‘In Abiy they Trust’: Free Riders and Partisans in the ‘contemporary’ political move of Ethiopia

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Dejen Yemane Messele

Free Riding and Partisanship: Recklessness at its best   

Free riding and partisanship adversely affect countries in many forms.  Their impact doubles when it comes to the building of a democratic system.   A free rider contributes no role in the making of the system but will benefit from the system which is built on other priceless cost paid for it.  A partisan on the other hand mocking over victims of a given political administration and s/he supports the administration in point only for calculating own interests earned on others cost.  Free riders and partisans have one thing in common. Both are reckless for others interest as their guiding principle is ‘living on others cost’.

The recklessness political culture has endurance in the politico-history of Ethiopia. The best version being applied in the EPRDF’s regime. It is unabated still in the Abiy’s EPRDF. This piece shows how recklessness through free riding and partisanship is well maintained in Abiy’s administration.  Intellectuals, Opposition Political Party Leaders and Social Media Activists are the focus of this piece in addressing the dogged culture of political recklessness.

Veiling Abiy’s Defect: Free Riders and Partisans Fatal Mistake  

Abiy Ahmed’s seizure of the Premiership position before a year ushered a hope in Ethiopia’s transition to democracy. The measures taken within one year of his premiership are boldly avowed in support of Abiy’s rule.


The defects in Abiy’s administration are, however, overlooked and undermined by the intellectuals. In a country where a significant number of the population are displaced and exposed for a heinous human rights violations blind applauds are continually given to Abiy.  The round of applause came out from the intellectuals unashamedly. Those intellectuals who relentlessly give their applauses have never been listened before the coming into power of Abiy. They were hiding behind the scene of the pervasive civic struggle against the authoritarian rule.

Some of the intellectuals are unmasked their face and uttering the holiness of Abiy in his administration. They are unwilling to notice defects unfolded in Abiy’s regime.  As the public put trust on these intellects their power to control the minds of the public is high.

Many of the intellectuals are looking at every incident of the country with no ‘saying.’ Though they have their own understanding about the country’s realpolitik they do not want to speak of their mind to the public. They are availed in Social Media but with no single post in their accounts. You might heard of them while talking their opinion about the ongoing situations while meeting them in person whilst they are quiet in public mediums. They are number one free riders who want to benefit out of a result which they did not take part in its dealing.

Outsider individuals do not get out of their comfort zone and they are highly calculative. They walk on absolute precaution and they love their own life more than anybody else. They label others struggle and scarify as ‘paying an unwanted price.’ Priority to them is all about self-protection from the advents.  A selfless sacrificing is a fool’s move in their judgment.  How can we build a democrat Ethiopia with these selfish intellectuals is the question remain unanswered?


Affiliated Intellectuals: Abiy is their limit  

Intellectuals of this category are individuals who assumed political powers in Abiy’s administration. Only for the sake of their power they do not want to criticize Abiy and his administration.  We listen to them while defending the existing system and they are satisfied. For them, Ethiopia never had a leader like Abiy. A worshipping of Abiy is in the making. They sold their mind out and their necked is unable to look over the ongoing displacement and killings of civilians through an armed group.

Even they do not care for their prior positions.  We knew them while criticizing the same event before they came into power whereas they blessed this time, Abiy’s reform propaganda. The surprising part of these intellectuals is they forgot as Abiy is a leader of an ethnic-centered party called ODP( Oromo Democratic Party). They accept him as a leader who represents a unionist political party.

Opposition Political Parties: Abiy’s ‘competing Political Parties’

Their heart withered since Abiy’s inaugural address when he addressed “hereafter political parties are no more called ‘oppositions’ they are rather ‘competing political parties.’  Following his populist speech, opposition political party leaders and their members returned to the home. Those returnee party leaders unprecedentedly are seen while putting an absolute trust on Abiy, a historical Gordian knot. Their trust is not backed up by institutions nor on the precise roadmap of Abiy’s regime. They simply trust Abiy, this is all.  This momentous happening is a jackpot for Abiy to rule the country in his own way.


Those party leaders are not in a position to open their eyes and to look at the unveiled political realities in Abiy’s regime. Their honeymoon seems unfinished. The victims of Abiy’s Medemer politics, however, are not only returnee political parties, political parties who remained at home are also victims too. In this crucial time, however, there is one political party happened in the political landscape. Compared to a hundred plus opposition political parties this newcomer became a threat to Abiy and his allies. This party is the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) which is founded by University Professors and young Amharas.  This party wins the hearts and minds of Amharas who had never been represented through a true Amhara party in the federal system. NAMA, as one of the brainchild of Amhara Nationalism, received a warm welcome by Amharas and friends of Amhara. This party will hopefully be a strong negotiator in the Federal System. Many have put their trust to this party even in the protection of the country from disintegration.

Social Media Activists: Cyber Warlords 

This goes to Oromo activists who in fact have played a role in ousting the TPLF rule. But they were not the sole actor in the process. In the very beginning, Oromo activists were in suspicion of Abiy because of his ‘Ethiopianism speech.’ The Oromo activists were regarded Abiy as not a true Oromo.  To that end, Abiy deserves no single public support from a single city in Oromiya. It is notorious that Abiy has been publicly supported by the Amharas in every city of Amhara regional state.

That being the fact in the starting up of Abiy’s rule things are recently twisted. Oromo activists are showing their support to Abiy while the Amharas and Amhara activist are revoking their support. The Oromo activists are supporting him not because of his abrogation of Ethiopianism speech, he is bravely uttering his preach of Ethiopianism. The reason is they found Abiy as Oromo as their wish on his indirect mission in ruling the country on a copy-paste version of TPLF.  His party’s press release on the issue of Addis Ababa; his public warning to Eskindr Nega( on his safeguarding move to Addis Ababa) and his assignment of Oromos in key federal powers has unconcealed Abiy’s true face.

Now the tension between the Amhara and Oromo activists reached to its peak. The Oromo activists are blaming the fast-tracking move of Amhara Nationalism as Abiy has advised the founders of NAMA (National Movement of  Amhara ) to control the growing pace of Amhara Nationalism.   The Amhara activists are challenging Abiy’s tactical move in the Oromization of Federal institutions and Addis Ababa while singing Ethiopianism in his tongue.  ‘Abiy’s populist strategy in making his politics has now discovered’ is the strong argument forwarded by the Amhara activists.

This cyber war will remain intact up until Abiy is dethroned which in return will open another chapter of warfare. The panacea indeed is a realization of a genuine system which treats all Ethiopians on the basis of equality.  To realize this aspiration, however, will remain difficult, if not, impossible, unless all stakeholders are negotiating to the benefits of all and to share the responsibilities and benefits equally. Outsiders must come to the center of the politics; activists must pay attention for the interests of others too; affiliated intellectuals must open their mind to read the realities within Abiy’s administration; party leaders in EPRDF including Abiy must stop the simulation and they must unmask their true face to the public.

The Way Out: Agreeing on Abiy’s Fiasco Admin

In the obstinate presence of free rider intellectuals, blind partisans, submissive political parties, and egoistic activists our destination remains woolly.  Adding Abiy’s unstopped tactical game to this culture of recklessness one can not hesitate to conclude that reform is not yet incepted in Ethiopia.  Abiy and his ‘medemer manifesto’ is found fiasco.

The fight should continue against free riders, free rider intellectuals, blind partisans, submissive political parties, and egoistic activists. Genuine intellectuals, activists and political parties (like NAMA) should continue their pressure on Abiy’s administration. This only will heal Ethiopia from the cancer of recklessness politics.





Scholar of International Law in Wollo University School of Law. [email protected] is the authors mailing address.