(Desta Kahsay: ENA)
Over the last three years Ethiopia had to sustain a number of sporadic protests in some parts of the country that resulted in substantial destruction of public and private properties, which forced the state to declare two sets of declaration of state of emergency throughout the whole country.
In spite of the regrettable loss of lives and damages on properties the protests, had forced the executive committees of EPRDF to extensively deliberate on actions to be taken to promote further reforms to effectively respond to public demands that had to be met to quell public dissatisfaction and grievance. The appointment of a new Premier followed by the resignation of former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegen ushered a new era in the political system of the country. The newly appointed Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed was tasked with stabilizing the country by taking swift measures, which would help to ascertain good governance and democracy in the country.
During his inaugural speech at the House of Peoples Representatives, the Prime Minister among other things called for peace, love, forgiveness, national unity, and expansion of the democratic space in the country, the rule of law, economic development and promoting peace with the neighboring countries. The Prime Minister specifically promised to solve the Ethio-Eritrea conflict that lingered over almost two decades. The Prime Minister’s speech won a swift national optimism and global acclamation as a new trend in the development of a new democratic order in the country.
Promoting National Harmony and Unity
In his speech at the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR), the Premier noted that “our identity is built in such a way that it is inseparable, it is threaded in a manner that cannot be untangled. It is integrated of love.”
Not only did he say that but also nailed what has now become the best quote of Ethiopian unity among almost all citizens is “We are Ethiopians when we are alive and become Ethiopia as we die.”
Cognizant to that, days after his appointment, the Premier traveled to Somali, Oromia, Tigray, Benishangull Gumuz, Amhara, Gambela, Southern Nations, Nationalities and People, and Afar Regional States, where he held discussions that had a tremendously impact on rebuilding the spirit and strong bond of unity.
Moreover, Prime Minister Abiy conducted a number of public meetings in which he addressed the public and various sectors of the social fabric on current and relevant issues related to economic development, unity and promotion of collective attitude towards the well being of the entire peoples of Ethiopia. He facilitated the compensation of 20 million Birr for a young boy, who was seriously injured during a medical operation in Saudi Arabia.
Widening the Political Space
As expressively provided in the Ethiopian constitution, respect for human and democratic rights, especially to free expression, assembly and organization by upholding the constitution that emerged from this understanding of freedom, he elaborated and made crystal clear that “in a democratic system, the first and last thing that ought to be maintained is that of entertaining differences of opinion by listening to each other.”
Abiy who said “We will strongly and steadfastly continue with our efforts to build a democratic system in which the voices of all Ethiopians are heard and everyone is granted equal participation” some days ago has proved to be so by dropping charges and releasing thousands of prisoners including bloggers, politically affiliated individuals.
Welcoming his bold reformist move to widen the political space many contending political leaders have returned home from overseas to peacefully take part in the democratic process unfolding in the country. Abiy’s administration facilitated the abrogation of a proclamation that listed a number of political forces who were listed as terrorists by the HPR including the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), Arbegnoch Ginbot 7. This was a critical measure taken by the government as a way of widening the political space in the country.
Both state and private media have gained relative freedom in reporting including the various human rights violations inflicted on prisoners in correctional facilities. Consequently, the government to carrying out its constitutional responsibility of preserving the rule of law has taken the violators to the courts of law.
Likewise the Premier, based on performance and merit of the individuals, has reshuffled the cabinet while long serving government officials were made to retire in honor by decorating them with the highest order of medals for the service to their country.
Rectifying the Nation’s National Security and police forces is also part of the restructuring process of the Premier in his efforts to ensure focused national security services for public safety and national security. Accordingly, the Prime Minister appointed new blood in the system to conduct a novel national security and federal police forces.
Diplomacy, Normalization of Relations
Consistent to the country’s foreign policy, Abiy gave due emphasis in heightening the existing bilateral relationship with neighboring countries by traveling to Djibouti, Kenya, Sudan and Somalia. Furthermore, he has made an official visit to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that helped to boost up ties with the Arab countries.
His official visit and the talks he held with leaders of the neighboring countries has brought numerous significant diplomatic achievements including the signing of new agreements related to port services with Sudan and Djibouti, further strengthening the implementation of already signed agreements and the release and returning of more than 3, 000 Ethiopian prisoners detained in Sudan, Djibouti, Kenya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Emphasizing on the age old peace loving gesture of Ethiopians and their notable role in Pan-Africanism, the establishment of the Organization of African Union as well as regional global matters of peace and security, Abiy agreeing to unconditionally implement the Algiers Agreement and the ruling of the Ethio-Eritrea Border Commission (EEBC) officially expressed his readiness to peacefully resolve the two decade old border stand-off.
Eritrean Delegation led by Foreign Affairs Minister, Osman Saleh, and Yemane Gebreab, President Isaias Afewerki’s Adviser landed in the capital Addis Ababa not too long after President Isaias Afewerki welcomed Prime Minister Abiy’s invitation for peace talks.
The Prime Minister took a historic and bold action, for the first time in two decades by traveling to Asmara and was warmly welcomed by President Isaias Afewerki. To many it was a complete surprise but Abiy was keeping his promises of heralding the end of war between the two countries and have signed a Joint Declaration code named the “Asmera Declaration” that includes promoting close cooperation in political, economic, social, cultural, and security, resuming diplomatic, transport, trade and telecommunication ties, implementation of border decision and work together towards ensuring regional peace and development.
Starting measures to move the two countries from war-time formation to peace-time orientation can be seen as a diplomatic flexibility, which is incalculable prospective for Ethio-Eritrea and beyond. The move driving on a fast track for peace and cooperation, which telephone links already restored and debut flight of Ethiopian Airlines scheduled for 18th July 2018 after a lull of almost two decades.
United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres during his visit to Addis Ababa last Monday said “We feel a wind blowing in the direction of peace,” referring to recent developments such as the historic visit by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to Eritrea, as well as peace talks on South Sudan, where conflict has raged since 2013.
“All this gives us hope that the African continent will be moving more and more in the right direction in peace and security,” he added, telling delegates that the UN could not afford to fail in its dealings with the continent.
Economic Austerity Measures
Adherent to the policies and strategies of a developmental state that the country has been implementing for close to three decades and in the eye of reviving the economic prospect and sustain the fast economic growth as well as encourage the involvement of foreign and domestic private sectors, Abiy made a move to fully or partially sell shares of some public enterprise namely Ethiopian Airlines, Ethio telecom, Logistics, Sugar factories as well as electric power production.
By way of solving issues related to dwindling foreign currency reserves of the country, Prime Minister Abiy masterminded a loan and grant agreement between Ethiopia and UAE worth 3 billion USD.
To put it in a nut shell, the 41-year-old former intelligence officer Dr. Abiy Ahmed who was elected Prime Minister in early April, has carried out his pledges and promises in bringing the vitality of togetherness within the nation and beyond so far.
Meanwhile, opening a new window of hope to the political scenario by releasing thousands of political prisoners, lifting of political restrictions, ending a state of emergency, initiating a historic diplomatic outreach to neighboring countries only in his first 100 days gained the attention and appreciation of countries, leaders, and international organizations such as the AU, UN, EU, and IGAD.