He's faced accusations of repression and human rights abuses in his ruling political party, the jailing of opponents, and the silencing of journalists. His failure to successfully navigate the tensions that have held the population hostage has proven that the exuberant leader might not have realized what he was inheriting in the deep-seated fragility of protests and demands of the Ethiopian people. Attempting to negate the results of 60-plus years of political division would take considerable skill, which seems to lack in his decision to create a political party that excluded anyone with opposing views. It has now turned to an unsuccessful battle of advocating for united liberality while consolidating power for himself.
The so-called 'darling of the international community' has crushed his revolutionist image by driving crisis groups from the country without explanation and stirring the beginnings of a civil war with visibly armed militia fighters riding into Amhara. Abiy's appeal for unity is discarded by views that he betrayed the Oromo nationalist cause. The tipping point emerged when Abiy the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front. Its replacement, the pan-Ethiopian Prosperity Party, reportedly has little chance of standing up against nationalist parties, further inciting oppression and centralization of power. Accusations of war crimes swirl while the world asks why Ethiopia is at war with itself. The military campaign began in Tigray a year ago, and with fighters turning inward, the country is on the verge of collapse.
The T.P.L.F group of political rebels have made Abiy's job a difficult one. Once part of the dominating government, his new office as prime minister is at odds with the group that's ruled Ethiopia for almost three decades. What is a man to do in such a situation? While opinions vary, setting about to drain the group of its power has infuriated the group, which has since taken to its stronghold in Tigray. The defiant action of the T.P.L.F to go ahead with regional parliamentary elections previously postponed by Abiy and military attack on Tigray to steal its weapons has forced the launch of a military offensive against Tigrayan leadership. The growing violence in the country pushed Abiy Ahmed to resort to his inside cyber-security training, so received as part of his military involvement in an information network security agency and proceeded to shut down the internet and phone lines on multiple occasions. In addition, groups of suspects were arrested and later released without a trial. It's chaotic, to say the least.
What facts remain? The small group of militia Tigrayans that set to fight the country's dictatorship as one of the marginalized groups of society had risen to the most powerful rebel force in the country and led an alliance that squashed the government in 1991. When the country reached stability after the head of the T.P.L.F passed away in 2012, the country began to show signs of flourishing, yet systematic repression was still in place. Abiy Ahmed's appointment saw an attempt to right the wrongs of the previous years and consolidate power by creating a political party that excluded the Tigrayans. With the T.P.L.F still controlling the Tigray regional government, the battle of wills has escalated to a looming bloodbath of former political and military leaders. Meanwhile, children are malnourished, food aid is being looted, and relief workers cannot access certain areas.
There are varying views of Abiy Ahmed's role in everything and whether it's a help or a hindrance. However, it's clear that there are many factors to consider, and the world waits to see if Ethiopia's prime minister rises or falls and what will remain of the country in his wake.