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10 things you may not have known about Abiy Ahmed

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Spotlight on the winner of The Difference’s #AfricanLeaderoftheYear 2018

By Timi Obafemi

There are many things that are not very well known about Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who on Friday night was declared winner of The Difference Newspaper #AfricanLeaderoftheYear 2018. We highlight ten of them.

  1. Man of steely courage: Two security-related incidents would explain this first point. Six months into his assumption of office, hundreds of soldiers demanding a pay rise stormed his office. Rather than be ferried out through a back door or order ‘more loyal troops to confront them’ as other leaders in his place in the continent had done over time, he calmly came out to meet them, reminded them of their first responsibilities ass soldiers and ordered them to do ten press-ups each, even as he went down low to do his own share! The situation was defused. The soldiers listened some more to his explanations that the economy could not take higher wages for soldiers and civil servants at the moment, and they calmly returned to their duty posts. A former military intelligence officer himself, Ahmed later told parliament: ‘Some people see the push-ups we did as very casual. But, we used it to pacify the situation. In the military, push-ups or doing some kind of exercise or talking loudly are some of the measures used to relieve grievances or emotions.’ The second incident is related to a grenade attack on his life during a rally earlier in the year. He picked himself up, went to do the basic checks at the hospital and returned to his duties.
  2. Peace-building and unity-seeking almost comes natural: Prime Minister Ahmed has since cut a niche for himself as a man of peace. He has released thousands of political prisoners and ensured their ‘seamless re-integration into national life and politics. One of them, Sahle-Work Zewde is now President of the Republic. And this penchant for peace-building almost comes natural to one, who while growing up as a child and youth in Beshasha was notable for helping to resolve conflicts in children’s play-disputes and intra-family feuds. As he grew, he was also involved in settling muslim-Christian tiffs and Oromo-Amhara disputes.
  3. Hard-working and driven to pursue more and more knowledge: At 42, Prime Minister Ahmed is Africa’s youngest leader. But he did not achieve same by having a powerful father paving the way for him as has been the case with Joseph Kabila of Congo, Ali Bongo of Gabon or Faure Gnassingbe of Togo. He has also not shot hos way to power like Samuel Doe of Liberia or Joseph Strasser of Sierra Leone. Rather, he has consistently worked hard, gone the extra mile and studied most voraciously to build part of the base that has helped pave the way to his present status. As a young cadre of the Oromo Democratic Party, ODP in the coalition army that was combating the Mengistu Haile Mariam regime in the 1990s, he applied himself most assiduously to studying the minority Tigrinya language that was the core language used by the Tigray-dominated coalition army. Also underscoring the fact that this was not a one-off or opportunistic search for more and more knowledge, even when he had begun to rise within the new power structure in the land, he continued to apply himself to seeking more and more knowledge. He received his first degree, a Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering from the Microlink Information Technology College in Addis Ababa in 2001, earned a post-graduate certificate in cryptography at Machine Dynamics in Pretoria, Republic of South Africa in 2005, a Master of Arts in Transformational Leadership and Change from the Business School at Greenwich University, London, in collaboration with the International Leadership Institute, Addis Ababa, in 2011, a Master of Business Administration from the Leadstar College of Management and Leadership in Addis Ababa in partnership with Ashland University in 2013 and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from the Institute for Peace and Security Studies, Addis Ababa University in 2017. Interestingly, his PhD thesis was entitled “Social Capital and its Role in Traditional Conflict Resolution in Ethiopia: The Case of Inter-Religious Conflict In Jimma Zone state”. The scholarly peace-monger and public servant followed-up on this pet attachment of his by publishing a research article on de-escalation strategies in the Horn of Africa Bulletin in a special journal issue that was reportedly dedicated to countering violent extremism. Months later, he was in the saddle himself, and with a chance to commence the process of implementing his lofty intellectual ideas.
  4. He took sides with the people: As soon as he came into office, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed lifted a state of emergency that his predecessors had essentially put in place to hold down popular anger against the ruling EPRDF that he was a part of. He replaced the leadership of the security services and went to parliament and on live television to denounce their excesses.

To be continued…

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia

Ethiopian Prime Minister is African leader of the year!

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