Recognized with the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed’s prudential diplomacy brings hope, peace, and progress to a region engulfed in a blood bath and turmoil for decades.
- Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed has transformed the dreadful and grim condition that “the Horn of Africa” saw for decades.
- His efforts ended a 2-decade old bloody rivalry with Eritrea which cost more than 80,000 lives.
- Abiy Ahmed liberalized Ethiopia’s economy and signed a number of pacts to strengthen trade relationships in the Horn of Africa.
- Ahmed unbanned opposition, facilitated the release of thousands of prisoners both internally and externally
Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed: The face of ‘New’ Africa
The peacemaking and conciliating efforts made by the Ethiopian PM Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali triggered a change. It brought a wind of hope to the dreadful and grim condition that “the Horn of Africa” saw for decades. His work is a benchmark for the entire globe. He initiated the efforts to resolve the firestorm with Eritrea over the ownership of a border town, named Badme. A stalemate war which killed over 80,000 people with no gain to any side.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s efforts for ending a 2-decade old bloody rivalry with Eritrea were recognized with the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
PM Ahmed is the youngest leader in the African continent. Right after taking charge, PM Ahmed faced mounting challenges to bring politico-economic reforms to amend the socio-economic condition in Ethiopia. Further, there was needed a resolution and repair of ties with neighboring Eritrea. The two countries have witnessed extreme bloodbath in a deadlock since 1998 following the Ethiopia-Eritrea war.
A New Wind of Hope in Africa
Analysts say that the authoritarian Government of Eritrea controls its citizens just like North Korea. It fears broader reforms in political power may change the landscape. However, both the countries opened roads for border crossings in 2018. But the Eritrean Government again closed its border soon.
The UN in 2018 acclaimed the move as a “new wind of hope” in Africa.
2015 UN human rights report found the Eritrean Government guilty of human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings, and forced labor. It left no room for any opposition in Eritrea’s landscape. The US found Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed a significant player in the region to deal with the “war on terror”. Consequently, it supported Ethiopia with aid and military assistance.
PM Ahmed’s Conciliatory Measures
In 2017, as head of the Oromo Democratic Party Secretariat, he mediated a new alliance between two ethnic communities Oromo and Amhara. In the same year, he also took care of 1 million displaced Oromo people from the Somali region. The three years of “blood and guts” protest against the authoritarian Government forced the then Ethiopian PM Hailmariam Desalegn to resign.
Thus, Ethiopia saw a new coalition government headed by Abiy Ahmed. Ahmed speeded up the promised task of liberalizing the bureaucratic and state-controlled economy. He also unbanned many political parties and arrested or dismissed those officials accused of murder, corruption and other impermissible activities. Moreover, he restored access to websites that had been blocked earlier.
Keeping Humanity Paramount
In May 2018, 7,600 prisoners were pardoned. They included 304 prisoners sentenced to the death penalty on terrorism charges. Ahmed also released over 500 detainees including many people from opposition parties. In October 2018, to bring gender justice in the country, Ahmed reserved 50% of the cabinet seats for female ministers. He also brought down the number of ministries from 28 to 20.
Later that year, he reshuffled the cabinet and brought women to the forefront. Politicians such as Sahle-Work-Zewda became the first female President. Aisha Mohammed Musa became the first female Defence Minister. Billene Seyoum Woldeyes became the first female press secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office. Muferiat Kamil was put in-charge of Federal Police and Intelligence Agencies.
Economic Reforms of Abiy Ahmed bringing cooperation to Africa
PM Ahmed needed to maintain and improve the foreign exchange reserves. He also needed to deal with increasing foreign debts. Thus, he planned and took pragmatic measures to save the Ethiopian economy. Consequently, in June 2018, he announced the intention to liberalize the economy. Ahmed decided to privatize state-owned enterprises like telecommunication, aviation, electricity, and logistics where the state enjoys a monopoly. He also planned to bring foreign investment.
He plans to fully privatize those enterprises which are less critical for the private companies to adopt and invest. These include hotels, industrial parks, railway operators, sugar manufacturing and various other manufacturing industries.
Abiy Ahmed’s Diplomacy of Change
In May 2018, Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed visited Saudi Arabia and ensured the release of Ethiopian prisoners detained there. He also cracked an agreement with the Government Djibouti. Ethiopia clinched a vital equity stake in Port of Djibouti and also a say on port management and development. In reverse, Djibouti was allowed to have a stake in Ethiopian Airlines and Ethino Telecom.
Similarly, Ethiopia signed an agreement with Sudan and got an ownership stake in the Port of Sudan. He also signed an agreement with President of Kenya as part of LAPSSET (Lamu Port and Lami-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor). This helped initiate the construction of the Ethiopian logistics facility at Lamu Port.
Reconciliation with Eritrea
Ahmed then set forth to normalize the Ethiopian-Eritrea relation. Normalization and improved relation with the neighbor also gave Ethiopia the opportunity to use Massawa and Asseb Ports of Eritrea. In June 2018, he took a big step in bringing peace to Africa. Ahmed met President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, President Salva Kiir of South Sudan and rebel leaders for peace talks.
In an increasingly hostile world, Ethiopian PM Ahmed ended a 20-year-old bloody War.
He worked to broker peace with Eritrea, and South Sudan. He also performed a transition role in bringing the “Draft Constitutional Declaration” in the Republic of Sudan. However, Eritrea has a border dispute with both Sudan and Djibouti. But he improved relations of Ethiopia with these countries. PM Ahmed thus provides a chance for Eritrea to go for peace and stability.
PM Ahmed’s present challenges at hand
Challenges are also transpiring within the ruling coalition especially by those who feel disempowered. Furthermore, there are new challenges from ethnically based parties eagerly waiting to compete in the upcoming elections.
The opposition is demanding more political freedom, and resources. Furthermore, Ahmed needs to sort out ethnic conflicts in different parts of Ethiopia.
Since PM Abiy Ahmed’s election, over 1.5 million Ethiopians have been internally displaced people across the country. These people have faced ethnic violence. Among them, 8 lakhs Ethiopian Gedeos left their homes amid persecution by OLF (Oromo Liberation Front).
Towards the vision of Peace in the Horn of Africa
Ethiopia is a heterogeneous society with various ethnic and religious groups, primarily Christian and Islamic. But it has been facing both inter and intra-religious conflicts for decades. Ahmed is continuously trying to resolve and bring peace.
The current challenge for PM Ahmed is to resolve the issue of three million displaced people. Moreover, he needs to create more jobs for the youth. It is not an easy task. Especially, to bring development to a country also facing repercussions of long-term violence.
- Abiy Ahmed worked to broker peace with Eritrea, and South Sudan and also played a transition role in the “Draft Constitutional Declaration” in the Republic of Sudan.
- However, since PM Abiy Ahmed’s election, over 1.5 million Ethiopians have been internally displaced people across the country.
- Ethiopia has been facing both inter and intra-religious conflicts for decades which Ahmed is trying to resolve and bring peace.
- Ahmed’s next challenge is to bring jobs and development to a country facing repercussions of long-term violence.