World View: Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmediat Escapes Grenade Attack at Massive ally

1 dead after attack at huge rally for Ethiopia's new PM

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  • Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmediat escapes grenade attack at massive rally
  • New Ethiopia reforms face opposition by hardliners

Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmediat escapes grenade attack at massive rally

Abiy Ahmediat (L) was just finishing speaking to a massive audience (R) when the grenade explosion occurred (Guardian)
Abiy Ahmediat (L) was just finishing speaking to a massive audience (R) when the grenade explosion occurred (Guardian)

Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmediat barely escaped a grenade attack, just after finishing a speech delivered to tens of thousands of supporters in the capital city Addis Ababa. One of the people at the rally threw the grenade at Abiy, but missed the target.

According to one report, Abiy was saved because another participant in the audience touched the hand of the person throwing the grenade, causing it to fall without reaching the stage.

At least one person died from the explosion, and 155 people were injured, including nine in critical condition.

Abiy was selected to take office in April in order to end growing massive street protests by the Oromo tribe, protesting marginalization inflicted by the governing Tigrays. The Tigrays have been in power for 27 years, but comprise only 6 percent of the population. The Oromos, who comprise 34 percent of the population, have suffered discrimination and marginalization.

Mass anti-government protests began in Ethiopia in 2015, beginning in the Oromia region, and then spread to other parts of Ethiopia, especially the Amhara region. The Amharas comprise another 27 percent of the population, and they joined the protests demanding an end to human rights abuses as well as political reforms and greater freedoms. In the government crackdown, hundreds of people were killed, and more than 20,000 others were arrested.

By February of this year, the growing protests seemed to be overwhelming, and prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn abruptly resigned, citing ongoing “unrest and a political crisis.” The dominant Tigrays took the desperate step of replacing Hailemariam with the Oromo leader Abiy Ahmediat, 42, in the hope of ending the chaos and bloodshed. BBC and Reuters and AP

New Ethiopia reforms face opposition by hardliners

Since being inaugurated, Abiy has been extremely aggressive in implementing a number of reforms, including the following:

  • Abiy announced the release of tens of thousands of prisoners, including many Oromos who had been jailed for peaceful anti-government demonstrations. In the time since Abiy took office, over 1,000 have already been released.
  • He has replaced key generals in the army in order to dampen ethnic tensions.
  • He unblocked hundreds of websites and TV channels, including many that particularly targeted Oromos.
  • He promised to liberalize the economy, including the opening of state-owned companies to private investment.
  • Possibly most stunning, Abiy accepted a peace deal with the ancient enemy Eritrea that had been signed in 2000 after a two-year war but never implemented.

Six people have been arrested following Saturday’s grenade attack, but no motive has been identified.

According to Ryan Cummings, a South Africa based security analyst:

The grenade attack in Addis may be well linked to hardliners who do not want to see dialogue and conciliation with Eritrea. However, it may also be in response to perceived Tigrayan marginalization and/or dissent within the military. Either way, it shows that the reforms are not window dressing.

Any of the reforms listed above might have infuriated some people, especially ethnic Tigrays, who have been in power for 27 years but are only 6% of the population. For example, replacing key generals would have struck at the heart of the army’s control of the population. The economic liberalization, including selling off state-owned assets, could have cost Tigray executives a great deal of money, and led to violent retaliation.

The deal with Eritrea could be particularly troubling since it calls for an exchange of regions of land. These regions are small compared to the sizes of the two countries, but they are densely populated. This means that many people living in Eritrea will suddenly be living in Ethiopia, and vice-versa. This has many implications – changing tax collections and administrative rules, and splitting families and neighbors, for example.

As I described in my 2016 Generational history of Ethiopia and Eritrea, Ethiopia is a Christian country, and Eritrea is a Muslim country. Eritrea was an Italian colony in the 1800s and both were in the late 1930s as “Italian East Africa.” Eritrea declared independence from Ethiopia in 1993, leading to the 1998-2000 border war, which led to the peace agreement that is now being considered for implementation. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Ethiopia is in a generational Awakening era, like America and Europe in the 1960s, or like Iran today, when mass protests are a frequent feature. Mass protests can end temporarily, or can be suppressed by violence from the security forces, but they return.

The appointment of Oromo leader Abiy Ahmediat has put an end to the massive protests by Oromos, but even with an Oromo leader, protests by Oromos will return.

Abiy vows that the reforms will continue, despite Saturday’s explosion. Guardian (London) and Al-Jazeera and Addis (Ababa) Standard and Committee to Protect Journalists

Related Articles:

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmediat, Oromos, Tigrays, Amharas, Hailemariam Desalegn, Eritrea, Ryan Cummings, Italy
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