MELES: Why the Addis effect is now resonating all over the world

Thursday July 18 2019

Ethiopia's  Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attends a rally during his visit to Ambo in the Oromiya region on April 11, 2018. The PM has restructured and retooled the future of the nation. PHOTO | REUTERS 

MELES ALEM TIKEA
By MELES ALEM TIKEA
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When he assumed power, Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed's clarion call was that for political progress to happen in Ethiopia, Ethiopians must debate issues openly and respectfully. This, he noted, was because it is easier to win people over to democracy than push them towards democracy.

Tied to this is Abiy's vision, rooted in the concept of Medemer. Medemer is conceptualised as comprising a vibrant economy, economic vitality, regional integration, and openness to the world.

For Ethiopia, every moment is an opportunity towards actualising Medemer, and the national reform agenda items.

While we admit that there are open challenges registered in pursuit of this vision, we know that they are not a monopoly of Ethiopia. The world over, when there is a distinct paradigm shift in national leadership or politics, such challenges are inevitable.

Perhaps what is unique in Ethiopia's case is the tenacity with which the government has chosen to respond to the challenges.

Unlike what was expected, a kind of response reflective of Abiy's rhetoric of unity and forgiveness has prevailed.

Departing from decades of tightly controlled government, heightened civil unrest, and frequent states of emergency, to usher in a series of broad economic, legal, and political reforms should receive accolades.

This disposition resonates with Prime Minister Abiy’s various acts of recognition; The Financial Times described him as Africa's new talisman, The Times 100 list named him as the Person of the Year 2019.

More than 13,000 prisoners were freed as part of an amnesty campaign and the parliament legalised two opposition groups that previously harboured secessionist aspirations.

A Reconciliation Commission was established with a twofold agenda; to address setbacks that have been decades in the making, encourage a positive national tone, and inspire optimism.

While at it, Abiy's government has taken broad measures to address historical injustices, fight against corruption, and put in place institutional frameworks to ensure success in the 2020 national elections.

For most people watching from without, there is a tendency to look backwards. Assume the obvious and negate progressive achievements.

For in any democracy, no leader can cut their way to greatness without encountering pitfalls.

I argue so because there is a tangible reason to believe that Ethiopia has got it right.

After Abiy Ahmed assumed power, he has restructured and retooled the future of the nation. In this view, the political narrative in Ethiopia has turned 180 degrees.

Various levels of success have been recorded since, to the point where some pundits describe the country as the world's most exciting democratic breakthrough.

Institutional metrics have improved over time, complete with a striking gender balance and national inclusion.

The reformist government of Ethiopia has mitigated a number of historical risk-weighted elements, rebalanced gender, rethought regional geographical security, and put in place various architectures to ensure good governance, growth, and prosperity.

So solid is the commitment that today, a myriad nation-building elements are in place. At the heart of this is the involvement of former dissidents.

In the same spirit, Ethiopia has reached out to Kenya to learn, for instance, the best practices on truth, justice and reconciliation. A number of Kenyan firms, from hospitality to banking and industry have already explored Ethiopia.

In sum, to focus on the emanating challenges in Ethiopia would be to miss the real story. There are thousands of good things the reformist has done, will do, and continues to pursue.

Meles Alem Tikea is the Ethiopian ambassador to Kenya.

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