Politically defeated PM Abiy increasingly relying on show of force

Mekuria Gize

When PM Abiy gave his press release on March 27, 2019, since his recent political fiasco as a result of his inability to tell Addis Abebans that they have the right to administer themselves, some of us wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt even though the whole facts were not stated (e.g. Gedeo issue, displacement issues and the PM’s ways of handling). With all its shortcomings, PM Abiy covered many issues and explained himself well.  PM Abiy has a very twisted understanding of respecting democracy and keeping law and order. If he makes bad people accountable for displacing others, he thinks he is on their way which is quite funny unless someone is in favour of ethnic cleansing by design. Ironically blocking peaceful assembly in the capital Addis Ababa is considered keeping law and order by PM Abiy, a very big paradox.

One of the issues PM Abiy reminded us was that every Ethiopian should support the plea of Oromo farmers in the outskirts of Addis Abeba suffering from losing their land. It is right they should be compensated. However, PM Abiy failed to tell the root cause of the farmers’ suffering. It was the political position of his party and TPLF that put farmers to lead an agonising life. His party nationalized all land and made farmers of Ethiopia as tenants of the government, no better than the practice 50 years ago under the monarchy. If PM Abiy really cares about farmers and his  aim is to compensate them let us make them owners of their land, and  let them be compensated based on the free market values. The PM also must understand that there are thousands displaced from the center of the city, perhaps much higher than the number of Oromos in the outskirts. In Addis Ababa outskirts the population density is not that high to put the number of displaced higher than the centrally displaced citizens. How about the millions of farmers displaced outside of Addis Ababa in other regions?  All these are answered by nationwide land policy. So revisit it as quickly as possible.

The PM is clearly focused in his Oromo mentality when he says Finfine, Finfine and Finfine. He is motivated in the story of Finfine being an Oromo city. But what PM Abiy forgetting is there are over 4 million people who are concerned of this story. Regarding industry pollution problems the best position is to put an environment law that is a win-win for both Addis Abeba and Oromia, and one which may be extended to other cities. So the approach for this is to study the experience of other countries. This will be the work of the next elected government. The other weaker reasoning of the PM for a special privilege to Oromia is the extent he went to explain how natural resources like construction materials and water from Oromia are delivered to Addis Abeba. Construction materials are not given to Addis Abeba freely; they are sold to Addis Abeba, like teff, corn, wheat, barley vegetables, etc. We do not give special privileges for regions sending these items to Addis Abebans. His talk about Gedeo, Addis Ababa, and Addis Abebans rights including Eskinder were controversial to say the least. If anything compensation to be made for water delivery, Addis Ababa peoples’ government has to negotiate with Oromia and let us not call that special privilege. Get the experience of other cities in the world (e.g. Washington D.C.). In California for example 121 cities are chartered (they have their own laws of governance outside of the general laws of the state).

No doubt the prime minister has an innovative mind, and he can do a lot good things. In my opinion he is the brightest leader since Haileselassie (I would not take Mengistu and Meles as a serious leaders). But one problem I see in PM Abiy is he conflicted between being an Ethiopian leader and an Oromo leader.  If he wants to be remembered as someone Ethiopian PM who introduced democracy to Ethiopia, he has to put Addis Ababa out of his Oromia mind set. Addis Abeba is not unique to administering itself. Above all Addis Ababa is within the authority of the PM and I do not see why he insists to place Addis Ababa under Oromia. Ethiopians have a bad memory of Oromo political parties. They have seen what means Oromo governance in Addis Ababa. They have seen the massacre of non-Oromos in Arbabgugu, Woter, Bedeno, Assossa, etc. They do not want to gamble in their life by accepting Oromo ownership of Addis Abeba because the end result one day is displacement and killings as we have witnessed in Gedeo recently. If PM Abiy thinks his authority comes from being an Oromo, his only bet is a maximum of 34% support; if he believes his power position comes from being an Ethiopian leader for sure he has the mandate of more than 50% of the voters. Oromia is a vast region and resourceful enough to build several big cities. So, why stuck in this mindset of taking over Addis Ababa? Addis Ababans have already taken Oromia as a security threat.         Unless Oromo elites abandon this mantra of Finfina as an Oromian city, there cannot be peace in the whole of Ethiopia. Oromo elites’ demand is like the Red Indians demanding White Americans to hand over several big cuties of America (Newyork, Washington D.C., JosAngeles, etc) because they were original owners of the land. This kind of thinking is illusion. How long is long for someone to legally claim something?

I want to give president Lemma Megerssa the benefit of the doubt about the so call demography change plans it was said he spoke about. I would say he probably misspoke to quieten his audience because ethnic fanaticism has sky rocketed and regional parties are increasingly pressured from their electorates. I want to appeal to President Mergers that he defuses the current tension between Oromia and Addis Abebans by recognising the rights of Addis Abebans.  The main reason, I think, for Lemma Megerssa to take harder line is the issue of right wing Oromo politicians’ competition. But what it takes for Lemma Megerssa to be a president of Oromia? He only needs to win a constituent in eastern Wollega or North Shewa or in the environs of Adama/Nazret. What it takes for PM Abiy to remain PM of Ethiopia? He only needs a mandate from Agaro which he can easily win. Democracy means administration by the people. Addis Abebans have the legal right to be led by someone they trust. PM Abiy have to put someone acceptable to Addis Abebans, and not Takele Uma, a controversial Oromo nationalist. When Takele Uma is accused of leading a fraud in cases of would-be voters ID cards, the normal procedure here in democratic countries is to put an independent investigative commission. What PM Abiy is doing is defending Takele. The PM is partial. He cannot be the witness and the investigator at the same time. You cannot deliver good governance by encouraging political corruption. Worst PM Abiy blocked journalist Eskinder’s press release on March 30, 2019, a clear political defeat for PM Abiy. When PM Abiy gave a response for 42 renowned Ethiopians living overseas, I took the PM at his words and said to myself, a good first start, and one in the right direction. My early hope and trust on PM Abiy returned and I thought that we are probably on a path of reconciliation with the former real PM Abiy. But the blocking of Eskinder Nega is a bad faith and something hard to sell the PM’s political capital.

PM Abiy’s clear Mistakes that need urgent attention

  • Not establishing law and order. Displacement of people should be a federal crime. The federal government should not wait for an invitation by regions to intervene. It is absolutely stupidity to ignore the plight of people displaced because of ethnicity. This has to do neither with democracy nor with the rights of regions.
  • Not recognising the right of Addis Abebans. There are many chartered cities in the world. The only way forward is to recognise by the PM and his party the self rule right of Addis Abebans. The constitution clearly says that. It is the Oromo elites’ mindset that has to change.
  • PM Abiy thinks it is oaky for every ethnic party to split and form kilil; that he considers democracy. That is wrong. Who is to provide funds for these small kills to run their administrative duties? It is impossible to run a country like that. They can only ask representation and self local administration, not self kilil because it is not viable to do that. PM Abiy must know how a country is created and run. You do not create a country every week because the current constitution says so. The constitution is the brain child of Meles Zenawi, an enemy of Ethiopia. PM Abiy has his own brain unless he is going in the footsteps of Hailemariam.
  • ODP monopolized power and pushed the ADP out. This is betrayal
  • Wrong understanding of age-old suppression; things are exaggerated. I will give one example. Ethiopia is an agrarian country at that time. How much of Ethiopia was interconnected by roads? Very little to none. If so, you won’t walk 30 km and suppress other people as such. You may do it once but you won’t lead a constant life of walking and attacking others. The Amaras, constantly accused by Oromo and Tigre elites of oppressing other nationalities, have/had a sedentary life style entirely depending on agriculture. The maximum distance an Amara travels is 20 km once a week for market reasons. It is a very deceiving argument to talk about Amara suppression in view of the backward life style of Ethiopians.  There has been thousands of war between neighbouring guji Oromos and Borena Oromos. There are none of such wars in northern Shewa or Wollega between neighbouring Amaras and Oromos. And since the coming of the Derg, land issues were resolved better than now, and I do not see why Oromo parties go back in time 100 years to justify suppression without talking about wars between Oromo themselves. Their forefathers never complained of suppression; only their sons and daughters are now complaining about the life of Oromos they never experienced or saw.


  1. Trying to put a fix for ethnic federalism is a putting lipstick for pig. You can run but not escape from the frightening consequences of allowing it. And the solution is to put the regions languages official national language in pair with Amharic and dissolve all ethnic regions and special administrations like Addis and organize the regions administrations on in more new smaller administration units closed to represent the constituyentes interests. As for right of the individual the national government should be the primary accountable in charge of protecting and enforcing the law. Solution for Addis Ababa is just a bandage and not a solution for the country’s problems that is brought by the ethnic federalism. As today non of the ethnic politician leaders did talk against the masterminds that pushed the youth that is displacing innocents nor one has taken a legal action against them. The other day there was a genuinetalk about inefficiency in governance in which tax money was allocated to federal, regional and wereda leveled and about how to deliver for for ordinary people. But the allusion of people was just to one dominant ethnic group and there was no or little allusion to smaller communities and individuals that where in dare need of humanitarian assistance. Nor was described their ordeal. This is the nasty gift ethnic federalism. Ethnic federalism replaced the old system of one centralized oppression by multilayer of oppression layers and the central authority just did wash it’s hands. And entire communities are completely rendered without any rights.

  2. I don’t know where why you are saying he is Oromo leader , i can’t think of any leader who has spoken and done more for Ethiopia in recent history . instead of twisting his words and making somethings issues when they are not, platforms and blogs like yours can help steer this reform in the right direction . I am not saying there is not concern about the addis ababa region claim by some Oromo ethnic extremists but that is what this is a view of extremists.
    keep up the good work

  3. Dear “Mekuria Gize,”
    Your title “Politically defeated PM Abiy increasingly relying on show of force” is misleading.
    I believe your intention is to mislead the public though you hardly succeeded!
    What you forgot is that PM Abiy is a member of Eprdf (the only party in the country).
    PM Abiy did not create Eprdf or could he get it to do what he wished.
    Eprdf is composed of four ethnic-based parties. Please be reasonable.
    Don’t expect PM Abiy to solve in ten months problems created and sustained by Tplf/Meles over
    27 years of bad governance and rights abuses!
    One thing I agree with you on is that ethnic federalism is the brain child of Meles/Tplf
    and needs to be amended. In the meantime, the “opposition” needs to get its acts together
    and take advantage of the proposed “free and fair” elections chaired by none other than
    Judge Birtukan Mideksa.

  4. Mekuria, Alem,
    I have always said PM Abiy is an extraordinary person. I have been a strong supporter of him until two weeks ago. Earlier I have blamed him for not maintaining law and order, but still, supported him. He has this naive interpretation of democracy. Who will spare you here in North America if you try to displace a single person let alone in mass? The police will come in seconds. On the other hand, the police have no right to block Eskinder from giving a press release. the police are not the personal servants of the PM. The PM is now on open war with the public. What it takes for him to publicly say Addis Abebans have the right to administer themselves except he does want to tell us he is an Oromo prime Minister. The party he chairs said they own Addis Abeba. For me, Addis Abeba is a litmus paper to support the PM.

    I blame the opposition for not showing their own road map instead of the PM. I always said the PM does not have to tell us a road map. He is an EPRDF Leader and let EPRDF ask that.


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