Abiy Ahmed (PhD)…

Abiy Ahmed (PhD) may not be the youngest politician to rise to power in Ethiopia. But gossip observed that he is probably the first to have won such a popular acceptance and adoration crossing many dividing lines in Ethiopia`s rather polarised society. The overwhelming reaction to his inaugural address before parliament is almost too good to be true. Not even the ardent foes of the ruling party could resist the temptation to show their enthusiasm.

Overseas, fierce critics of the Revolutionary Democrats – from the American Herman Cohen to the European Anna Gomez and many in between – are those who expressed their delight in his induction as the third Prime Minister of Ethiopia since the constitution came about over a decade ago.

Although customary, countries have begun pouring their congratulatory messages, the United States being the first to issue such a statement within a few minutes after he closed his speech.

Abiy was busy the few days after his appointment, receiving calls from heads of state who expressed their best wishes, the latest being – before this paper goes to print – Saudi Arabia`s King, Salman bin Abdul Aziz. But the first head of state to call was Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who is the current chairman of the African Union (AU), gossip disclosed. Abiy had served in Rwanda in the mid-1990s, deployed under a UN peacekeeping contingent. The first head of state to receive a call from Ethiopia`s new Prime Minister is Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, Somalia`s President.

Abiy was also privileged to have a historical feat under his record to have a transitional ceremony where the departing Prime Minister received his successor and showed him around. No other leader in the country`s history had been ushered into an office of the highest order and offered words of wisdom as Abiy got, claims gossip.

This too is true for his predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn, says gossip. No other leader has left office on his own terms to enjoy retirement peacefully as he does now, claims gossip. All his predecessors had either died while in office, forced off to exile, killed while in power, or defeated in wars and taken as prisoners, gossip recalled. Hailemariam is the exception in that he moved into a government house in Old Airport area, a day before parliament installed Abiy as the new Prime Minister, who is now the new resident up in Arat Kilo, gossip disclosed.

Hailemariam and his family, who are entitled to generous benefits and privileges accorded to a law for former leaders, will most likely stay in the government house for about a year, gossip revealed. He will have the state build him a new private residence on a 10,000sqm plot somewhere around the UK Embassy, allocating a budget of tens of millions of Birr, claims gossip.

However, he will not be the first to get such an entitlement, gossip disclosed. Azeb Mesfin, the widow of former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and his children will have the federal government build them a private residence on a plot of a similar size and project cost in an area near the Ministry of Civil Service, claims gossip.

Interestingly, the culture of looking after families of former prime ministers is a new one for Ethiopia whose history books are full of stories of banishment of deposed leaders and their families, gossip observed.

For now, Abiy has been busy forming committees assigned to work on proposals to pin down the ideals articulated in his inaugural speech to actionable policies, gossip disclosed. Hoping to reassure the public, he would have town hall meetings with residents of Jigjiga, Meqelle and Addis Abeba over the past couple of days, reveals gossip.

Published on Apr 06,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 936]



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