October, a month which kicked off in jubilation, is ending in grief and tragedy for most Ethiopians. And for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), it was a month where he has successfully inaugurated his brainchild, Unity Park, launched his book ‘Medemer’ and to top it all off, he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Unveiled on the first week of this month, Abiy was able to turn a late 19th-century Palace into a major tourist attraction.
Unity Park – encompassed in a 40-hectar National Palace compound at the heart of the City – has within it, historical buildings where both the Imperial and Marxist governments passed decisions affecting millions of Ethiopians.
The unveiling of the project was quickly followed by a Nobel Peace Award to the 42-year old PM. Abiy honored for his efforts to normalize relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and his efforts to widen the political space in the country. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the prize for the 100th time and to 134 laureates. Adding to his accomplishments he then quickly followed it up by releasing Medemer, a book which tries to capture an ideal, which has been advocated by the PM for over a year now.
But, with every High’s, there are also Lows; and for Abiy that was certainly the case.
On Tuesday, the PM appeared before lawmakers to answer questions raised by members of parliament regarding current issues. And to offer further explanation to President Sahle-work Zewde’s opening remarks during the opening of the Parliament, a couple of weeks back.
The PM responded to matters concerning the media. Abiy gave a stark warning to non-Ethiopian media owners engaged in inciting conflicts among different communities by spreading hate speech. On abusing press freedom, the PM said that his administration will not tolerate those non-Ethiopian media owners “whether they speak Amharic or Oromiffa”, for the sake of defending the peace and stability of the country and well-being of its citizens.
Furthermore, in a clear manner, he said to the House: “Using their second nationality and foreign passport as an advantage, these media owners are likely to run away to their safe heavens after inciting conflicts and lead the country into chaos.”
A day earlier (on Monday), in an interview with the state media, the head of the Ethiopian Broadcast Authority, Getachew Dinku (PhD) indicated that the authority may go as far as shutting down media institutions, which incite conflicts by disseminating unethical and biased contents, unless they turn their face to professional journalism.
It is to be recalled that last week, some 29 media outlets have held the first general assembly of the Ethiopian Media Council, which aims to advance professional journalism in Ethiopia by self-regulating and avoiding toxic and biased reporting.
Going back to Abiy’s statement and delving between the lines, some commentators speculated that the PM’s warning was directly related to activist, Jawar Mohammed, who is also the General Manager of OMN. Furthermore, the incident that followed the parliamentary session on Tuesday was also attributed to the statement made by the PM.
On Tuesday around midnight, in a post, Jawar wrote: “We expected this to come,” while accusing government law enforcement of attempted to remove his VIP security detail in the middle of the night without being issued a prior notice.
As the night gave way to day, more than 1,000 supporters gathered around Jawar Mohammed’s residence, after he reported his government-provided security details were asked by police to leave his home in the middle of the night.
Jawar posted subsequent events on the Facebook page of the OMN, which he co-founded.
“Why were they trying to remove my security at night?” he asked. “In the past, whenever they made changes to security, the commanders either personally called me or the head of my detail to inform us. What changed? He asked.”
He further said that he thought the removal of the security forces from his house was meant to take advantage of the political demonstrations taking place over the past few days in Addis Ababa and elsewhere in Oromia, to be used against him.
“The plan was to remove my security and unleash civilian attackers and claim it was a mob attack,” he said in the Facebook post.
But, Police Commissioner, General Endeshaw Tassew told the state media on Wednesday that Jawar’s assumption that he is being targeted for violence was false and that Jawar’s case was just one of several in which security details had been removed.
“Police have been reassessing the need for private security details for VIPs and individuals who fall under its protection. We will continue to do so,” Endeshaw added.
That night, security forces had surrounded his house and the government attempted to withdraw his security details, according to Jawar’s account of the events.
Shimelis Abdisa, vice president of the Oromia region, called for an investigation into the incident, saying it was a “major mistake.”
However, after a string of violence in and around the city and regions, he called for protesters who had blocked roads in the area to stand down, open blocked roads and let normal life resume.
So far, reports show that the violence has claimed the lives of dozens of innocent citizens, throughout the regions while unstated amount of property was vandalized in several locations of Oromia Regional State.
Such protests and violence comes amid criticism of the PM for not enforcing the Law. Some going further to state that even tolerance has a limit.
The young administration, blighted by protests and violence, faces an uphill task of bridging the chasm among different ethnicities inn Ethiopia, in time.
For instance, law enforcement has already been challenged by the power sharing and responsibility, the Federal government has with regional governments as well as joint powers.
There has been a claim that regional governments are amassing more powers through time, leaving the federal government’s natural power hanging by a thread.
Last week, the Ministry of Peace organized a day long consultation in Bishoftu town whereby stakeholders discussed their concerns over the swelling power of regional governments these days.
During the discussion, it was disclosed that the ever growing power, the regional governments are trying to obtain, becomes a challenge for the federal government impeding it from enforcing the law and order over anarchism.
These challenges, collectively, have drawn questions over Abiy’s lack of action against any section of the society or political groups found to incite or disrupt the peace of the country.
During the past three days of protest, Abiy was in Moscow attending the first Russia-Africa Summit hosted by President Vladmir Putin.
Even though the PM has been praised for his efforts to unify the country, it is apparent that there is still a huge amount of work to be done.
Due to this, many fear how Abiy will handle the possible crisis that might arise ahead of the upcoming election should things continue in the same manner?