Abiy Ahmed Ali is a good person. Barack Obama reversed years of foreign policy to support Abiy in his bid to head Ethiopia, flew to Addis, delivered a rousing speech and increased American aid to a billion dollars annually. When Abiy became head of state in 2018 congratulations flew around the democratic world. When Abiy made peace with long-time enemy and neighbor, Eritrea, the Nobel committee awarded him the Peace Prize. How fooled the world was.
Despite the relief felt by progressives in the U.S., Africa and elsewhere over the last half-year, the truth is that the world is more insecure than ever. Whether Hong Kong, Myanmar, Ethiopia or the U.S., worried polities are reacting in drastic, dangerous ways.
This happened before in the late 1960s and early 1970s. History should be our guide if we wish to avoid the wars, repressions and military dictatorships which followed that era.
Most of the group was asleep. It was a full moon and a still, warm night and everything we did was watched by our minders who were watched by the militia.
I was leading a group of journalists and experts, the first Americans allowed back into Ethiopia since the Dirge broke with the West and allied with the Soviet Union. It was hard, tense work reminding the dilettantes that we could all be killed if they didn’t behave.
“There is no shortage of lab tests [for coronavirus] in Africa,” Rosanna Peeling, chair of diagnostics research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told South Africa’s Fin24 a few hours ago. Stated, yet still hard to believe.
But because of this perception together with the widely exposed negligence of America managing the virus, Americans have been banned from South Africa and Kenya as of last night.
No coronavirus cases have been confirmed in sub-Saharan Africa, but they’re expected. The two main airlines from Africa to China, Ethiopian and Kenya Airways, have suspended many of their flights and Ethiopian is quarantining all incoming passengers from China.
Les Misérables who barricaded the streets for bread not cake were ultimately wiped out. Give them a smartphone and Twitter and we wait to see what happens in Hong Kong, but in Africa, where colonialism masterfully subdued millions for a century, “revolution” has never yet occurred.
It seemed like Africans could take anything. Until now.
A moment of peace in a world of war. The Nobel Peace Prize correctly heralds the young democratic Ethiopian leader, Abiy Ahmed Ali, for his efforts “to achieve peace and international cooperation, [specifically] to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea.”
But forgive my refrain, the absence of western diplomacy from “Trump” risks obliterating all the good that’s been done.
There are few places in the world as diverse as the Addis Ababa airport. Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s most connected carrier. It’s a hub for the entire continent and the panoply of nationalities crowding its terminal is mind-boggling.
It’s been the same for my nearly half century traveling through Africa, with the important difference it’s now so much bigger and there’s so many more people from virtually every part of the world. There is one additional noticeable difference, though:
Populism is not some lonesome social condition. Populism controls democracy, and populism brings down and sets up autocratic regimes. It’s not conservative or progressive, capitalist or communist. It’s not necessarily based on truth. It’s knee-jerk support for – or against – individuals wielding power. Why? How is it harnessed?
East Africa gives us some insight: Ten years ago Kenya hardly had an army. Ten years ago Kenya was in incredible social turmoil, very close to a civil war. Today Kenya is a military powerhouse, rivaling the two other area powerhouses, Ethiopia and Rwanda. And today Kenya’s stable society thrives on a growing populism.
Africa as my lifeway’s platform for roughly 5 months annually during the troubled times of the last few years has radically changed my view of democracy.
Last week Rwanda celebrated the first quarter century in possibly a thousand years without a mass genocide. The Sudanese Army fired on the Sudanese secret service last night to protect opponents of the government.
The avowed communist state of Ethiopia last year implemented a series of human rights protections that may be the most progressive on earth. All of these stellar human rights’ accomplishments were in totally undemocratic regimes.
Predatory and patently unjust aspects of capitalism might have received a boost from President Trump’s State of the Union Tuesday, but fortunately the “socialist” Dutch judiciary was reigning it in: Ethiopia won back its ownership of its native wheat.