Abiy’s reforms have burnished him in history as peacemaker
On April 2, 2018, Abiy Ahmed became the 15th Prime Minister of Ethiopia and chairman of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), and the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP).
During his acceptance speech, the prime minister made a number of promises to his people.
He promised to promote the unity of Ethiopians; reach out to the Eritrean government to resolve the long-standing boundary dispute between the two countries; reach out to the political opposition in and out of the country and to ensure political reforms in Ethiopia.
In his first 100 days in office, Prime Minister Abiy had lifted the country’s state of emergency, granted amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, discontinued media censorship, legalised outlawed opposition groups, dismissed military and civilian leaders suspected of corruption and increased the influence of women in political and community life.
These were facts that were well considered by the Nobel Peace committee.
A year later, Prime Minister Abiy had actualised most of his promises and burnished his name in history books as a peacemaker.
This is no mean feat, especially in a country and region characterised by prolonged episodes of conflict, intolerance and political strife of varying magnitudes.
The pursuit of peace in a region where stability is a scarce commodity is seldom a hole-in-one!
Long-living examples have repeatedly cemented this hypothetical belief so much so that politically, any attempt at deconstructing it is met with scientific doubt.
Yet, barely a year into his leadership, the Norwegian Nobel committee announced Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as nominee and eventual winner.
While announcing the reasons for awarding Abiy this year’s prize, the Nobel committee — whose decision is final — justified the award based on solid gains achieved by the Prime Minister.
In fact, it seemed as if members of the committee had a marking scheme against which they graded Abiy’s vision as laid out in his acceptance speech.
The Nobel Peace committee cited a litany of initiatives and achievements, chief among these being Abiy’s work to bring to an end the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea; restoring freedom, and releasing thousands of political prisoners.
Tellingly, Abiy’s government boasts a 50 per cent female cabinet.
Ethiopia is currently the only African country with a woman president.
The head of Ethiopia’s National Electoral Board is female too.
For this, Prime Minister Abiy noted that having women in leadership would continue to help Ethiopia achieve peace and stability.
The build-up towards his nomination and subsequent win was grounded on a number of feats, strategies, sacrifices and vision.
Abiy’s mantra is grounded on the belief that opinions — whether anti or pro government — should never be causes of division in Ethiopia.
This vision is well documented and expressed clearly in the Prime Minister’s recently launched book, Medemer.
The honesty, humility, passion, strength, vision and courage which Abiy possesses, are a seal of approval and reminder of what leadership is about.
No amount of diplomatic make-up will convince and cover up for any inadequacies. It is no wonder then that in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa at large, a problem that was quite literally begging for a solution seems to have got one.
While at it, we acknowledge that there is no single solution that would slay the problems in Ethiopia all at once.
There are outstanding political and economic challenges, which have been in existence for a long time and taken root in our society.
Like elsewhere, they are not unique to Ethiopia.
They may take some time to overcome, but Ethiopians are committed to succeed.
We believe that neighbouring countries, and our sister state Kenya can help us surefootedly engrave wholesale adoption of peace in the region. Together, we can overcome the common economic challenges.
This win is not only for Ethiopia, but for the African continent as a whole.
While receiving her Nobel Peace prize in 2011, the then Liberian head of state Ellen Sirleaf Johnson said: “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.””
It is apparent that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy was listening.
Mr Meles Alem is the Ethiopian ambassador to Kenya.