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Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s "Train of Change" Has Neither Clear Direction Nor Known Destination

Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s "Train of Change" Has Neither Clear Direction Nor Known Destination

By Mezgebe Gebrekiristos, Ph.D.

July 5, 2018

In a saying widely attributed to the Chinese, one finds a typical example of the "wax and gold" meaning in which Ethiopians are well versed as part of our literature. That adage is "May you live in interesting times." Though seemingly a statement of good intent, the saying is misleading and is more of a curse than a blessing. So, if unknowingly you say "amen" to it, you suddenly opened a Pandora’s Box. You just invited a plague to your house, because you were deceived by the beauty of the jar (box). So goes the ancient Geek mythology.

Welcome to today’s Ethiopia where “medemer” is actually “mekenes”.

Lately, we have an Ethiopian equivalent of the aforementioned Chinese saying in the Amharic word “medemer”. Like the Chinese expression, the word “medemer” carries a positive tone, at least on the surface, for it could meanunity and integration. Under the disguise of “medemer”, however, innocent “tsegure-lewet” (seemingly stranger) people are being marginalized and beatenby the prime minister’s supporters in response to his call for action on such people; women and children are displaced from their places; experienced public servants are dismissed from their positions for no apparent reason; the federal system that guaranteed equal representation of the nations and nationalities is being dismantled; parliamentary procedures are circumvented by the executive branch of government; law and order is ignored; revenge killing is rampant; Ethiopia’s sovereignty is compromised;  and, in the process, a new absolute king is in the making—all in the name of “medemer”.

This, we were told, is a necessary change for the idea of “medemer” to materialize. One of the very enthusiastic supporters of Prime Minister Abiy has a name for it—The Abiy Ahmed Train. In his recent article, he described the train as one with “no brakes” that is a “runaway train.” It is “unstoppable” and full of hot air.In so doing, he inadvertently admitted that the train of change led by Prime Minister Abiy is dangerous for the people who are riding in it for the Engineer cannot stop it when necessary to do so and nor does he know how to slow down if need be. The destination of the train is not known. The conductors of the train are no different from him. They break the rules of the rail road and give conflicting instructions to the passengers aboard.

In conclusion, Ethiopia is too big and too important to fail. The Abiy government must exercise caution in navigating the change upon which it has embarked. The train of change must obey the rules of the road and employ safe practices, so to speak. The engineer of the train (Prime Minister Abiy) should acknowledge the people who entrusted him with operating the train, and make them feel they are welcome to ride in the train in safety with him. He should also refrain from sending divisive messages in the form of “tsegure-lewet” and “yeken jiboch” to the public. The Prime Minister should offer sound leadership and show clear direction where the country is heading. Simply uttering the words love and “medemer” is not enough. The government must respect and honor the country’s constitution. Otherwise, things may backfire--leading to the disintegration of Ethiopia into pieces. This is an unwanted outcome that would have a ripple effect in the Horn of Africa and the continent as a whole.

The author can be reached at

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