Five Policy Issues to Takeaway from Prime Minister Abiy’s Visit in Ethiopia. By Dr. Birhanemeskel Abebe Segni

The visit of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to Ambo, Mekele, Gondar and Bahir Dar shows that the Ethiopian people are looking for a total transformative regime change instead of cosmetic reform. It is premature whether the new Prime Minister will deliver them.

Whatever the future holds for the new Prime Minister and the Ethiopian people, the following five policy issues standout from the Prime Minister’s town-hall like discussions in Gondar, Mekele, Bahir Dar and the big rallies in Stadiums in Ambo and Gondar:

1. Prime Minister’s visit shows how much the Ethiopian people are starved of a leader. Prime Minister Abiy happens to the first Ethiopian leader to directly address Ethiopians in 27 years of the TPLF/EPRDF rule. As such, it is the first time for most Ethiopians to even get a chance to directly speak with their leader. The economic, political, social and historical questions raised with the Premier simply shows how suffocated the Ethiopian people were. Therefore, Prime Minister Abiy’s visit shows how much Ethiopians were starved of and longing for a leader, and most importantly unifying leader who looks like them and feel their hopes and frustrations.

2. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s visit also shows that the current parliamentary system introduced by the TPLF in 1991 should be replaced by the Presidential System where the people directly elect their leaders. Under the existing parliamentary system, the Ethiopian people do not elect their leaders. Instead, the EPRDF, where the minority clique in the TPLF controls the vote, appoints a leader that serves the interests of the TPLF and its constituency not that of the Ethiopian people. Prime Minister Abiy, the only EPRDF member believed to have been elected without the total support of the TPLF in its 27 years rule, shows the Ethiopian people are not interested to see TPLF stooges anymore. In fact, the questions and the whole attitude of the Ethiopian people shown at these meetings and rallies shows that the people want a leader that looks like them and a leader that they elect and represent their interests. For the Ethiopian people to directly elect their leaders, the current fake parliamentary system must be changed into the presidential system. Changing the parliamentary system into a presidential system will soon take the center stage in Ethiopian political discourse both as part of the democratization process and as a tool to end the total domination of the Ethiopian economic, political and security system by the TPLF.

3. The Prime Minister’s visit also shows that the current Federal Boundaries the TPLF redistricted in 1991 is totally untenable. The grievance in Oromia and Amhara regions that Oromo and Amhara territories have been taken away or districted into other smaller ethnic groups territories simply shows that the current federal boundaries must be redrawn to restore Oromo and Amhara territories. These redistricting and redrawing of the federal boundaries of the regions might include eliminating bogus regions created to facilitate the land grab policies and political domination of the TPLF.

4. The Prime Minister’s visit also made bare the TPLF’s Development Strategy is firing back. It is public secret that over the last 27 years, the TPLF used its total control on the military, security, government bureaucracy, religious institutions and the political system of Ethiopia to direct all major development to Tigray through its dubious parastatal organizations like EFORT, REST, TDA and many others. That is not lost on the mind of the Ethiopian people and reverberating in every questions posed by the people. It is in fact turning into hatred for the Tigrean people which was even raised by the Tigreans themselves in Mekele meeting. This is serious problem that needs immediate policy correction and remedy.

5. The Prime Minister’s visit also shows that TPLF/EPRDF Policy of Democratic Centralism, Developmental State and Revolutionary Democracy is totally rejected by the Ethiopian people. All the questions addressed to the Prime Minister shows that the Ethiopian people want a participatory democracy and participatory development model where they can be part and parcel of the decision making and directly involved in the implementation process of these decisions. Make no mistake, the Ethiopian people don’t simply want to be heard but want to be part of the decision making process in solving their economic, political and social problems. The TPLF/EPRDF population control model of democratic centralism, revolutionary democracy and developmental state theories are the exact opposite of these participatory democracy and participatory development model the Ethiopian people were expecting from the new Prime Minister.

Whether the TPLF/EPRDF likes it or not Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s visits to Ambo, Mekele, Gondar and Bahir Dar shows that the existing system does not simply need reform but total transformative regime change to prevent an outright revolution or civil war. I hope the new Prime Minister will be wise enough to lead the country through transformative regime change.

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