By Dorcas sarcozy via fb
The main reason Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the 2019 Nobel Prize for Peace was because of his peacemaking efforts with Eritrea AND rapprochement with Somalia and Djibouti – all within the first year of taking office!
The 43-year old millennial took office in 2018 and alongside seeking co-existence with his international neighbors, he also set out to “heal the nation”.
PM Ali started off much like many leaders of Africa start off when they ascend into power:
Offering lofty-sounding platitudes and promises including promises to end “ufisadi” and “unify the nation’s many fractured tribes” and “remediate historical injustices”; this on top of building stadiums across the land and providing laptops to all school children.
However, the former Ethiopian intelligence officer not only followed through on his promise to end repression of the press and of the opposition, he ended a two-decade-long conflict between his country and neighboring Eritrea.
Abiy freed political prisoners and actively sought gender equality in his cabinet.
Ethiopia’s President and Chief Justice are both women – HE Sahle-Work Zewde and CJ Meaza Ashenafi.
And unlike some African leaders who force their best and brightest into exile or hunt them down and eliminate them, along with any meddlesome or unco-opted members of the opposition, Abiy has done the exact opposite.
He sought out the country’s best and brightest who had fled abroad to flee assault from the country’s previous autocrats and/or a moribund economy dragged down by its corrupt/inept leadership.
The current head of the country’s election board, the equivalent of Kenya’s IEBC, was once a political prisoner who sought refuge in the US. The newly minted Nobel Laureate asked Birtukan Mideksa to return home from America and chair the National Election Board.
A Kenyan equivalent of this would be Uhuru Kenyatta asking Miguna Miguna to chair the IEBC!
Like many African countries, Ethiopia has many ethnic groups living side-by-side all within the same borders. And like Kenya and Rwanda, ethnic strife is but a demagogue or a mis-step away.
On the other hand, Abiy Ali has not only verbalized being the “leader of all Ethiopians” as many a-demagogues promise upon seizing or coming to power, he has actively reached out to the country’s minority groups including the Somalis, Tigrayans, Sidamas, Gurages, Wolaytas and Hidayas.
It would be interesting to see an analysis of the man’s cabinet to see if it indeed represents the “Face of Ethiopia” and not of Ali’s ethnicity; if it protects the minorities from the “tyranny of the majority” that Kenyans who support the incumbency crow/gloat about.
Notwithstanding and to a large extent, Abiy has not only been a peacemaker domestically, he reportedly got the Saudis and Emirates to support his mediation between the two sides in Sudan i.e. the then-Omar Bashir-led incumbency and the opposition. So while the authoritarian Bashir was eventually forced out of power by a youth-led uprising, the ever-present specter of a brutal pushback from the incumbency that almost always controls the levers of violence against the demonstrators/opposition that parts of Kenya have seen and saw back in 2017 was averted thanks, in part, to Aiby’s peace-making efforts.
A September 2019 piece on the World Economic Forum (WEF) website titled “Ethiopia is Africa’s new growth engine – here’s why” only adds to the sheen of Ahmed Aiby’s two-year-old premiership.
To be clear, Ethiopia has challenges.
The country, like many of its African neighbors, IS battling corruption (Corruption Perception Index – CPI – of 34 vs. Kenya’s 27 and Rwanda’s 56).
However, it has benefited from socio-political stability that has in turn propelled its economy to double-digit growth rates over the last decade.
This world-leading economic growth rate has kept an appreciable number of the country’s 105M employed/earning a living. It also bears repeating that the newly-minted Nobel Laureate has actualized some major campaign promises that has prolonged his honeymoon well beyond the standard one hundred days (3 months) usually accorded incoming administrations.
Critics (Kenyans in particular) my scoff at the importance of Abiy Ahmed’s Nobel Prize and I would understand the southern neighbor’s jaundiced eyes. After all, the Nobel Commission overlooked Kenya’s now-favorite son Ngugi Wa Thiong’o in his quest for the prestigious prize in Literature.
However, they cannot scoff at the critical role played by competent leadership in their northern neighbor’s trajectory.
This is particularly true given the near-identical socio-economic and political factors shared by Kenya and Ethiopia:
– Youthful potential,
– Possible privatisation of state-owned enterprises,
– Promising start-up ecosystem,
– Strategic location between Europe and Asia.
I’d even throw in the faux “social stability” wrought on by the near-two-year-old “Handshake” – another factor identified in the WEF piece mentioned in this piece.
I will let y’all wonder where else competent incorruptible leadership has been the difference between Kenya and another society on the verge of economic take-off.
Again, a hearty congratulations to PM Abiy Ahmed Ali for an award seemingly well-deserved.