Abiy Ahmed: From a Peacemaker to a Peace Destroyer
Addis Ababa — One year ago Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia received the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee cited his peacemaking endeavour and solution to the territorial conflict with Eritrea. It is ironic that, on the first anniversary of the award, the Deputy Ethiopia Prime Minister, Demeke Makonnen, called for armament of Amharas in Benishangul and Gumus region in Ethiopia. He justified his call to arm Amhara militias on grounds of what he calls “self-defence”. “ No leader can be indifferent to the massacre of his people” he told Ethiopian Defence Forces there. “The army cannot respond to any incident therefore Amharas must be armed” he added.
The Ethiopian Government has yet to comment on the statement of the Deputy Prime Minister, who was once known as a moderate Amhara politician. His remarks follow the abortive coup in the Amhara region one year ago.
It is not a secret that segments of the Amharas have the ambition to breathe life into the unitary and feudal system that paved the way for the end of Haile Sellasie regime and the break-up of Ethiopia. “Failed coup in #Ethiopia’s state was an attempt by ethnic nationalists to restore Amhara hegemony over all of Ethiopia that existed for several centuries prior to 1991. That dream is now permanently dead.”tweeted Herman J. Cohen, a former US Ambassador to Ethiopia.
The abortive coup spotlighted the fragility of Abiy Ahmed’s quixotic goals to rule Ethiopia through a totalitarian system while speaking the language of democratisation. His early speeches even took seasoned academics such Mohamud Mamdani for a ride. Keen to see his theories in Citizen and Subject implemented in Ethiopia, Professor Mohamood Mamdani rushed to the conclusion that the Ethiopian federal system has a lot in common with the indirect rule of the British Empire. The former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirlief praised the political programme of Abiy in a Financial Times op-ed. Armchair punditry or political gullibility is never a match for historically informed intervention shared without falling prey to personality cult. It is comforting to know that many non-Ethiopians who have fallen for the rhetoric of the Ethiopian Prime Minister now realise his political project (imposing one party on Ethiopia, putting opposition leaders behind bars and concocting a sophistic rhetoric he calls Medemer (synergy) are leading Ethiopia to the path of state collapse. His government has severed ties with the Tigray region, a decision that Seyoum Mesfin, the former Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, aptly describes as the “joke of the century in modern Ethiopian history”. The elder statesman said “sentimentality is not what can keep the Ethiopian unity.” Why does the decision to award Abiy Ahmed Nobel Peace Prize prematurely now look odd? “A Nobel Prize is worth less each year. What’s more, these awards no longer generate much interest or suspense “ argued Professor Tyler Cowen in Bloomberg. “Unfortunately, not all of the prizes are so well thought through. The Nobel Peace Prize this year went to the World Food Programme, part of the United Nations. Yet the Center for Global Development, a leading and highly respected think tank, anked he winner dead last out of 40 groups as measured for effectiveness. Another study by economists William Easterly and Tobias Pfutze in 2008, was also less than enthusiastic about the World Food Programme” Professor Cowen wrote.
The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Abiy Ahmed points to desire on the part of the Nobel Committee to redefine peace. For many Ethiopians the Nobel Peace Prize is stained with the blood of innocent people Ethiopian forces killed and maimed to keep a Nobel Laureate Dictator in power. Alfred Nobel had no dream to make his name synonymous with enablers of dictatorship. O tempora, o mores!
Tareke Likke is a retired journalist based in Addis Ababa
Ideas expressed in this essay are personal to the writer.