The recent dinner reception hosted last night by Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for his country’s opposition leaders and his promise to listen to alternative views of the opposition is not only a welcome development in a country, where a direct meeting between the government and the opposition is rare. It is indeed a gallant step other African leaders must inculcate.
For a country deeply polarised and currently in the deep political turbulence since February, which led to the imposition of the state of emergency, the Olive leaf from the newly chosen Prime Minister is a positive step in the right direction. The political disturbances, which started since three years ago, following violent protests over the government policies, has claimed hundreds of lives and left properties and human resources in a shamble. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed did not end with the dinner reception. He is busy touring once “neglected” regions of the country, trying to rally support towards solving the country’s problems collectively. From a visit to the northern city of Mekelle to visiting thousands of displaced victims of inter-ethnic clashes, the new Prime Minister obviously wants to demonstrate to the country that he is elected to serve the whole country. His tour of the areas severally affected by the 2015 demonstrations is indeed significant, as it shows Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s attempt to heal the nation’s wound and bring all on board.
As a government previously accused of using an iron head on the opposition, Mr Abiy Ahmed’s promise to listen to alternative voices from the opposition in the form of an open, honest and constructive dialogue, which he hopes will yield fruits for the country and citizens as a whole, is a sign of a good thing to come to Ethiopia. With the latest positive steps taken by the Prime Minister so far, it is now being debated in Ethiopia and far beyond whether the government of Abiy Ahmed is being indeed sincere or just telling opposition what they want to hear. The Prime Minister’s biggest challenge will be media freedom, which has been drastically curtailed under the previous administrations.
Although Ethiopia has been one of the staunchest allies of the USA in its fight against terrorism, the East African country has been recently criticized by the USA and EU for its allegedly poor human rights records and control of the press. But with the latest moves from the Prime Minister, some people now hope that Ethiopia’s relationship with Washington and the West will be gradually improved. More than that, others strongly believe that with the peace and dialogue with the opposition, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will gradually engage more Ethiopians in solving the country’s problems, as well as addressing the country’s challenges. This step, if well and genuinely taken, will only change the life of an average Ethiopian positively and bring hope in a hopeless situation.
One may ask why many African leaders are not emulating the courageous attempts of Mr Abiy Ahmed. Togo, for example, has been experiencing uncontrollable demonstrations, demanding the end of the Eyadéma dynasty, but President Faure Gnassingbé seems not in a hurry to listen to the cries of the suppressed Togolese. Nor does he care about the opinions of the opposition. Obviously, Faure Gnassingbé is more interested in persevering his family’s 50 years legacies in power. The case is not different in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where President Joseph Kabila has ignored all appeals and dishonoured all his promises to step down after the end of his term. The voices of the opposition were simply neglected. Welcome to Paul Biya’s Cameroon. You have the same story. Africa, here you are.
There is no better way to solve African problems than to set aside political, ideological, religious, ethnic, etc. differences and put ideas together towards a common goal for the benefit of the country. Unless we bury those differences and work together as a common force, Africa will still continue to lag behind other continents in terms of development and progress. Now that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia has courageously taken the bull by the horn, isn’t it the time for other African leaders to emulate him and follow suit? The time is no more on the side of Africa. African leaders must act quickly and decisively – now.