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Abiy Ahmed

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Abiy Ahmed
አብይ አሕመድ
Abiy Ahmed with LI Yong 2018 (cropped).jpeg
Abiy in 2018
Prime Minister of Ethiopia
Assumed office
2 April 2018
PresidentMulatu Teshome
Sahle-Work Zewde
DeputyDemeke Mekonnen
Preceded byHailemariam Desalegn
1st President of the Prosperity Party
Assumed office
1 December 2019
DeputyDemeke Mekonnen
Preceded byParty established
3rd Chairman of the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front
In office
27 March 2018 – 1 December 2019
DeputyDemeke Mekonnen
Preceded byHailemariam Desalegn
Succeeded byParty abolished
Leader of the Oromo Democratic Party
In office
22 February 2018 – 1 December 2019
DeputyLemma Megersa
Preceded byLemma Megersa
Succeeded byPost abolished
Minister of Science and Technology
In office
6 October 2015 – 1 November 2016
Prime MinisterHailemariam Desalegn
Preceded byDemitu Hambisa
Succeeded byGetahun Mekuria
Director General of the Information Network Security Agency
Acting
In office
2008–2015
Preceded byTeklebirhan Woldearegay
Succeeded byTemesgen Tiruneh
Personal details
Born
Abiy Ahmed Ali

(1976-08-15) 15 August 1976 (age 45)
Beshasha, Kaffa, Ethiopia
Political partyProsperity Party
Other political
affiliations
Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (until 2019)
Oromo Democratic Party
Spouse(s)Zinash Tayachew
EducationMicrolink Information Technology College (BA)
University of Greenwich (MA)
Ashland University (MBA)
Addis Ababa University (PhD)
AwardsNobel Peace Prize (2019)
Websitepmo.gov.et/pm/
Military service
AllegianceEthiopia
Branch/serviceEthiopian Army
Years of service1991–2010
Rank13.EA-LTC.svg Lieutenant Colonel
UnitArmy Signals Corps
CommandsInformation Network Security Agency
Battles/warsEthiopian Civil War
United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda
Eritrean–Ethiopian War
Tigray War

Abiy Ahmed Ali (Oromo: Abiyi Ahmed Alii; Amharic: አብይ አሕመድ ዐሊ; born 15 August 1976) is an Ethiopian politician who has been the 4th prime minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia since 2 April 2018.[1][2] He was the third chairman of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) that governed Ethiopia for 28 years and the first Oromo in that position.[3][4] Abiy is an elected member of the Ethiopian parliament, and was a member of the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), one of the then four coalition parties of the EPRDF, until its rule ceased in 2019 and he formed his own party, the Prosperity Party.[5][6] He won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in ending the 20-year post-war territorial stalemate between Ethiopia and Eritrea.[7][8]

In June 2020, Abiy, in concert with the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), decided to postpone scheduled parliamentary elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This move prompted criticism, especially from the opposition,[9][10] and raised questions about the delay's constitutional legitimacy.[11]

In November 2020, simmering ethnic and political tensions, as well as attacks on the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) Northern Command, exploded into the ongoing Tigray War between the combined forces of the ENDF and the Eritrean army against forces loyal to the TPLF—an ethnic party which dominated the erstwhile ruling EPRDF coalition during a nearly thirty-year period marked by rapid development alongside increasing interethnic tension[12]—as well as those loyal to significant allied groups such as the Oromo Liberation Army.

Personal life

Early life

Abiy Ahmed was born in the small town of Beshasha, Ethiopia.[13][14][15][16] His deceased father, Ahmed Ali, was a Muslim Oromo[17] while his deceased mother, Tezeta Wolde,[18] was a Christian Oromo.[19] Despite some sources claiming that his mother was an ethnic Amhara,[20][21] Abiy said in an Oromia Broadcasting Network interview that both of his parents are Oromo and asserted that "no one is giving or taking away my Oromummaa."[19] Abiy's father was a typical Oromo farmer, speaking only Oromo, while Tezeta was a fluent speaker of both Amharic and Oromo.[19]

Abiy is the 13th child of his father and the sixth and youngest child of his mother, the fourth of his father's four wives.[13] His childhood name was Abiyot (English: "Revolution"). The name was sometimes given to children in the aftermath of the Ethiopian Revolution in the mid 1970s.[13] The then Abiyot went to the local primary school and later continued his studies at secondary schools in Agaro town. Abiy, according to several personal reports, was always very interested in his own education and later in his life also encouraged others to learn and to improve.[13] Abiy married Zinash Tayachew, an Amhara woman from Gondar,[13][20][22] while both were serving in the Ethiopian National Defense Force.[23] They are the parents of three daughters and one adopted son.[23] Abiy speaks Oromo, Amharic, Tigrinya and English.[24] He is a fitness aficionado and professes that physical health goes hand in hand with mental health and, as such, he frequents physical and gym activities in Addis Ababa.[23]

Religion

Abiy is a Pentecostal,[25][26] born of a Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Christian mother. He was raised in a family of religious plurality. Abiy and his family are regular church attendees, and he also occasionally ministers in preaching and teaching the Gospel at the Ethiopian Full Gospel Believers' Church. His wife Zinash Tayachew is also a protestant believer who ministers in her church as a gospel singer.

Education

While serving in the Ethiopian National Defense Force, Abiy received his first degree, a Bachelor's degree in computer engineering[27] from the Microlink Information Technology College in Addis Ababa in 2009.[28]

Abiy holds a Master of Arts in transformational leadership[27] earned from the business school at Greenwich University, London, in collaboration with the International Leadership Institute, Addis Ababa, in 2011. He also holds a Master of Business Administration from the Leadstar College of Management and Leadership in Addis Ababa in partnership with Ashland University[29][30] in 2013.[31]

Abiy, who had started his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) work as a regular student,[32] completed his PhD thesis in 2017[33][34] at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies, Addis Ababa University. He did his PhD work on the Agaro constituency with the PhD thesis entitled "Social Capital and its Role in Traditional Conflict Resolution in Ethiopia: The Case of Inter-Religious Conflict In Jimma Zone State" (Promoter: Professor Yelom[citation needed]). Abiy published a related short research article on de-escalation strategies in the Horn of Africa in a special journal issue dedicated to countering violent extremism.[34]

Military career

At the age of 14, in early 1991,[35] he joined the armed struggle against the Marxist–Leninist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam after the death of his oldest brother. He was a child soldier, affiliated to the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), which at that time was a tiny organization of only around 200 fighters in the large coalition army of about 100,000 fighters that resulted in the regime's fall later that year.[24][13][23] As there were only so few ODP fighters in an army with its core of about 90,000 Tigrayans, Abiy quickly had to learn the Tigrinya language. As a speaker of Tigrinya in a security apparatus dominated by Tigrayans, he could move forward with his military career.[24]

After the fall of the Derg, he took formal military training from Assefa Brigade in West Wollega and was stationed there. Later on in 1993 he became a soldier in the now Ethiopian National Defense Force and worked mostly in the intelligence and communications departments. In 1995, after the Rwandan genocide, he was deployed as a member of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) in the country's capital, Kigali.[36] In the Ethio-Eritrea War between 1998 and 2000, he led an intelligence team to discover positions of the Eritrean Defence Forces.[37]

Later on, Abiy was posted back to his home town of Beshasha, where he – as an officer of the Defense Forces – had to address a critical situation of inter-religious clashes between Muslims and Christians with a number of deaths.[24][38] He brought calm and peace in a situation of communal tensions accompanying the clashes.[24] In later years, following his election as an MP, he continued these efforts to bring about reconciliation between the religions through the creation of the Religious Forum for Peace.[37]

In 2006, Abiy was one of the co-founders of the Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (INSA), where he worked in different positions.[13] For two years, he was acting director of INSA due to the director's leave of absence.[13] In this capacity, he was board member of several government agencies working on information and communications, like Ethio telecom and Ethiopian Television. He attained the rank of Lieutenant colonel[34][24] before deciding in 2010 to leave the military and his post as deputy director of INSA (Information Network Security Agency) to become a politician.

Political career

Member of Parliament

Abiy started his political career as a member of the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP).[39] The ODP has been the ruling party in Oromia Region since 1991 and also one of four coalition parties of the ruling coalition in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). He became a member of the central committee of ODP and congress member of the Executive Committee of the EPRDF in quick succession.[24] In the 2010 national election, Abiy represented the district of Agaro and became an elected member of the House of Peoples' Representatives, the lower chamber of the Ethiopian Federal Parliamentary Assembly. Before and during his time of parliamentary service, there were several religious clashes among Muslims and Christians in Jimma Zone. Some of these confrontations turned violent and resulted in the loss of life and property. Abiy, as an elected member of parliament took a proactive role in working with several religious institutions and elders to bring about reconciliation in the zone. He helped set up a forum entitled "Religious Forum for Peace", an outcome of the need to devise a sustainable resolution mechanism to restore peaceful Muslim-Christian community interaction in the region.[34]

In 2014, during his time in parliament, Abiy became the director-general of a new and in 2011 founded Government Research Institute called Science and Technology Information Center (STIC).[13][40] The following year, Abiy became an executive member of ODP. The same year he was elected to the House of Peoples' Representatives for a second term, this time for his home woreda of Gomma.[41]

Rise to power

Starting from 2015, Abiy became one of the central figures in the violent fight against illegal land grabbing activities in Oromia Region and especially around Addis Ababa. Although the Addis Ababa Master Plan at the heart of the land-grabbing plans was stopped in 2016, the disputes continued for some time resulting in injuries and deaths.[42] It was this fight against land-grabbing, that finally boosted Abiy Ahmed's political career, brought him into the spotlight and allowed him to climb the political ladder.[24]

In October 2015, Abiy became the Ethiopian Minister of Science and Technology (MoST), a post which he left after only 12 months. From October 2016 on, Abiy served as Deputy President of Oromia Region as part of the team of Oromia Region's president Lemma Megersa while staying a member of the Ethiopian Federal House of Peoples' Representatives.[43][44] Abiy Ahmed also became the head of the Oromia Urban Development and Planning Office. In this role, Abiy was expected to be the major driving force behind Oromia Economic Revolution, Oromia Land and Investment reform, youth employment as well as resistance to widespread land grabbing in Oromia region.[45] As one of his duties in office, he took care of the one million displaced Oromo people displaced from the Somali Region from the 2017 unrest.[46]

As head of the ODP Secretariat from October 2017, Abiy facilitated the formation of a new alliance between the Oromo and Amhara groups, which together constitute two-thirds of the Ethiopian population.[47]

In early 2018, many political observers considered Abiy and Lemma Megersa as the most popular politicians within the Oromo community, as well as other Ethiopian communities.[48][49] This came after several years of unrest in Ethiopia. But despite this favourable rating for Abiy Ahmed and Lemma Megersa, young people from the Oromia region called for immediate action without delays to bring fundamental change and freedom to Oromia Region and Ethiopia – otherwise more unrest was to be expected.[42] According to Abiy himself, people are asking for a different rhetoric, with an open and respectful discussion in the political space to allow political progress and to win people for democracy instead of pushing them.[42]

Until early 2018, Abiy continued to serve as head of the ODP secretariat and of the Oromia Housing and Urban Development Office and as Deputy President of Oromia Region. He left all these posts after his election as the leader of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front.[50][43]

EPRDF leadership election

Following three years of protest and unrest, on 15 February 2018 the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, announced his resignation – which included his resignation from the post of EPRDF chairman. With the EPRDF's large majority in Parliament, its EPRDF chairman was all but assured of becoming the next Prime Minister. The EPRDF chairman, on the other hand, is one of the heads of the four parties that make up the ruling coalition: Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), Amhara Democratic Party (ADP), Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM) and Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).[51]

Hailemariam's resignation triggered the first ever contested leadership election among EPRDF coalition members to replace him. A lot of political observers made Lemma Megersa (the ODP chairman) and Abiy Ahmed the front-runners to become the Leader of the ruling coalition and eventually Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Despite being the clear favorite for the general public, Lemma Megersa was not a member of the national parliament, a requirement to become Prime Minister as required by the Ethiopian constitution. Therefore, Lemma Megersa was excluded from the leadership race.[52] On 22 February 2018, Lemma Megersa's party, ODP, called for an emergency executive committee meeting and replaced him as Chairman of ODP with Abiy Ahmed, who was a member of parliament. Some observers saw that as a strategic move by the ODP to retain its leadership role within the coalition and to promote Abiy Ahmed to become Prime Minister.[41]

On 1 March 2018, the 180 EPRDF executive committee members started their meeting to elect the leader of the party. Each of the four parties sent in 45 members. The contest for the leadership was among Abiy Ahmed of ODP, Demeke Mekonnen, the Deputy Prime Minister and ADP leader, Shiferaw Shigute as Chairman of SEPDM and Debretsion Gebremichael as the Leader of TPLF. Despite being the overwhelming favorite by the majority of Ethiopians, Abiy Ahmed faced major opposition from TPLF and SEPDM members during the leadership discussions.[53]

On 27 March 2018, a few hours before the beginning of the leadership elections, Demeke Mekonnen, who had been seen as the major opponent to Abiy Ahmed, dropped out of the race. Many observers saw this as an endorsement of Abiy Ahmed. Demeke was then approved as Deputy Prime Minister for another term. Following Demeke's exit, Abiy Ahmed received a presumably unanimous vote from both the ADP and ODP executive members, with 18 additional votes in a secret ballot coming from elsewhere. By midnight, Abiy Ahmed was declared Chairman of the ruling coalition in Ethiopia, the EPRDF, and was considered as the Prime Minister Designate of Ethiopia by receiving 108 votes while Shiferaw Shigute received 58 and Debretsion Gebremichael received 2 votes.[4] On 2 April 2018, Abiy Ahmed was elected as Prime Minister of Ethiopia by the House of Representatives and sworn in.[2]

Prime Minister of Ethiopia

On 2 April 2018, Abiy was confirmed and sworn in by the Ethiopian parliament as Prime Minister of Ethiopia. During his acceptance speech, he promised political reform; to promote the unity of Ethiopia and unity among the peoples of Ethiopia; to reach out to the Eritrean government to resolve the ongoing Eritrean–Ethiopian border conflict after the Eritrean–Ethiopian War and to also reach out to the political opposition inside and outside of Ethiopia. His acceptance speech sparked optimism and received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the Ethiopian public including the opposition groups inside and outside Ethiopia. Following his speech, his popularity and support across the country reached a historical high and some political observers argued that Abiy was overwhelmingly more popular than the ruling party coalition, the EPRDF.[4]

Abiy holding his acceptance speech after receiving the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize

Domestic policy

Since taking office in April 2018, Abiy's government has presided over the release of thousands of political prisoners from Ethiopian jails and the rapid opening of the country's political landscape.[54][55][56] In May 2018 alone the Oromo region pardoned over 7,600 prisoners.[57] On 29 May Ginbot 7 leader Andargachew Tsege, facing the death penalty on terrorism charges, was released after being pardoned by President Mulatu Teshome, along with 575 other detainees.[58]

That same day, charges were dropped against Andargachew's colleague Berhanu Nega and the Oromo dissident and public intellectual Jawar Mohammed, as well as their respectively affiliated US-based ESAT and OMN satellite television networks.[59] Shortly thereafter, Abiy took the "unprecedented and previously unimaginable" step of meeting Andargachew, who twenty-four hours previously had been on death row, at his office; a move even critics of the ruling party termed "bold and remarkable".[60] Abiy had previously met former Oromo Liberation Front leaders including founder Lencho Letta, who had committed to peaceful participation in the political process, upon their arrival at Bole International Airport.[61]

On 30 May 2018, it was announced the ruling party would amend the country's "draconian" anti-terrorism law, widely perceived as a tool of political repression. On 1 June 2018, Abiy announced the government would seek to end the state of emergency two months in advance of the expiration its six-month tenure, citing an improved domestic situation. On 4 June 2018, Parliament approved the necessary legislation, ending the state of emergency.[56] In his first briefing to the House of Peoples' Representatives in June 2018, Abiy countered criticism of his government's release of convicted "terrorists" which according to the opposition is just a name the EPRDF gives you if you are a part or even meet the "opposition". He argued that policies that sanctioned arbitrary detention and torture themselves constituted extra-constitutional acts of terror aimed at suppressing opposition.[62] This followed the additional pardon of 304 prisoners (289 of which had been sentenced on terrorism-related charges) on 15 June.[63]

The pace of reforms has revealed fissures within the ruling coalition, with hardliners in the military and the hitherto dominant TPLF said to be "seething" at the end of the state of emergency and the release of political prisoners.[64]

An editorial on the previously pro-government website Tigrai Online arguing for the maintenance of the state of emergency gave voice to this sentiment, saying that Abiy was "doing too much too fast".[65] Another article critical of the release of political prisoners suggested that Ethiopia's criminal justice system had become a revolving door and that Abiy's administration had quite inexplicably been rushing to pardon and release thousands of prisoners, among them many deadly criminals and dangerous arsonists.[66] On 13 June 2018, the TPLF executive committee denounced the decisions to hand over Badme and privatize SOEs as "fundamentally flawed", saying that the ruling coalition suffered from a fundamental leadership deficit.[67]

Transparency

In 2018, to expand the free press in Ethiopia, Abiy invited exiled media outlets to return.[68][69][70][71][72][73][74] One of the media outlets invited to return was ESAT (which had called for the genocide of Ethiopian Tigrayans).[75][76][77] However, since assuming office in April 2018, Abiy himself had, as of March 2019, only given one press conference,[78] on 25 August 2018 and around five months after he assumed office, where he answered questions from journalists. As of 21 March  2019, he has not given another press conference where he has not refused to answer questions from journalists (rather than reading prepared statements).[79][80][81]

According to the NGOs Human Rights Watch, Committee to Protect Journalists and Amnesty International, Abiy's government has since mid 2019 been arresting Ethiopian journalists and closing media outlets (except for ESAT-TV).[82][83][84][85][86][87] From the international media outlets, his government has suspended the press license of Reuters's correspondent, and issued a warning letter to the correspondents of both BBC and Deutsche Welle for what the government described as "violation of the rules of media broadcasting".[88][89][90]

Economic reforms

Abiy has announced that state-owned enterprises such as Ethiopian Airlines are to be partially or wholly privatised.

In June 2018, the ruling coalition announced its intention to pursue the large-scale privatisation of state-owned enterprises and the liberalization of several key economic sectors long considered off-limits, marking a landmark shift in the country's state-oriented development model.[91]

State monopolies in the telecommunications, aviation, electricity, and logistics sectors are to be ended and those industries opened up to private sector competition.[92] Shares in the state-owned firms in those sectors, including Ethiopian Airlines, Africa's largest and most profitable, are to be offered for purchase to both domestic and foreign investors, although the government will continue to hold a majority share in these firms, thereby retaining control of the commanding heights of the economy.[93] State-owned enterprises in sectors deemed less critical, including railway operators, sugar, industrial parks, hotels and various manufacturing firms, may be fully privatised.[94]

Aside from representing an ideological shift with respect to views on the degree of government control over the economy, the move was seen as a pragmatic measure aimed at improving the country's dwindling foreign-exchange reserves, which by the end of the 2017 fiscal year were equal in value to less than two months worth of imports, as well as easing its growing sovereign debt load.[93][91]

In June 2018, Abiy announced the government's intention to establish an Ethiopian stock exchange in tandem with the privatization of state-owned enterprises.[95] As of 2015, Ethiopia was the largest country in the world, in terms of both population and gross domestic product, without a stock exchange.[96]

Foreign policy

Abiy and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in May 2018
Abiy and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi in October 2019
Abiy with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in February 2020

In May 2018, Abiy visited Saudi Arabia, receiving guarantees for the release of Ethiopian prisoners including billionaire entrepreneur Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi, who was detained following the 2017 Saudi Arabian purge.[54]

In June 2018, he met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo and, separately, brokered a meeting in Addis Ababa between the South Sudanese president Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar in an attempt to encourage peace talks.[97]

Djibouti and port agreements

Since taking power Abiy has pursued a policy of expanding landlocked Ethiopia's access to ports in the Horn of Africa region. Shortly before his assumption of office it was announced that the Ethiopian government would take a 19% stake in Berbera Port in the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland as part of a joint venture with DP World.[98] In May 2018, Ethiopia signed an agreement with the government of Djibouti to take an equity stake in the Port of Djibouti, enabling Ethiopia to have a say in the port's development and the setting of port handling fees.[99]

Two days later a similar agreement was signed with the Sudanese government granting Ethiopia an ownership stake in the Port Sudan. The Ethio-Djibouti agreement grants the Djiboutian government the option of taking stakes in state-owned Ethiopian firms in return, such as the Ethiopian Airlines and Ethio Telecom.[100] This in turn was followed shortly thereafter by an announcement that Abiy and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta had reached an agreement for the construction of an Ethiopian logistics facility at Lamu Port as part of the Lamu Port and Lamu-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) project.[101]

The potential normalization of Ethiopia-Eritrea relations likewise opens the possibility for Ethiopia to resume using the Ports of Massawa and Asseb, which, prior to the Ethio-Eritrean conflict, were its main ports, which would be of particular benefit to the northern region of Tigray.[91] All these developments would reduce Ethiopian reliance on Djibouti's port which, since 1998, has handled almost all of Ethiopia's maritime traffic.[102][100]

Eritrea

Upon taking office, Abiy stated his willingness to negotiate an end to the Ethio-Eritrean conflict. In June 2018, it was announced that the government had agreed to hand over the disputed border town of Badme to Eritrea, thereby complying with the terms of the 2000 Algiers Agreement to bring an end to the state of tension between Eritrea and Ethiopia that had persisted despite the end of hostilities during the Ethiopia-Eritrea War.[91] Ethiopia had until then rejected the international boundary commission's ruling awarding Badme to Eritrea, resulting in a frozen conflict (popularly termed a policy of "no war, but no peace") between the two states.[103]

During the national celebration on 20 June 2018, the president of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, accepted the peace initiative put forward by Abiy and suggested that he would send a delegation to Addis Ababa. On 26 June 2018, Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed visited Addis Ababa in the first Eritrean high-level delegation to Ethiopia in over two decades.[104]

Abiy with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki in March 2019

In Asmara, on 8 July 2018, Abiy became the first Ethiopian leader to meet with an Eritrean counterpart in over two decades, in the 2018 Eritrea–Ethiopia summit.[105] The very next day, the two signed a "Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship" declaring an end to tensions and agreeing, amongst other matters, to re-establish diplomatic relations; reopen direct telecommunication, road, and aviation links; and facilitate Ethiopian use of the ports of Massawa and Asseb.[106][107][108] Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his efforts in ending the war.[8]

In practice, the agreement has been described as "largely unimplemented". Critics say not much has changed between the two nations. Among the Eritrean diaspora, many voiced disapproval for the Nobel Peace Prize focusing on the agreement with Eritrea when so little had changed in practice.[109] In July 2020, Eritrea's Ministry of Information said: "Two years after the signing of the Peace Agreement, Ethiopian troops continue to be present in our sovereign territories, Trade and economic ties of both countries have not resumed to the desired extent or scale."[110]

Calls to revoke Nobel Peace Prize

In a speech to assembled Ethiopian ambassadors in January 2019, Abiy Ahmed made a prescient remark regarding sexual violence in war.

Alluding to the role of soldiers during the battle of Adua in 1896 and later, during the Eritrean war, Abiy said: “This hasn't been researched, but it's obvious. From the battle of Adwa during the time of Menelik, to the later wars, many people from central Ethiopia – Oromos, Amharas – have been going to Tigray to fight. They were there for the war with Eritrea, and there's been a military presence in Tigray for the 30 years since. So, if you're wondering what the proportion of Oromo in Tigray is, leave it for DNA to find out. [Hilarity in the audience] It's probably wrong to say this, but: those who went to Adwa, to fight, didn't just go and come back. Each of them had about 10 kids.” [Loud laughter of the audience and applause].[111] Jan Nyssen and colleagues consider this as “an open acknowledgement, even an endorsement, of military tactics and strategy that holds, as its central pillar, the use of rape in war”

In June 2021, representatives from multiple countries called for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Abiy to be re-considered because of the war crimes committed in Tigray.[112][113] In an opinion piece, Simon Tisdall, one-time foreign editor of The Guardian, wrote that Abiy "should hand back his Nobel Peace Prize over his actions in the breakaway region".[114]

A person on a petition organization called Change.org launched a campaign to gather 35,000 signatures for revoking his Peace Prize; as of September 2021, nearly 30,000 have been obtained.[115]

Egypt

The dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has become a national preoccupation in both countries.[116][117] Abiy has warned: "No force can stop Ethiopia from building a dam. If there is need to go to war, we could get millions readied."[118]

After the murder of activist, singer and political icon Hachalu Hundessa ignited violence across Addis Ababa and other Ethiopian cities, Abiy hinted, without obvious suspects or clear motives for the killing, that Hundessa may have been murdered by Egyptian security agents acting on orders from Cairo to stir up trouble.[119] An Egyptian diplomat responded by saying that Egypt "has nothing to do with current tensions in Ethiopia".[120] Ian Bremmer wrote in a Time magazine article that Prime Minister Abiy "may just be looking for a scapegoat that can unite Ethiopians against a perceived common enemy".[119]

Religious harmony

Ethiopia is a country of various religious groups, primarily Christian and Muslim communities. Both inter-religious and intra-religious divisions and conflicts were a major concern, where both the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Ethiopian Islamic Council experienced religious and administrative divisions and conflicts.[121][122] In 2018, he was given a special "peace and reconciliation" award by the Ethiopian Church for his work in reconciling rival factions within the church.[123]

Security sector reform

Abiy with military commanders in February 2019

In June 2018, Abiy, speaking to senior commanders of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) declared his intention to carry out reforms of the military to strengthen its effectiveness and professionalism, with the view of limiting its role in politics. This followed renewed calls both within Ethiopia and from international human rights groups, namely Amnesty International, to dissolve highly controversial regional militias such as the Liyyu force.[124] This move is considered likely to face resistance from TPLF hardliners, who occupy much of the military high command.[125]

Notably, he has also called for the eventual reconstitution of the Ethiopian Navy, dissolved in 1996 in the aftermath of Eritrea's secession after an extraterritorial sojourn in Djibouti, saying that "we should build our naval force capacity in the future."[126] It was reported that this move would appeal to nationalists still smarting from the country's loss of its coastline 25 years prior. Ethiopia already has a maritime training institute on Lake Tana as well as a national shipping line.

On 7 June 2018, Abiy carried out a wide-ranging reshuffle of top security officials, replacing ENDF Chief of Staff Samora Yunis with Lieutenant General Se'are Mekonnen, National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) director Getachew Assefa with Lieutenant General Adem Mohammed, National Security Advisor and former army chief Abadula Gemeda, and Sebhat Nega, one of the founders of the TPLF and director-general of the Foreign Relations Strategic Research Institute[127][128] Sebhat's retirements had been previously announced that May.[129]

Grenade attack

A large peaceful demonstration was organized in Addis Ababa at Meskel Square on 23 June 2018 to show support for the new prime minister. Just after Abiy had finished addressing the crowd a grenade was thrown and landed just 17 metres away from where he and other top officials were sitting. Two people were killed and over 165 were injured. Following the attack, 9 police officials were detained, including the deputy police commissioner, Girma Kassa, who was fired immediately. Questions were asked as to how a police car carrying attackers got so close to the prime minister and soon after the car was set alight destroying evidence. After the attack the prime minister addressed the nation on national TV unhurt by the blast and describing it as an "unsuccessful attempt by forces who do not want to see Ethiopia united". On the same day the prime minister made an unannounced visit to the Black Lion general hospital to meet victims of the attack.[130][131][132][133]

Cabinet reshuffle

In the parliamentary session held on 16 October 2018, Abiy proposed to reduce the number of ministries from 28 to 20 with half of the cabinet positions for female ministers, a first in the history of the country.[134] The new cabinet restructure included the first female president, Sahle-Work Zewde; the first female minister of the Ministry of Defense, Aisha Mohammed Musa;[135] the first female minister of the new Ministry of Peace, Muferiat Kamil responsible for the Ethiopian Federal Police and the intelligence agencies; the first female press secretary for the Office of the Prime Minister, Billene Seyoum Woldeyes.[136]

Internet shutdowns

According to NGOs like Human Rights Watch and NetBlocks, politically motivated Internet shutdowns have intensified in severity and duration under the leadership of Abiy Ahmed despite the country's rapid digitalization and reliance on cellular internet connectivity in recent years.[137][138] In 2020, Internet shutdowns by the Ethiopian government had been described as "frequently deployed".[139] Access Now said that shutdowns have become a "go-to tool for authorities to muzzle unrest and activism."[139] His government will the cut internet as and when, "it's neither water nor air" have said Abiy.[140][141]

Political party reform

On 21 November 2019, upon approval of EPRDF ruling coalition, a new party, Prosperity Party, is formed via merging of three of the four parties that made up the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and other five affiliate parties. The parties include the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), the Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM), the Amhara Democratic Party (ADP), the Harari National League (HNL), the Ethiopian Somali Peoples Democratic Party (ESPDP), the Afar National Democratic Party (ANDP), the Gambella Peoples Unity Party (GPUP), and the Benishangul Gumuz Peoples Democratic Party (BGPDP). The programs and bylaws of the newly merged party were first approved by the executive committee of EPRDF. Abiy believes that "Prosperity Party is committed to strengthening and applying a true federal system which recognizes the diversity and contributions of all Ethiopians".[142]

Civil conflicts

Awol Allo argues that when Abiy came to power in 2018, two irreconcilable and paradoxical vision future created. Central of these ideological vision often contradict historical narrative of Ethiopian state.[143] Abiy's undertook major reforms in the country and the liberation suspected to worsen the relationship with TPLF members.[144] The following lists detail civil conflicts and war during Abiy's premiership.

Amhara Region coup d'état attempt

On 22 June 2019, factions of the security forces of the region attempted a coup d'état against the regional government, during which the President of the Amhara Region, Ambachew Mekonnen, was assassinated.[145] A bodyguard siding with the nationalist factions assassinated General Se'are Mekonnen – the Chief of the General Staff of the Ethiopian National Defense Force – as well as his aide, Major General Gizae Aberra.[145] The Prime Minister's Office accused Brigadier General Asaminew Tsige, head of the Amhara region security forces, of leading the plot,[146] and Tsige was shot dead by police near Bahir Dar on 24 June.[147]

Metekel conflict

Starting in June 2019, fighting in the Metekel Zone of the Benishangul-Gumuz Region in Ethiopia has reportedly involved militias from the Gumuz people.[148] Gumuz are alleged to have formed militias such as Buadin and the Gumuz Liberation Front that have staged attacks.[149][150] According to Amnesty International, the 22–23 December 2020 attacks were by Gumuz against Amhara, Oromo and Shinasha, who the Gumuz nationalists viewed as "settlers".[151]

October 2019 Ethiopian clashes

In October 2019, Ethiopian activist and media owner Jawar Mohammed claimed that members of the police had attempted to force his security detail to vacate the grounds of his home in Addis Ababa in order to detain him the night of 23 October, intimating that they had done so at the behest of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The previous day, Abiy had given a speech in Parliament in which he had accused "media owners who don't have Ethiopian passports" of "playing it both ways", a thinly veiled reference to Jawar, adding that "if this is going to undermine the peace and existence of Ethiopia... we will take measures."[152][153]

Hachalu Hundessa riots

The murder of Oromo singer Hachalu Hundessa led serious unrest across Oromia Region, Addis Ababa and Jimma from 30 June to 2 July 2020. The riots lead to the deaths of at least 239 people according to initial police reports.[154]

Tigray War

In early November 2020, an armed conflict began after 4 November Northern Command Attacks by TPLF security forces, prompting the ENDF to engage in war. The ENDF is supported by Eritrean Defence Force, Amhara and Afar Region special force with other regional forces, while TPLF was aided by Tigray Special Force and Tigray Defense Force.[155][156][157][158][159][160][161][162] Hostilities between the central government and the TPLF escalated after the TPLF rejected the central government's decision to postponing August 2020 elections to mid-2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, accusing the government of violating the Ethiopian constitution.[163]

The TPLF carried out its own regional elections, winning all contested seats in the region's parliament.[164] In response, Abiy Ahmed redirected funding from the top level of the Tigray regional government to lower ranks in a bid to weaken the TPLF party.[165]

The central matter of the civil conflict, as portrayed by Abiy and as reported by Seku Ture, a member of the TPLF party, is an attack on the Northern Command bases and headquarters in the Tigray region by security forces of the TPLF,[166][167][168] the province's elected party; though such a claim is contested.

The Ethiopian government announced on 28 November 2020 that they had captured Mekelle, the capital of Tigray, completing their "rule of law operations".[169] However, there are reports that guerrilla-style conflict with the TPLF continues.[170][171]

About 2.3 million children are cut off from desperately needed aid and humanitarian assistance, said the United Nations. The Ethiopian federal government has made strict control of access to the Tigray region (since the start of the conflict), and the UN said it is frustrated that talks with the Ethiopian government have not yet brought humanitarian access. These include, "food, including ready-to-use therapeutic food for the treatment of child malnutrition, medicines, water, fuel and other essentials that are running low" said UNICEF.[172][173][174][175][176]

On 18 December 2020, looting was reported by EEPA, including 500 dairy cows and hundreds of calves stolen by Amhara forces.[177] On 23 November, a reporter of AFP news agency visited the western Tigray town of Humera, and observed that the administration of the conquered parts of Western Tigray was taken over by officials from Amhara Region.[178] Refugees interviewed by Agence France Presse (AFP) stated that pro-TPLF forces used Hitsats as a base for several weeks in November 2020, killing several refugees who wanted to leave the camp to get food, and in one incident, killed nine young Eritrean men in revenge for having lost a battle against the EDF[179]

In his premature[180][181][182][183][184][185] victory speech delivered to the federal parliament[186] on 30 November 2020, Abiy Ahmed pronounced: "Related to civilian damage, maximum caution was taken. In just 3 weeks of fighting, in any district, in Humera, Adi Goshu, ... Axum, ..., Edaga Hamus, .... The defence forces never killed a single civilian in a single town. No soldier from any country could display better competence."[187]

On 21 March 2021, during a parliamentary session in which Abiy Ahmed was questioned on sexual violence in the Tigray War, he replied: "The women in Tigray? These women have only been penetrated by men, whereas our soldiers were penetrated by a knife”.[188] There is a fear that the people of Tigray – and in particular the women – cannot live with what has been said, what has been admitted, and above all, with a Prime Minister who has endorsed a culture of rape."[188]

The public image of a Nobel Peace Prize winner is being rapidly re-assessed by international media as increasingly grisly reports of atrocities emerge.[189] The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken has been quoted as saying that he had seen "very credible reports of human rights abuses and atrocities," and that "forces from Eritrea and Amhara must leave and be replaced by 'a force that will not abuse the human rights of the people of Tigray or commit acts of ethnic cleansing'." In December 2021, Declan Walsh reported in The New York Times that Abiy and Isaias had been secretly planning the Tigray War even before the former's Nobel Prize was awarded, in order to settle their respective grudges against the TPLF.[190]

Political positions

Abiy has been described as a "liberal populist" by the academic and journalist Abiye Teklemariam and the influential Oromo activist Jawar Mohammed.[citation needed] Alemayehu Weldemariam, a U.S.-based Ethiopian lawyer and public intellectual, has called Abiy "an opportunistic populist jockeying for power on a democratizing platform."[191] On the other hand, Tom Gardner argues in Foreign Policy that he's not a populist, but more of a liberal democrat. However, Gardner acknowledges that Abiy has "occasionally used language that can be read as euphemistic and conspiracy-minded", and might have "exploited the system's vulnerabilities, such as a pliable media and politicized judiciary, for his own ends."[191]

Awards

Award Awarding institution Date
Most Excellent Order of the Pearl of Africa: Grand Master[192] Uganda 9 June 2018
Order of the Zayed Medal[193] UAE Crown Prince 24 July 2018
High Rank Peace Award[194] Ethiopian Orthodox Church 9 September 2018
Order of King Abdulaziz[195] Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 16 September 2018
Nominee for Tipperary International Peace Award alongside Mary Robinson (the eventual winner); Aya Chebbi; humanitarian worker in South Sudan Orla Treacy; the President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki; Swedish student and climate change activist Greta Thunberg and Nigerian humanitarian activist Zannah Bukar Mustapha[196] Tipperary Peace Convention November 2018
100 Most Influential Africans of 2018[197] New African magazine 1 December 2018
African of the year[198] The African leadership magazine 15 December 2018
100 Most Influential People 2018[199] Time magazine 1 January 2019
100 Global Thinkers of 2019[200] Foreign Policy magazine 1 January 2019
Personality of the Year[201] AfricaNews.com 1 January 2019
African Excellence Award for Gender[202] African Union 11 February 2019
Humanitarian and Peace Maker Award[203] African Artists Peace Initiative 9 March 2019
Laureate of the 2019 edition of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny – UNESCO Peace Prize[204] UNESCO 2 May 2019
Peace Award for Contribution of Unity to Ethiopian Muslims[205] Ethiopian Muslim Community 25 May 2019
Chatham House Prize 2019 Nominee[206] Chatham House – The Royal Institute of International Affairs July 2019
World Tourism Award 2019[207] World Tourism Forum August 2019
Hessian Peace Prize[208] State of Hessen August 2019
African Association of Political Consultants Award[209] APCAfrica September 2019
Nobel Peace Prize[210] Nobel Foundation 11 October 2019
July 2021 Employee of the Month[211] World Peace Foundation 19 July 2021

Nicknames

Getachew Reda, a senior official of the elected government of Tigray Region, mocked Abiy Ahmed in a tweet on the day of the general elections, saying the Tigray Defense Forces had captured hundreds of ENDF soldiers as a gift for Abiy's coronation as the Naked Emperor of Ethiopia.[212]

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Government offices
Preceded by
Teklebirhan Woldearegay
Director General of the Information Network Security Agency
2008–2015
Succeeded by
Temesgen Tiruneh
Political offices
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Demitu Hambisa
Minister of Science and Technology
2015–2016
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Getahun Mekuria
Preceded by Prime Minister of Ethiopia
2018–present
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2018–2019
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Preceded by Chairman of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front
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New political party President of the Prosperity Party
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