Contributing one’s share for success of leadership change!
Abiy Ahmed (PhD) became the third person to occupy the Office of the Prime Minister in the twenty-three years since the founding of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia following his appointment to the post by parliament this Monday. The new Prime Minister is set to see out the remaining two years of former Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn’s term, who unexpectedly resigned in mid-February. The challenges facing him are grim given he rose to power in the backdrop of an unprecedented political turmoil that was brought by three years of deadly protests in restive parts of the country.As the Prime Minister ascends to the top job after securing the chairmanship of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) by a majority vote following a fierce internal struggle, the Front’s entire leadership andmembers must acknowledge that his election is an outcome of the “deep renewal” they vowed to undertake and stand resolutely by him. If the EPRDF fails to make use of the opportunity that the change of guard presents and address grievances that have been simmering for decades, the political crisis gripping the country cannot be resolved any time soon. Although the speech delivered by the premier at his swearing in marks a departure from the EPRDF’s long-established culture and is all-inclusive, it also serves as a reminder that the EPRDF needs to jettison obsolete traditions and keep up with the times.
Although time will only tell if the leadership change will have the desired effect, the Prime Minister’s speech, which struck a different tenor from his predecessors’, was generally well-received. The fact that he chose to go beyond the ethnocentric narrative that had been espoused for years and dwelt at length on the bigger ideal that Ethiopia represents was regarded as an important step forward. The tone he set can be viewed as not only heralding the beginning of fundamental changes Ethiopia, but also helpful in eliminating the current climate of distrust and division bedevilingthe country. He also touched the hearts of many when he highlighted family values, values which have never had a prominent place in the EPRDF’s culture.Some of the metaphors he used to describe the strong bond of solidarity characterizing Ethiopians evoked profound emotions in many an Ethiopian. And the equal emphasis he gave to the protection of individual rights, which had played second fiddle to group rights under the EPRDF, is a harbinger of the change that is anticipatedto come. At a time Ethiopia finds itself at a crossroads owing, among other things, to the infringement of such constitutionally guaranteed rights as freedom of expression and assembly, the Prime Minister and his administration need to be given all the help they can get.
As the Prime Minister underscored in his address the importance of respecting diversity when calling upon Ethiopians to come together, it is incumbent on us to accommodate differences as werenew our commitment to building a democratic system. From appointing cabinet ministers to institution building to tackling numerous accumulated chores requiring his decision the tasks awaiting him as he takes up office are to say the least exceptionally demanding. It is of the essence that merit and not quota play a decisive role when he assembles his cabinet team. Equally critical is to breathe a new life into the feeble government agencies under his control as well as the institutions of democracy. In particular ensuring the independence of the National Election Board of Ethiopia, the courts and the press plus guaranteeing the unfettered enjoyment of basic liberties are amongst the areas that should be singled out for urgent reform.
A considerable segment of the Prime Minister’s speech was devoted to national unity and consensus. Once he gets into full swing he is expected to disclose details of policy and strategic framework reforms. The EPRDF has made countless promises to the public following the “renewal” exercises it periodically conducts. Prime Minister Abiy very much needs the support of the EPRDF, confidants, opposition parties and groups and the general public to set the stage for the next elections in 2020, when his term is due to expire, to be free, fair and democratic. Such assistance is instrumental in creating the space for a constructive political engagement in Ethiopia. All citizens who have high hopes for their beloved countrymust realize that the hatred and intolerance besetting Ethiopian politics only serves to harm thenational interest and as suchcontribute their share to the democratization process.
Ethiopia’s former glory can be restored solely through the sacrifice of its sons and daughters. Its citizens are duty-bound to defend its sovereignty by rebuffing any attempt to interfere in its internal affair. Foreign elements with an axe to grind will leave no stone unturned to advance their interest in Ethiopia and the wider region. They will go as far as installing a puppet government who will do their bidding. If their evil motive is to be thwarted it is imperative to put in place an inclusive system of governance which, inter alia,enables citizens to enjoy the equal protection of the law and participate fully in the affairs of the nation, eschews maladministration and corruption, and ensures accountability and transparency in the operations of the government so that Ethiopians are able exercise the full measure of their human and democratic rights. Prime Minister Abiy and his administration must be extended the support they need with a sense of nationalism in order that this agendais translated into action.
The far-sighted people of Ethiopia, who were delighted by Prime Minister Abiy’s speech, have expressed in various ways that they will not hesitate to supporttheir leader. As we always say this show of support emanates from the bottomless love Ethiopians have for their country. There is no doubting that they can do miracles if good governance prevails. This is precisely what the Prime Minister alluded to in his speech. It’s high time that the actors on the political scene, which for long have viewed each other as archenemies, leave behind their baggage and come to a common understanding in a spirit of give-and-take so they can deliver the changes the public craves for. We cannot leave everything to the premier and his administration and expect him to accomplish the lofty ideals he has set out to. All of us owe the premier the duty of give him time to settle in his new job and the help he needs before berating him for something he did or did not do. That is why each and every citizen must contribute his share for the leadership change to lead to better times. We wish the Prime Minister all the best in his endeavors!