Samuel Abera

Ethiopia is still grappling with the staggering cost of the devastating war in Northern Ethiopia, specifically in the Tigray region. The economic toll of the conflict, estimated at over $28 billion by the Ministry of Finance, matches the entirety of the country’s external debt.

Yet, the humanitarian repercussions have been even more dire. While an official count of lives lost during the conflict remains elusive, researchers from Ghent University project that between 300,000 to 600,000 people have perished due to the direct and indirect impacts of the war. Hundreds of thousands have been left injured, enduring the loss of limbs and eyes.

Over 5.5 million individuals have been displaced, and countless others have faced hunger and limited access to medical care. This grim reality of death and devastation has unfolded under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. His ruling Prosperity Party’s inability to address the dispute with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front has exacerbated tensions in Tigray, Amhara, and Afar regions.

Paradoxically, Abiy Ahmed was bestowed with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 as a reformist peacemaker, evoking immense pride and enthusiasm among Ethiopians. However, it swiftly became evident that the Prime Minister’s approach was not only reckless but also negligent in handling sensitive issues, including disputes that had the potential to ignite further conflicts in an already unstable nation marred by deep-seated ethnic divisions.

Currently, Ethiopia stands on the precipice of yet another war, this time in the Amhara region. The escalating conflict traces back to Abiy Ahmed’s precipitous decision to disarm and disband the Amhara Special Forces and Fano, a volunteer defense force with a longstanding tradition. This move created a perilous security vacuum. Amhara activists and opposition factions swiftly voiced apprehensions, citing the threats posed by the incompletely disarmed TPLF, as per the Pretoria Peace Agreement.

The endeavor to disarm Fano, a pivotal paramilitary group instrumental in quelling the TPLF, backfired on Abiy Ahmed. Fano militants resisted, leading to clashes with the military across the Amhara region. They overran multiple garrisons and seized nearly forty cities and towns. This preventable conflict rapidly spiraled out of control.

As the “Fano Spring” unfurled throughout the Amhara region, federal forces found themselves routed, compelling Abiy’s cabinet to declare a six-month state of emergency in the area. This decision underscores Abiy Ahmed’s propensity for imprudent actions lacking foresight.

Abiy Ahmed’s leadership style is characterized by a recurring pattern. His choices have demonstrated recklessness, while his actions often harbor intrigue and Machiavellian tactics. Consequently, Ethiopia has evolved into a more hazardous powder keg, poised for explosive conflict that could potentially surpass the calamity of the Tigray war.

The Prime Minister’s inclination for imprudent decision-making has consistently yielded dire consequences. His hasty move to disarm and disband the Amhara Special Forces without considering the potential security vacuum in the region is a glaring example. This ill-conceived step swiftly culminated in clashes with the Fano paramilitary group, further inflaming tensions in the already fragile Amhara region. In fact, there are credible allegations suggesting a covert agreement to disarm and weaken Amhara forces, facilitating the transfer of two contentious areas, Welkait and Raya, to the TPLF.

Furthermore, his failure to address the long-standing dispute with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front has left the nation vulnerable to a devastating war and entrenched divisions. The Tigray War’s profound human and economic toll serves as a stark testament to the dire consequences of Abiy’s erratic and misguided leadership style.

His Machiavellian governance approach compounds the complexity. His manipulative and scheming demeanor often leaves the public in the dark about the true motivations behind his cunning decisions and actions. Due to his questionable trustworthiness, faith in the government has eroded significantly, further intensifying tensions, schisms, and distrust.

Ethiopia now teeters on the brink of yet another round of incendiary conflict. This looming crisis overlays the staggering humanitarian costs of the conflicts in Tigray, Amhara, and Afar regions. The scars from these conflicts run deep, and the wounds may take generations to heal.

Abiy Ahmed’s most glaring failure rests in his abandonment of the initial reformist agenda. He swiftly veered away from much-needed reforms to cultivate a dictatorial cult of personality. His once unprecedented global appeal has dwindled entirely. He now appears as a shadow of his former self, entangled in a perilous journey that could solidify his legacy as “Ethiopia’s Evan the Terrible.”

Evan, who ruled Russia from 1547 to 1584, was initially beloved. However, as he consolidated power, fear and terror became his tools. His reign was marked by brutality and severe punishments, earning him the infamous moniker “the Terrible.”

Under Evan’s rule, dissent and opposition were promptly quelled, often with ruthless reprisals. His merciless nature and disregard for human life created an atmosphere of terror and uncertainty among the populace. Perceived threats to his power were met with unrelenting crackdowns, leaving suffering and devastation in their wake.

Abiy embarked on his tenure by condemning his predecessors, particularly the TPLF, for their oppressive rule. Tragically, he followed in their footsteps, morphing into a manipulative, charming, and self-centered oppressor.

Abiy Ahmed’s commitment to human rights, equality, and expanded freedoms, which he passionately advocated, rapidly faded. The hope for transformative change that swept the nation with his rise to power has given way to despair and trepidation. The echoes of oppression, once ardently resisted, have returned, casting a somber shadow over the land. Those who once envisioned a united and inclusive Ethiopia now face a distant and elusive dream.

Disillusionment and resentment among Ethiopia’s people are palpable. Abiy’s administration, once a beacon of promise, now encounters fervent skepticism and opposition. The rhetoric of advancement and liberty has been eclipsed by escalating fear and disillusionment, as Abiy Ahmed metamorphoses into “Ethiopia’s Evan the Terrible.” He is now poised to be remembered as Abiy the Terrible.

Abiy Ahmed’s monumental failure to devise a comprehensive and inclusive strategy for addressing Ethiopia’s long-standing ethnic divisions and grievances has contributed to the escalating conflicts across the nation. Instead of fostering unity and reconciliation, Abiy’s actions have spurred resentment, divisions, and distrust among diverse ethnic groups, propelling the country closer to the precipice of another devastating conflict.

In this precarious juncture, the necessity for a visionary leader capable of steering Ethiopia away from self-inflicted disaster is painfully evident. The challenges confronting the nation are undeniably complex.

With the right approach and a genuine commitment to dialogue and understanding, there remains hope for a peaceful and prosperous Ethiopia, founded on equality, respect for human rights, and national cohesion. Without fostering unity and national consensus, stabilizing a profoundly fractured nation like Ethiopia is an insurmountable task. Ethiopia’s future hangs in the balance once again.

The decisions made today will indelibly shape the destiny of generations to come. It is time for Abiy Ahmed to reassess his leadership style and craft a comprehensive roadmap for enduring peace and stability. Otherwise, the approaching train of change may run him over as he slumbers in the middle of the fast lane of the railroad.

Abiy is now confronted with two fundamental choices. He must either acknowledge the concerns and grievances of the people, working earnestly towards genuine reconciliation and unity, or face the repercussions of his shortsighted and oppressive measures. Ignoring the former and embracing the latter will inevitably result in his being swept from power, a consequence of his own making.

The aspirations of citizens, regardless of their background, must be respected, and their rights upheld without bias. Rediscovering the vision that ignited the flame of change in Ethiopia and recommitting to truly inclusive governance remains the better option, offering a chance to evade another cycle of bloodshed.