Two years ago, Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian prime minster, was not where he is today. In a country that has been divided along ethnic, political, and religious fault-lines, he miraculously received the support of overwhelming majority of Ethiopians.
The world leaders didn’t take time to heep praises on Abiy. They gave him the money he badly needed to pay salaries. Some cancelled foreign debts the country owes, and others postponed them.
The reason behind the unconditional support for Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed was the hope that he would transform the country that has known nothing in history but dictatorship, civil war, and poverty into democracy. The hope, in Ethiopia and around the world alike, was that he would turn around the country that was on the verge of collapse and write a new chapter. The expectation was too high.
However, the hopes the world placed on Abiy two years ago do not exist today. Arbitrary arrests, killings, and disappearances of political leaders and journalists are common practices. Government’s unconstitutional postponement of the national elections under the pretext of COVID-19 pandemic dashed the hopes of Ethiopians who expected a real change.
Opposition parties and even many in his own political party suspect Abiy of trying to reincarnate the old feudal system that defines Ethiopian history, the system that prompted the student movement of the 1960s and rebel movements thereafter which succeeded in overthrowing the governments of King Hailesillasie and Mengistu Hailemariam respectively.
Abiy Ahmed’s biggest sin is not only that he admires past kings who embody all kinds of injustices. To many people’s surprise, he erected statues for them at the National Palace. Abiy Ahmed’s opponents also accuse him of promoting anti-multinational federal narratives in his speeches. More than once, he openly condemned the very nationalism that brought him to power.
Abiy is now facing the fiercest opposition in Oromia, the biggest federal state in the country. The protests that has erupted in Oromia and Addis Ababa following the assassination of Haacaaluu Hindeessaa, a singer and activist, has widened the crack between his government and the people. The protesters are pointing their fingers at the government for the killing of the singer who inspired millions of people in Ethiopia.
The protests are weakening the already weak economy. The prices of food items in Addis Ababa and other major cities have more than doubled following the “stay-home” and “market boycott” campaigns by the Qeerroos, the young people in Oromia. Fuel depots and storages are critically low.
Abiy has tried all his best to control the ever growing protests against his government. The country is already under state of emergency due to COVID-19. He deployed all security apparatuses including the military, federal and local police, and militias. But all these don’t seem to control the situation!