Today marks the beginning of a New Year in the Ethiopian calendar. For the past 12 months, the country has gone through ups and downs, which is seldom seen in few illustrative graphs. An eventful year filled with all aspects of political, social and economic triumphs and let downs, it has kept Ethiopians by and large engaged. As opposed to mainly keeping promises made on a political arena and for reasons of politics; the past year consistently dealt with maintaining peace and security across the country. Even though conflicts have escalated, protesters and security forces have clashed plenty of times, death of civilians and property destruction throughout the country were becoming a norm, but there were also heart-worming moments in the concluding year. The Nobel Peace Prize, the GERD filling, the launch of ETRSS1, a new park opened, a rejuvenated Palace grounds and the like were part of the year that was sidelined by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Major highlights of 2012 E.C.
Going back a couple of years, after Abiy Ahmed (PhD) assumed leadership, many exiled political parties and actors were invited back home to restart their political activities in the country. In-line with this, political parties operating in Oromia Regional State signed an agreement of cooperation at the beginning of the year, which allowed them to work together in various areas in the region and beyond. The agreement was signed in the presence of the Prime Minister and Chairperson Of the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) Abiy Ahmed (PhD), Dawud Ibsa, Chairperson of the Oromia Liberation Front (OLF), Merera Gudina (Prof.), Chairperson of the Oromia Federalist Congress (OFC), Lencho Leta, Chairperson of the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF), and other notable leaders of parties operating in the region. During the event, Abiy highlighted the importance of working together and called upon the leaders and representatives of the regional parties, to transform their views and conduct their activities rationally. He underscored the importance of holding civilized discussions in order to achieve respective goals.
It was also in October that the Norwegian Committee revealed the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner as Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed (PhD). The historic win placed the 43 year old among 99 candidates who have won the most prestigious honors since it was founded in 1901.
Sadly, the past year also saw an accident befall members of the Ethiopian Air Force. A Sukhoi SU27 fighter plane crashed immediately after takeoff from Debrezeit Air Force base, Ethiopia’s main Air Force base located 50 km Southeast of Addis Ababa, killing two pilots. An instructor and a trainee pilot were flying the Russian made SU27 fighter jet, where the instructor Maj. Sebri Tofik, 37, died in the accident together with the trainee pilot. The engine caught fire during takeoff and crashed near the Addis Ababa-Adama road. Even though the instructor reportedly ejected out, sadly the parachute failed to open due to low altitude.
Much has happened in the past year that the deal Ethiopia and the Russian Federation had inked in field of nuclear development, feels like it took place a long time ago. The agreement will help Ethiopia develop a nuclear facility in ten years’ time, adding to the growth and meet energy demands. The state-owned Rosatom Nuclear Energy Corporation signed the accord with the Ministry of Innovation and Technology of Ethiopia, to provide technical and technological supplies for developing an atomic energy. The intergovernmental nuclear cooperation agreement the two sides have signed includes development of a nuclear infrastructure on selected joint projects in accordance with international recommendations. Following the agreement, both countries will setup a joint coordination committee to help implement selected nuclear power projects which include a 3,000 megawatts nuclear power generating plants, nuclear medicine applications, agriculture, nuclear training and education through the use and application of radioisotopes.
Adding to the lows, incensed by the tragic killings of two students in Woldiya University, students and public universities in different parts of the country were rocked by violence, in the outgoing year. This was again followed by similar clashes in different universities particularly in Amhara and Oromia regional states. According to statements made by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, Universities namely Metu, Jimma, Medawelabu, Debre Tabor, Wello, Dembi Dollo, Dire Dawa, as well as Debre Brehan, also saw similar clashes between students.
Under on the much-publicized political reform process, the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of four parties, merged into a single party known as Ethiopian Prosperity Party, during the year. In a controversial move by one of the founders of the front, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), decided to boycott the merger citting the illegality of the process.
Passing over IGAD leadership
The same year also saw Ethiopia, after leading the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) for a decade, hand over its leadership role to Sudan. The regional bloc subsequently picked Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok as its chair.
Marking a new era in Space, a Chinese Long March 4B rocket (CZ-4B) took off to space carrying onboard Ethiopia’s first remote sensing satellite, ETRSS-1, at 03:21 GMT from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in China. The 70kg multi-spectral civil Earth observation satellite will provide data for Ethiopian authorities and research institutions to monitor the environment and study weather patterns for better agricultural planning, early warning for drought prevention, mining activities and forestry management. The satellite was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the prime contractor, in collaboration with 21 Ethiopian scientists that trained on the project as part of the technology-transfer agreement between Beijing and the Ethiopian Space Science Technology Institute (ESSTI). Largely funded by China, it cost an estimated USD seven million. The historic launch occurred at 7: 02 AM local time, in the presence of government officials inside the Entoto Space Observatory Facility, the region’s lone space observatory.
Hate Speech Law
Tackling pressing hate speech issues, after months of revision and public meetings, the House of People’s Representatives (HPR) approved a controversial Hate Speech and Disinformation proclamation. The House endorsed the bill with a majority vote. The law is meant to safeguard against hate speech and disinformation, as well as prevent individuals from engaging in speeches that incite violence, promote hatred and discrimination against a person or a group. A handful of MPs criticized various provisions of the new law arguing it curtails freedom of expression and the media, and violated article 29 of the constitution, which grants citizens absolute freedom of expression without any boundaries.
New Regional State
In addition, the Sidama people voted for an autonomous rule with less than 2 percent voting to remain in the existing federal region, one of nine currently in the country. The result paves the way for Sidama to become the 10th state and also act as an inspiration for others eager to carve out their own ethnic region.
As if the politics and other pressing matters of the year were not enough, four months after the first incident was reported in China, the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) was reported in Ethiopia, imported by a Japanese national. Liya Tadesse (MD), Minister of Health informed the media that a 48-year-old Japanese national was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 days after his arrival in Addis Ababa. According to Ebba Abate (PhD), director of the Ethiopian Public Health Institute, the victim came from Burkina Faso on March 4, 2020 originally leaving Japan on February 23, 2020. It was confirmed that the patient went to a health clinic on March 9 after experiencing symptoms. Afterwards, measures to curtail the spread of the virus were instituted with immediate effect.
Assassination of a Figure
In the middle of battling the pandemic that has brought many nations to their knees, a story unfolded to the detriment of Ethiopians and the nation. The murder of Hachalu Hundessa, a 36-year-old singer, plunged many cities in the country including the capital Addis Ababa into chaos, resulting in many death and multitudes arrested including prominent opposition political leaders. According to an official statement from the Oroima Police Commission, some 87 individuals including four police officers have lost their lives. Following Hachalu’s death, high-ranking members of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba were detained. The Federal Police stated that in addition to the two, some 35 individuals, who are said to be behind the havoc created in the capital and parts of Oromia Regional State, were also detained. In addition, Eskinnder Nega and Sintayheu Chekol top leaders of the Balderas for True Democracy Party were also detained. Oromia Police also arrested the founder and former president of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP), Lidetu Ayalew, in Addis Ababa. The arrest warrant was issued by the Police of the Oromia Regional State to detain him on July 10, 2020, accused of coordinating and financially supporting the recent chaos in Bishoftu.
Bringing hope to Ethiopians, the first year of filling of Ethiopia’s mega dam on the Nile River was achieved during the ending year. As per the Ethiopian government, talks with Egypt and Sudan will continue. The announcement from the Office of the PM indicated that enough water had accumulated to enable Ethiopia to test the dam’s first two turbines, an important milestone on the way towards actually producing energy. “It has become evident over the past two weeks in the rainy season that the GERD’s first year filling is achieved and the dam under construction is already overtopping.”
Concluding the year, after the decision to postpone the general election was made; the Tigray regional Council subsequently requested the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) to facilitate its regional elections. However, the Board rejected the request saying it was unconstitutional. In a statement NEBE issued on June 24, it rejected the regional state’s request until after the COVID-19 pandemic was re-evaluated and that circumstances to hold elections have changed. NEBE also said that based on its own constitutional mandate to facilitate and implement elections throughout the country, the regional state Council has no legal bases to decide on whether to hold a regional election as well as demand the Board to implement its decision. To this effect, the regional Council decided to conduct the election at a regional level, unilaterally, and establish an electoral commission, against the decision of the postponement of the sixth general election at a national level, by the federal government and the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) citing the COVID-19 pandemic. The newly-established regional electoral commission headed by Muluwork Gebrekidan had announced that some five political parties and 11 individual candidates registered to take part in the regional election, while Arena Tigray, and, Tigray Democratic Party, are boycotting the regional election saying it is not going to be free and fair.