Ethiopia's PM Abiy: From Peace Prize To Wartime Leader
Sumaira FH 22 days ago Sun 11th July 2021 | 12:50 AM
Addis Ababa, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 11th Jul, 2021 ) :Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office vowing sweeping reforms that earned him a Nobel Peace prize, before becoming mired in a gruesome internal conflict that has drawn global outrage.
Now, as he prepares for a new term following a landslide win in a national election, he finds the surge of hope that accompanied his initial appointment three years ago significantly diminished.
Election officials announced on Saturday that Abiy's Prosperity Party had secured an overwhelming majority in last month's poll, giving him the popular mandate he has long coveted.
Even as he confronts persistent insecurity that has delayed voting in some areas, Abiy appears unbowed.
He compared the country's experience to that of a village child disoriented by riding in a car for the first time.
"When the car moves forward, the buildings and trees go backward and we become confused," he said.
- Meteoric rise - Abiy was once a village boy himself.
Fascinated with technology, he joined the military as a radio operator while still a teenager.
In his 2019 Nobel speech he recalled his time during the brutal 1998-2000 border war with Eritrea, saying his entire unit was wiped out in an Eritrean artillery attack that he survived only because he'd left a foxhole to get better antenna reception.
Then came stints as a lawmaker and minister of science and technology.
- Seizing the moment - The circumstances that lifted Abiy to high office can be traced to late 2015.
A government plan to expand the capital's administrative boundaries into the surrounding Oromia region was seen as a land grab, sparking protests led by the Oromos, Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, and the Amharas, the second-largest.
The ruling coalition at the time, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), resorted to its customary tactics: states of emergency and mass arrests.
These proved insufficient.
He released dissidents from jail, apologised for state brutality and welcomed home exiled groups -- part of a democratic rebirth meant to culminate in the most competitive elections in Ethiopia's history.
But Abiy encountered a host of obstacles, notably persistent ethnic violence including in his native Oromia.
Its ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), had dominated national politics before Abiy's rise, and its leaders did not take kindly to his perceived attempts to sideline them.
When Abiy dissolved the EPRDF and formed the Prosperity Party in 2019, the TPLF refused to go along.
Though he promised the conflict would be swift, fighting dragged on for nearly eight months, as did reports of brutal massacres and mass rape.
Meanwhile world leaders warn a humanitarian catastrophe is already unfolding.
- A new 'crossroads' - Abiy is married to Zinash Tayachew, whom he met in the military.
Deeply ambitious, Abiy has been accused of focusing his attention on beautifying the capital and mediating conflicts abroad rather than the situation at home.
Critics also say he has embraced the same authoritarianism many hoped he would end, overseeing mass arrests and abuses by security forces.
Gone are the heady days of "Abiymania" that followed his appointment in 2018.
Now his opponents openly disrespect him.
"He started to behave as a lost child at a crossroads. Such a child cannot go back because he doesn't know from where he came, and he cannot proceed because he does not know where he's going."His supporters, though, remain true believers.
Early on in the Tigray war, some officials even suggested that, given Abiy's efforts to resolve the conflict, their boss might be deserving of "a second Nobel Prize".