Can a new prime minister finally offer a better life to his people?
Ethiopia recently elected Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed: a 42-year-old reformer intent on making Africa’s second-largest country the only true democracy on the continent. Last week, Prime Minister Abiy’s trip to Eritrea’s capital city Asmara was promising, signaling a thawing of relations with its arch-enemy following two decades of conflict.
During the historic summit, Abiy and Eritrea’s rebel-turned-dictator Isaias Afwerki agreed to jointly open up shared airspace, to rekindle joint communications, and to re-open embassies. Importantly, Eritrea will now permit Ethiopia to use its port, which became landlocked as a result of Eritrea’s secession from Ethiopia 25-years ago. Ethiopia’s trade capital, Addis Ababa, will finally have access to the Red Sea.
According to Abiy, the two leaders agreed,
To bring down the wall between us. Now there is no border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. That borderline is gone today with the display of a true love…love is greater than modern weapons like tanks and missiles. Love can win hearts, and we have seen a great deal of it today here in Asmara. From this time on, war is not an option for the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia. What we need now is love.
Since his swearing in on April 2, 2018, Abiy has promised to reform Ethiopian governance. During his first speech, Abiy espoused western principles including promoting the idea of Ethipoians’ right to choose their own occupation, supporting protections to ensure human rights, and he extolled the virtues of economic security. But what raised eyebrows was Abiy’s bold invitation to Ethiopian exiles saying, “We will welcome you home,” and promised, “the coming season in Ethiopia is a season of peace and reconciliation.”
As for the Ethiopian economy, Abiy has already given it a shot-in-the-arm by stemming the notoriously high inflation rate that plagued the country. Abiy’s new economic strategy, and overall optimism about the future, has investors excited about investing in Addis Ababa’s economy. Ethiopia, a country rich in natural resources, has now been given the opportunity to become an African economic power with potential for broader political influence in the region and beyond.
Less than a year ago, Ethiopia was on the verge of bankruptcy and civil war. Angry citizens rose up against their government in spite of emergency laws the government instituted. Since then, Abiy has earned trust by lifting the state of emergency in the country, and by his appointing a Muslim woman to serve as Ethiopia’s parliamentary chairperson. He has appointed a generally more responsive cabinet and is engaging with ordinary citizens from around the country to help inform policy-making.
Most Ethiopians revere this unusual politician, with a few exceptions. Ethiopian’s rebel group Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that hitherto dominated the ethnic-based coalition government has been critical of the new leaders’s reforms. At times, opposition to Abiy has been deadly – at a recent rally, someone lobbed a grenade in a crowd – an attack that left him unharmed but killed “a few people” and wounded many.
Dr. Abiy Ahmed was born in Agaro in southern Ethiopia to an Oromo-Muslim father and an Amhara-Christian mother. As a teenager, he joined the armed struggle against the Marxist Derg regime. He holds a doctorate in peace and security issues from Addis Ababa University and a master’s degree in transformational leadership from the University of Greenwich in London. Abiy speaks fluent Oromo, Amharic and Tigrinya, the leading three languages of Ethiopia, and is also fluent in English. As an officer in the Ethiopian army (Lieutenant-Colonel), Abiy served in 1995 as a UN peacekeeper in Rwanda. He founded the Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (INSA) in 2007 and served as a board member of Ethiopian TV. In 2010, he entered politics as a member Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) and joined the Executive Committee in 2015. The following year, Abiy was appointed Ethiopia’s Minister of Science and Technology.
Abiy is Ethiopia’s first Oromo Prime Minister. The Oromo ethnic group is the largest in Ethiopia’s diverse population of over 102.4 million. It has also been at the center of a three-year anti-government protest, which left hundreds of people dead. The Oromo people have complained of being marginalized politically, economically, and culturally. In the coalition government umbrella called the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), Abiy’s OPDO is one of its four components. The decision to appoint Abiy as PM had an obvious connection to the rebellion, and demographic weight of the Oromo people.
Given Ethiopia’s enhanced strategic position in the Horn of Africa as a result of concluding a peace treaty with Eritrea, it now has an opening to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, where the busiest oil tanker traffic occurs. For the international community and especially to the European and Asian states, the coastal belt comprising of Eritrea, Djibouti, Somaliland, and Somalia must become secured, guaranteeing the safety of trade from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean. The newly achieved peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea is a positive step in that direction.
Former EPRP leader, and renowned activist, Professor Getachew Begashaw says this of the strategic importance of Ethiopia:
It should be noted that the Horn of Africa (or Northeast Africa) is as much a part of the Middle East as it is of Africa. Consequently, Ethiopia has been directly or indirectly connected with the crises’ that have long characterized the Middle East and the Mediterranean world for most of its history. The Ethiopian highlands catch most of the rainfall — earning the country the label, “the Water Tower of Africa.” In fact, Ethiopia provides over 86% of the Nile waters.
The potential conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Mega (Renaissance) Nile Dam enhances Ethiopia’s strategic importance in the region (Israel could serve as an impartial mediator). At the same time, the collapse of state authorities in Somalia and South Sudan, the threat of Al-Shabab (affiliated with al-Qaeda), and political Islam, pose a challenge for the Abiy government.
The new prime minister holds the promise of a better life for average Ethiopians. Having started the peace process with Eritrea, Abiy can now turn to assure the economic progress, political stability, and regional influence of the country.
We all know that the midterm elections are different this time around. They are usually like “all politics,” namely local. But this time around they’re different. They are all presidential, all about Trump, as most everything is. And for the anti-Trump crowd — I’m talking about the political commentators and “analysts” — any and all things bad are held to be Trump’s fault. This is presumably because they believe that their condemnations of Trump will result in a Democrat takeover of the House of Representatives.
A new book explores how graffiti artists in Beirut skirt limitations on expression to share political criticism in the streets.
A photograph of the book “Drawing Lines” by Tamara Zantout, taken at the launch of the book at Beit Beirut cultural center, Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 25, 2018.
BEIRUT — Beirut’s alleyways and streets are peppered in bright, detailed and provocative graffiti. Street artists use the medium, which exists in a legal grey area, to express their identity and give voice to political frustrations.
On Tuesday, San Francisco will become the largest city in the nation to allow noncitizens to vote, and the city has spent $310,000 on a “new registration system” specifically aimed at illegals. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the plan is the first in the state and follows Proposition N, a 2016 ballot measure allowing votes by noncitizens over the age of 18, reside in the city, and have children under age 19.
By the count of the Chronicle, only 49 noncitizens have signed up to vote on Tuesday, which works out to $6,326 for every illegal voter, but there’s more to the story. City officials are worried that voting could expose illegals to ICE, who might come looking and possibly deport somebody. So supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, a backer of Proposition N, urged the city to spend $500,000 to warn the illegals.
At first Sabbath service after massacre, shooting survivors are blessed; rabbi says to those who condemned Trump’s visit: ‘No one tells me how to welcome a guest in my own home’
On November 3, 2018, a joint communal Shabbat prayer service at Pittsburgh’s Beth Shalom Conservative synagogue following the massacre a week prior which saw 11 Jewish community members killed. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania — A week after an anti-Semitic shooter massacred 11 worshipers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, the community embraced each other in prayer on Saturday.
IS EUROPE RETURNING to the horrors of the 1930s? In an assessment typical of the moment, Max Holleran writes in the New Republic that “in the past ten years, new right-wing political movements have brought together coalitions of Neo-Nazis with mainstream free-market conservatives, normalizing political ideologies that in the past rightly caused alarm.” He sees this trend creating a surge in “xenophobic populism.” Writing in Politico, Katy O’Donnell agrees: “Nationalist parties now have a toehold everywhere from Italy to Finland, raising fears the continent is backpedaling toward the kinds of policies that led to catastrophe in the first half of the 20th century.” Jewish leaders like Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association, sense “a very real threat from populist movements across Europe.”
IS EUROPE RETURNING to the horrors of the 1930s? In an assessment typical of the moment, Max Holleran writes in the New Republic that “in the past ten years, new right-wing political movements have brought together coalitions of Neo-Nazis with mainstream free-market conservatives, normalizing political ideologies that in the past rightly caused alarm.”
We’ve been told for a long time that the ceasefire is on the way. It had many names in the past, such as tahdiah, hudna, and most recently—”an arrangement.” On Friday, once again, reports started emerging that an agreement has been reached. Several hours later, southern Israel was hit with a barrage of rockets. What happened?
And He said, “You will not be able to see My face, for No Human Being shall see Me and live.” — Shemot 33:20
Faith is deeper than knowledge. While scientific data is absorbed only in the brain, faith permeates all parts of the human personality. Nothing is untouched, all spiritual limbs quiver, and everything is transformed. It is thus more difficult to acquire faith than knowledge, and faith has a more radical effect on the human being.
A Catholic archbishop recently touched on an unspoken but highly subversive phenomenon: How anti-Christian forces exploit Christian teachings to empower those who seek to dismantle Christian civilization, Muslims being chief among them.
In an interview published last summer by the Italian outlet IlGionarle.it, Catholic Archbishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan said:
The King of Jordan, not some lowly clerk, announced that Jordan will not extend the currently existing leases renting two parcels of land to Israel. One is the so-called Island of Peace in the northern Naharayim area and the other located in the southern Arava, near Tzofar, an agricultural cooperative village (moshav). Jordan was entirely within its rights to decide not to renew the leases