Abiy Ahmed in a nutshell

He is the Prime Minister of Ethiopia:

In that time, he has overseen the swiftest political liberalisation in Ethiopia’s more than 2,000-year history. He has made peace with Eritrea; freed 60,000 political prisoners, including every journalist previously detained; unbanned opposition groups once deemed terrorist organisations; and appointed women to half his cabinet. He has pledged free elections in 2020 and made a prominent opposition activist head of the electoral commission. In a country where government spies were ubiquitous, people feel free to express opinions that a year ago would have had them clapped in jail.

Here is more from David Pilling and Lionel Barber at the FT.  Don’t forget that until the ascent of Abiy Ahmed, the internet was basically shut down for most of the country.


“he has overseen the swiftest political liberalisation in Ethiopia’s more than 2,000-year history”. Now THERE’S a modest and measurable claim!

Nobel peace prize? Or is this too small scale?

This is much more sweeping and concrete progress than many Nobel Peace Laureates make. Mr. Ahmed should be a shoe-in for the 2019 or 2020 prize and frankly, any other selection would be embarrassing.

If there's cosmic justice, yes he'll win a Nobel peace prize.

Just like Yasser Arafat did?

Arafat's Noble Peace Prize was split three ways with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres while Abiy Ahmed could get one all on his ownsome, so no, not like Arafat.

I don't know anything about Ethiopia or this PM, but this sounds like a backlash waiting to happen

I know nothing beyond what I read in Wikipedia (whose neutrality is probably especially open to question in a case like this), but it reports dissatisfaction in the military. Ahmed came out of military intelligence, though, so he presumably knows how to watch his back.

Interestingly, his first name means "Revolution." A legacy of having been born under a fanatical Communist regime.

The record of political leaders that come out of the military and then turn their backs on it is let’s just say not encouraging. Hilarious if the military over throws this guy and puts the head of the electoral commission in his place.

I'll bet he'll loose the 2020 election and the country will either revert to the earlier state or fall to ethnic and sectarian violence.

Most countries in Tropical and Southern Africa are run by political machines which make use of competitive electoral systems and most African heads of government are drawn from the business and professional classes therein, with a bias toward men who've worked for international agencies. About 1/3 of the heads of government were armed men, most of whom are partisans rather than regular soldiers. Pretty much all African countries are multi-ethnic. They've contrived ways to mediate disputes and cut up the cash most places. There are about a half-dozen failed states in Africa, but the jalopy more or less runs in the rest of the continent.

Give or take 60,000 political prisoners.

The smart money says the accounting for that figure is quite dubious. In any case, I'm not remarking on Ethiopia. Reading comprehension. It's great stuff.

By those standards Ethiopia is more of a Latin American country than a Tropical African one.

10 months in the position. Very short time, all that can be assessed is what Tyler quoted: political liberalization.

The South Korea's miracle was backed from a revolution in adult literacy rate from ~20 to ~85% over 25 years after the Japanese left. South Korea's story is a rebound after the invaders were sacked.

Ethiopia has ~50% adult literacy rate todayT. New skyscrapers and their new railway connection to the sea are nice, but unless they improve significantly their human capital during the next 10-15 years, the miracle won't happen. Also consider that primary education is just an input among several for successful development, the adult literacy rate is 95% for Mexico and 99% for Argentina. Being a bit optimistic, getting to middle-income is already a success.

A nice indicator would be the literacy rate in the Ethiopian armed forces. Those young guys are totally under control of their superiors and can be literally forced to learn. Learning makes them better soldiers and there may be a knowledge spill-over to the rest of the people, so it's a win-win for the country. What are they doing now?

The most important part of the South Korean miracle seems to be that the country was full of Koreans (maybe "necessary but not sufficient" is the proper category). I don't mean to sound glib or cynical, but based on precedent this seems to matter a lot. The country should still pursue literacy and political liberalization for their own sake, but if the implicit promise is East-Asia-like growth then people will be disappointed.

North Korea is also full of Koreans. But I'm also not expecting East-Asia-like growth from them anytime soon. Also, I don't mean to sound glib nor cynical.

"necessary but not sufficient" pretty much covers that, no? governments have a nearly infinite capability to inflict destruction and suffering on their own country, no matter the innate population characteristics. doesn't mean in any way that the population characteristics aren't important.

'over 25 years after the Japanese left'

Want to guess how much political liberalization South Korea enjoyed in that time? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syngman_Rhee

It is only compared to North Korea that South Korea looks like a success in terms of political liberalization until sometime in the 70s (to be generous) or 90s (to be pessimistic).

The thing about rightish wing autocracies is that over a period of years they almost invariably transform into modern liberal states:

Chile, Spain, Taiwan, South Korea...

Compared to

Venezuela, Ukraine, North Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam...

We're the ninth safest city. How do you think I did it? How did I reach that title among the world's safest cities? Kill them all [criminals].
— Duterte, May 15, 2015[68]

Maybe if Americans did not antagonize the Vietnamese people by backing the French colonists, backing the Southern fascist regime and, since the 80's, backing Red Chinese aggression, the Vietnamese people wouldn't have to resort to tools who make harder having an open society. While Formosa, South Korea and the Zionist counted with the American umbrella, the Vietnamese have been fought for survival against big empires for decades.

@Prior: “It is only compared to North Korea that South Korea looks like a success in terms of political liberalization until sometime in the 70s (to be generous)“

Very amusing. The comparison between the cult of personality, hereditary juche monarchy, command economy where the population has actually boiled tree bark to eat, and a moderately oppressive South Korea. Granted, oppression isn’t ideal, and it’s great that South Korea has become what it is now. But perhaps it’s preferable to being run by Stalinists? Ever thought of that?

Not quite. Repression was so heavy under both South Korea and Taiwan that it required violent, mass demonstrations against their governments with a lot of blood spilled for their people to finally get their rights. Democracy isn't just given to you for existing and certainly isn't inevitable as you make it sound. If anything, the moral of the story is if you oppress your people enough, they will, with some international backing, overthrow you and bring in democracy. Ironic that both South Korea and Taiwan are now ruled by left leaning political parties. Also, more counterexamples: Nazi Germany wasn't exactly going to turn into a modern liberal state, the USSR turned into Russia's interpretation of a modern liberal state, and East Germany did indeed turn into a modern liberal state.

Nazi Germany is an example, not a counterexample, East Germany only change because of the fall of the Soviet union, and Russia is nobody's idea of a liberal state.

I'm sure that's a tremendous relief to the people of Hungary and Poland.

He's been in office less than one year. If the quoted passage is true, he'll either be replaced or revert back to the old ways sooner rather than later.

There are complex reasons for the country and its neighbors being corrupt and poor, and a few months of new leadership isn't enough to overcome those.

Here come the pessimists...

Meh. More like the uninterested.

Tyler keeps trying to make Ethiopia happen. It's never going to happen.

It's happening now and has been happening for years. Years and years of double-digit growth and now real liberalization. It's in a positive spiral. You're not pessimistic or uninterested, just ignorant.

Years and years of double digit growth... true enough, and their GDP per capita doubled in the last 7 years - to a whopping $800 or so per capita. Their GDP shrank by 43% in the 90's. One serious drought or (civil) war, and that can return - and if you think that's unlikely - https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-45724440 25% of the population makes a living off coffee - and the price of coffee is dropping, but can easily go down another 25%.

I was going to ask if you're invested, so you can get rich off your "positive spiral", but they don't even have a stock exchange...

They were communist. Now they are leaving that behind. They're Africa's China. Do you think a drought would send China back? Don't be stupid.

You love throwing around epithets, don't you?

No, drought would not send China back - because China is sitting on trillions of dollars of foreign reserves, and can buy food; Ethiopia does not have enough currency to buy the fuel it needs. China also does not rely on agriculture for a third of its GDP; Ethiopia does.

Africa's China? They have to work hard to be Africa's Bangladesh.

It's happening, and very rapidly. China was similarly placed not long ago.

If this guy can be the African version of Lee Kwan Yoo, great! But it sure seems like westernizing liberalizing leaders often trigger a backlash....

This guy is awesome and part of a trend of liberalizing leaders all over the world to Uzbekistan. And there's no reason to believe this progress is getting reversed. Ethiopia is taking off.

We'll see.

It would be a master troll for the west to wake up to the destabilizing chaos inevitable in liberalism and then sell it to the third world right as the west is abandoning it.

Liberalism-as in true, classical liberalism-is not 'destabilizing' to countries in the least. It 'destabilizes' and trashes old structures ex caste systems that themselves are toxic and destabilizing.

The notion that the west is leaving behind liberalism is also suspect. For one thing, that arguably a very long time ago. Trump is a transient, rootless one-off. There are some 'illiberal' democracies springing up but these just seem to be backwards holes flipping from left-wing authoritarianism to right-wing authoritarianism. The places that matter are still basically in line with what might loosely be called 'neoliberalism' and that doesn't look to change.

" Trump is a transient, rootless one-off."

Sure, but Trump is a symptom not a cause. The US Left is becoming distinctly less Liberal. The US Right is becoming reactionary. Those are both bad signs from an American perspective.

I'm inclined to think that the left and right are just dropping pretenses and showing themselves for what they truly are. Things can't improve unless we see them as they truly are, so this is a necessary step for things to get better. But not sufficient. In any event, I fully expect a Democrat-Prog hegemony to rule over America for at least a generation after Trumpism crumbles and gets flushed. Welcome to 50 states of California.

He seems great by most measures. One measure, however, seems hallow. I don't understand how just appointing people of a certain identity to a cabinet is a sign of progress.

Because said identity is usually overlooked in Third world cabinets (and it is not clear that blackballing half of the people helps governance)?

It's a signal that he's not committed to arbitrarily suppressing half the population from participation in public life.

Technically, only half the population along one dimension - sex. He may still be perfectly happy to suppress and oppress (more than) half of the population by, for example, ethnic group - he is from the majority Oromo, but they are only just over a third of the population. The wiki on LGBT rights in Ethiopia is also illuminating.

I wish the man good luck, and hope he turns out great.

Its true, you don't.

"people feel free to express opinions that a year ago would have had them clapped in jail"

We could learn from him. I would like to live in a country where people can express dissenting opinions on a college campus without being attacked by the goon squad of ruling ideology. I would like to live in a country where people can wear a MAGA baseball hat without having celebrities advocate physical violence toward them and their families. I would like to live a country in which one could drop into a restaurant for a bit to eat without being hounded by Maduro's, no I mean Maxine Waters' shock troops. I would like to live in a country where the Deep State secret police doesn't conspire to remove you from office just weeks after you get elected president.

Maybe we need what Ethiopia has.

Maybe you and people like you need help with your persecution complex.

He's reciting well-known events reported in your media. How is that a 'complex'?

The complex is pretending that it is remotely appropriate to compare a smattering of mumbled threats barely worth mentioning and some admittedly bad problems on campus to pre-Abiy Ethiopia. Conservatives are such snowflakes.

Is that a standard you are willing to apply across the board?

110 m people in a country that can sustainably support half that many.
yep genius

1. The Tigrai People Liberation Front (TPLF), the dominant force within the ruling coalition EPRDF till Abiy's ascent, is now running Tigrai as if it were independent from Addis Ababa. TPLF is going to remain a significant distraction if not impediment to Abiy's ambitious reform activities.

2. Oromo nationalists are making unrealistic moves to bring Addis Ababa under their cultural and political influence. Remember that Oromos constitute only less than 20% of the population in the capital city. These days aggressive Oromo nationalists in the suburbs of Addis are evicting non-Oromo settlers on the pretext of removing illegal settlements. The Oromos on one side and Amharas, Gurages on the other are obviously going to wage fierce fighting over the political status of Addis. This is another challenge to Abiy Ahmed.

3. Abiy is also unacceptably tolerant of ignorant faction leaders like Dawud Ibsa who claims to be willing and able to participate in peaceful political struggle; however, his soldiers are wreaking havoc in much of Western Oromia region.

4. In countries like Ethiopia, if you aspire to be a successful leader, you must have both a good heart and a good sword. That is what the country's most seasoned scholar Prof. Mesfin Wolde Marian said a couple of months ago. He might be right on this one.

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