Ethiopia's philosopher king
By Hundessa Abdul
April 4, 2018

It is safe to say that April 2, 2018 will go down in the history of Ethiopia as a day when for the first time executive power transferred peacefully from one hand to another. Never mind that it was within the ruling party but many take the new sheriff in town as a product of popular uprising. In the current state of affairs where TPLF/EPRDF successfully managed to incapacitate the opposition, Dr Abiy is the best that the country can hope for. It was that rare occasion in decades a nation seemed to be united, at least for a day.

The newly elected Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed didn’t disappoint either. He made such a remarkable speech that it was one of the most conciliatory speeches ever heard from that podium, a place where victors have been overplaying their bragging rights to the extent of invincibility. The new PM was unequivocal in mentioning the country by name, as opposed to his predecessors who preferred “people of our country.” The apology for the loss of life of young activists and protesters his party used to dub “criminal thugs” and “terrorists” is timely and attests to his magnanimity.

Not only was there a call for opposition parties but the PM made clear his intentions to make amends with Eritrea. The tribute to his late mother and the new first lady, Zenash Tayachew, was so personal that it reminds all politics, at the end of the day, is about the dreams and aspirations of individuals. He rightfully called it “unprecedented” for that chamber.

While the outgoing PM Hailemariam Desalegn cannot shake off his image as the most inconsequential, if not the weakest, leader ever, he can be remembered for presiding over a well orchestrated transition. Hailemariam along with former first lady Roman Tesfaye, showed around the PM office in what seems to be straight out of the White House playbook minus the planes to whisk away the execs.

Two awkward moments in that otherwise well-orchestrated procession were: the life size picture of the embodiment of authoritarianism lurking from the background; and the judge who presided over the swearing in is infamous for his politically charged rulings.

While the close-ups were not as generous to show us who was in attendance, apart from the obvious members of parliament, religious leaders and members of the diplomatic community, Abinet Gebremeskel and former minister Haile Asegde probably were sitting for the ghosts of Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi somewhere from Saudi prisons.

Finally, after different kind of narrations on the biography of the Prime Minister now there seems to be a consensus and the party’s spokesperson Shiferaw Shigute has read all the details. While they tried their best to get all the pieces together and construct a bio, still somewhere something doesn’t seem to add up. It is highly unlikely a boy from Jimma would join TPLF/EPRDF when he is barely 15.  However, the 42-year-old will not be judged by those minor details. While anticipations are building up, he shouldn’t be expected to perform miracles. Leaving aside the fairy tales of “double digit” economic growth or making the country a middle income one in the next couple years, protecting the lives of civilians should be the first step in the arduous task looming ahead.

 


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