From doomsday to a bright new day
On April 29, 2018, 27 days after Dr. Abiy Ahmed became Prime Minister, I wrote him Open Memorandum No. 3: “Ask Not What Abiy Ahmed Can Do for Ethiopia, Ask What You Can Do for Your Ethiopia!”
That Memorandum was my response to the social media trolls clamoring for PM Abiy Ahmed to do everything under the sun in less than 30 days and spinning tales of defeatism and cynicism and preaching their gospel of pessimism and negativism.
The diaspora wolf packs, has-beens and Johnny-come-latelys (ye dil atbiya arbegnoch) were ganging up on PM Abiy, many of them unwitting suckers of TPLF operatives. A few came out of the woodwork to play hero after they they felt victory is assured.
I did not write Memorandum #3 to defend PM Abiy against criticism.
For those in power, criticism comes with the territory. The apt adage is, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
I prefer informed, fair and constructive criticism based on facts and evidence but PM Abiy’s detractors—including cliques of delusional ethnonationalists, sclerotic has-been former “leaders” exiled in the diaspora, dimwitted intellectuals who believe academic acronyms after their names qualifies them to pontificate to the Ethiopian people—were fabricating lies and disinformation to conceal their hatred of PM Abiy and to ply their politics of personal destruction.
Surely, if the critics had alternative solutions, criticism would be fair game. Their aim was to agitate and spread unrest and upheaval throughout the country so they can steal their way to power in the ensuing chaos.
PM Abiy’s detractors’ solution was clear: PM Abiy should resign and a transitional/care taker government established to undertake a program of power sharing, reconciliation, negotiations, etc.
Four facts were crystal clear for me.
First, the doomsday naysayers believed the first six months were their only real opportunity to grab power. They calculated PM Abiy is young, inexperienced, without strong organizational support in the military and security services; and in any case he was not a man of action talking about love, peace, national understanding, Ethiopiawinet and so forth.
In August 2018, I warned everyone not to underestimate PM Abiy because despite his talk of love and peace, there is an iron fist inside the velvet glove he wears in public.
Second, PM Abiy’s detractors were scared to death he could indeed win the hearts and minds of the Ethiopian people and bring a large measure of peace, reconciliation and hope to Ethiopia. That means their hunger and thirst for power will go unsated forever.
Third, they believed if PM Abiy succeeds in any way, they are doomed to fail. Their ambition for power, fame, fortune and glory goes up in smoke.
Fourth, they believed if they cannot arrange for a coup or violent overthrow of PM Abiy (which the TPLF and lackeys tried on June 23, 2018), the only way they had a chance to grab power was by scandalizing and delegitimizing PM Abiy regardless of what he does or does not do.
Against the cacophony of the doomsday naysayers was a clarion call by the late great Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam, the stalwart of Ethiopian human rights, to back off.
On April 22, 2018, 20 days after PM Abiy took office, Prof. Mesfin, the perennial anti-government contrarian and defender of human rights delivered a robust defense of PM Abiy:
Abiy is just starting. As he said himself, he is beginning to do his first task. He is just taking his first steps. Let alone running, he is barely walking. But it appears there are many standing in the shadows to ambush him. I believe he is crisscrossing the country to save our people from dangerous intrigues.
In my estimation, those who are expressing bitter opposition against him could be transformed into becoming his supporters. As I understand it, what Abiy has done is generally touch the sore point of the woyane power structure and especially the Wolkait segment of the Amhara society. While we are on the topic, the Wolkait-Tegede dispute is similar to the intrigue that resulted in the dispute between the Turks and Greeks following WW I, which remains unresolved to this day. If we transcend the politics of ethnicity and identity, both illnesses could be resolved.
Did PM Abiy deliver on his promises?
On October 2, 2018, I did a six-month review of PM Abiy in my commentary entitled, “Ethiopia and Abiy Ahmed: What a Difference 180 Days Make?”
I also documented his extraordinary accomplishments with demonstrable and verified facts last week.
My factual review and appreciation was nothing compared to what the world was saying about PM Abiy Ahmed.
The New York Times says Abiy Ahmed is the “most closely watched leader in Africa.”
CNN has tried to explain “Why Ethiopians believe their new prime minister is a prophet.”
The Economist is trying to figure out why “Ethiopians are going wild for Abiy Ahmed.”
Al Jazeera wonders if Abiy Ahmed is the real thing: “Are Ethiopians blinded by Abiymania?”
Black Star News has declared, “Dr. Abiy Ahmed is a legitimate Nobel Peace Prize candidate.”
Herman Cohen, former U.S. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, tweeted: “For the first time in my professional life, I am nominating someone for the Nobel Peace Prize: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. If he brings multiparty democracy to #Ethiopia, the entire Horn of Africa will be transformed for the better.”
Abiy Ahmed, known by very few in Ethiopia (except for a 3 or 4 short YouTube videos, I had never heard of Abiy Ahmed) before April 2, 2018 when he took office and completely unknown internationally was considered a shoo-in for the Nobel Peace Prize in only 180 days.
It was mindboggling!
Ask not what Abiy Ahmed can do for YOU or for ETHIOPIA, ask what YOU can do for YOUR Ethiopia.
LET’S GET FOUR THREE INDISPUTABLE FACTS ON THE TABLE!
First, Abiy Ahmed has delivered in 3 years what the TPLF has not been able to deliver in 27.
Second, on June 23, 2021, the People of Ethiopia spoke loud and clear. The People elected Ahmed and Prosperity Party in a landslide and African Union-verified election lead them for the next 5 years.
Vox populi, vox dei. The voice of the people is the voice of God.
Like it or not, in Ethiopia and in the diaspora, the choice is to join/support PM Abiy and Prosperity Party and propel Ethiopia to new heights in the next 5 years, become the loyal opposition or irrelevant.
Third, the days of grabbing power by force, coup d’états and other means contrary to the principle of consent of the governed are over. The people of Ethiopia will never accept a government imposed upon them at the barrel of the gun!
Fourth, the torch has been passed to a new generation, Ethiopia’s Cheetah Generation.
In 2012, I prophesied, “Only a coalition of cheetahs organized across ethnic, religious, linguistic and regional lines can crash a crash of hippos and a cackle of hyenas and save Ethiopia.”
My prophesy has come to pass.
Today, hundreds of thousands of young Ethiopians have joined the Ethiopian defense, security and police forces to save Ethiopia from the existential threat posed by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Today, Ethiopia has a government of young men and women the vast majority of which are under 45 years old.
PM Abiy Ahmed is 45 years old and became prime minister at 42.
In the halcyon days of America, President John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address talked about a “very different world” where “man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.”
Kennedy proclaimed, “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans” and warned, “In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course.”
Then he posed two timeless and deathless question to Americans about the mission of the “new generation”:
My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.
Today, I pose the same question to my fellow Ethiopians in the country and in the diaspora.
We live in a very different Ethiopia today where we hold the scepter of prosperity in our hands to slay the monster of poverty that has haunted us from time immemorial.
The torch has been passed to a new generation to bring Ethiopia out of the depths of poverty to the heights of prosperity.
So, we must all ask not what Abiy Ahmed can do for us and for Ethiopia, but what each one of us can do for Ethiopia.
Ask not what Ethiopia will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom and prosperity of the Ethiopian people.
The torch has been passed to a new generation, Ethiopia’s Cheetah Generation.
For the past six decades, Ethiopians paid with blood, sweat and tears to have a democratically elected government.
That dream is now realized.
But the work of democratic institution-building and democratic civic culture is just beginnning.
The dream of sculpting prosperity from centuries of poverty requires generational efforts.
PM Abiy and Prosperity Party have taken the challenge to do the heavy lifting to lift Ethiopia out of poverty and conflict for the next five years.
Anyone who expects Ethiopia’s social, economic and political problems can be solved in 5 years is beyond naïve.
Ethiopia’s fate and destiny hangs in the balance of what each Ethiopian in the country and in the diaspora does.
It is an individual moral obligation and a collective social responsibility.
Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Each Ethiopian must be the change s/he wishes to see in Ethiopia.
On March 31, 2007, I wrote a commentary entitled “The Hummingbird and the Forest Fire: A Diaspora Morality Tale”.
In that commentary, I argued Ethiopia is on fire (ethnic hatred and division, sectarianism, regionalism, etc.) and only its young firefighters are able to save the Ethiopia House from the conflagration.
I described the role of my generation (Hippo Generation) as auxiliaries. “The young people are the only ones who can fight this fire and put it out. The rest of us are water carriers.”
For many of us in the diaspora, especially those who think they could return to Ethiopia and finagle our way to political power, that pipe dream is dead, dead, dead!
Therefore, at the individual level, all Ethiopians must take responsibility and do what the hummingbird did when the forest was on fire as I described in the Diaspora Morality Tale.
What can I do personally?
My job is to make sure PM Abiy’s Generation succeeds because failure is not an option.
State failure is not an option. Political failure is not an option. Economic failure is not an option. Social failure is not an option.
Ethiopia will not fail as long as Ethiopia’s Cheetah Generation is at the helm captaining the Ethiopian Ship of State.
Let me confess in one sentence. MY GENERATION HAS TOTALLY FAILED ETHIOPIA.
The only way I can make amends for my generation, atone for myself and overcome the abiding guilt of failure is by doing all I can to make sure PM Abiy’s generation succeeds and Ethiopia becomes the brightest star in the African constellation.
My motto is “Speaking truth to power.”
I must speak truth to myself and answer the inescapable question: What can I do for my Ethiopia?
On April 17, 2018, 15 days after taking office, PM Abiy listed the chronic problems facing Ethiopia.
On October 11, 2021, those problems persist.
On April 17, on the issue of foreign exchange PM Abiy said:
… We have a big problem generating foreign exchange. I want to appeal to you now to bring the money [dollars, Euros] you have stashed away in Dubai. We have the problem not as a government but as a country. We want you to help us now…. I’m appealing to you to bring back the money. What we are saying is return the money you moved out of the country [and make it available for hard currency and help the people]… That money if it’s returned will alleviate a lot of problems…
On April 17, on the question of foreign investment PM Abiy said:
… Ethiopia needs foreign investment, especially now. If we cannot attract foreign capital, we will not be able to accomplish the development plan we have set. All countries that succeeded in developing themselves invited foreign capital. Foreign investors are necessary for us to have global market access. We need them for technology transfer. We need them to increase our technical capacity to maintain them. We need them for hard currency.
On April 17, on the question of remittances, PM Abiy said:
… Related to hard currency shortages is remittances. Ethiopians living abroad whether their scientists or do work ordinary jobs, remittance is the money that they sent back to their country. Ethiopia is among the few African countries that have a lot of citizens living abroad. Remittances coming into our country are very low. Nigeria generates 500% more in remittances and Egypt 300% more than we do. When Diasporans say we will not send money to punish the government, who is going to be hurt? It will be the small business operators who do not have the ability to generate hard currency. It promotes the black market. The poor cannot afford that. We have to work together to grow remittances.
On April 17, on the question of Ethiopia’s image abroad, PM Abiy said:
Ethiopia has official ambassadors in many countries. Those ambassadors have not been able to do much, nor have they done much. Diplomatic work is done by Diaspora Ethiopians and business entrepreneurs like yourselves. Diasporans should strive to improve the image of Ethiopia as much as possible strive to show the best of our country. We cannot attract tourists and investors with official diplomats. What you must do, as much as possible, improve the image of Ethiopia throughout the world. I am not talking about our [government] image. I am talking about Ethiopia image and we must work together to improve that image.
Ask what I/You/We can do for Ethiopia
For diaspora Ethiopians, our work is cut out for us.
We can contribute greatly in generating foreign exchange by sending remittances through official bank transactions instead of the black market.
We can can work creatively to undertake, solicit and encourage foreign direct investment in Ethiopia.
The corona virus pandemic has put a large dent in global foreign direct investment and Africa has seen significant declines in investments. World Bank data suggest investments and remittance from the African diaspora could be a major source of revenue for many African economies.
Dragging Ethiopia’s name and image in the mud has become a favorite pastime of the Western press-tutue media as I demonstrated in my commentary Western JournaLIEsm and Ethiopia.
Exposing the lies, damned lies and disinformation of the Western press-titutes must be among the top priorities of the Ethiopian diaspora.
We must also go on the offensive and speak truth to the Western powers that be.
There is much commendable effort on social media but we must also challenge the Western powers and their press-titutes at the policy and legislative levels.
On October 10, 2021, PM Abiy speaking to his new cabinet advised them not to feel too comfortable with power. Power is like the morning dew was the essence of his message. Now you have it, now yo don’t. You would not know what to do when you lose it.
He said they are given great responsibility not because they were divinely chosen out of the 100 million plus Ethiopians but because they were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to serve.
He said leadership is about service. That is service to the people, not servicing one’s pockets.
He warned them against addiction to power because like any other addiction it could lead to abuse, and abuse of power can destroy oneself and others.
Good leaders create other good leaders and the cabinet members must strive to do that.
Good leaders leave behind their fingerprints and palmprints of accomplishments which will be their legacy to coming generations.
We all have an opportunity serve Ethiopia in our capacities. We do not need cabinet positions to serve.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” He also said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
That is why we must all serve.
Two types of Ethiopians: Let me speak my truth!
I believe there are two types of Ethiopians today.
Paraphrasing the words of Robert Kennedy, there are Ethiopians who look at things the way they are, and ask why?
Then there are other Ethiopians who dream of things that never were, and ask why not?
I look at the way Ethiopia is today—under attack by the terrorist TPLF and their foreign backers, suffering grinding poverty, illiteracy and disease – and ask, “Why can’t Ethiopia bury these perennial enemies and become the brightest star in the African constellation?”
I look at the way Ethiopians from all walks of life came together as one to fight domestic and foreign enemies and and ask, “Is there an earthly power that can defeated Ethiopians united?”
I look at the patriotism of every Ethiopian child, man, woman and am filled with pride and ask, “Are they not the masters of Ethiopia’s fate and captains of her soul?”
So, to all diaspora Ethiopians I say, “Keep you eyes on the Prize (Ethiopia’s prosperity), your shoulder to the wheel, your nose to the grindstone, your feet on the ground and your head on your shoulders and join Ethiopia’s Cheetah Generation as they do the heavy lifting building the New Ethiopia.
The alternative is, “Put up or shut up!”
In other words, lead, follow or get out of the way.
For me, it is a no-brianer.
I am ready to do all I can individually and with all who wish to bury poverty and build a monument of prosperity in Ethiopia.
I am “Ready to serve!”
Semper Fi Ethiopia! Always faithful to Ethiopia!