I would rather die than handover power, says Ethiopia's PM Abiy Ahmed
ADDIS ABABA - An audio released by US-based Kello Media of Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed addressing members of the Prosperity Party may diminish the international reputation of the progressive young democrat, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019, over his efforts to restore peace in the Horn of Africa.
Ahmed, 46, ascended into power in 2018 but since then, despite sweeping democratic reforms in Ethiopia, he has often faced criticism due to growing ethnic tensions, which have left thousands of people dead particularly in Oromia, Tigray, and Amhara regions.
The PM is also under increasing pressure to restore order in the Tigray region, where the Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF] and Eritrean troops have been unleashing on Tigray People's Liberation Front [TPLF]. But some reports have linked the troops to massive atrocities against civilians, with some terming them "genocide".
He's yet to withdraw Eritrean troops from Tigray, leading to the imposition of travel restrictions against top officials from Ethiopia and Eritrea. US President Joe Biden recently called for an "immediate ceasefire" in the Tigray genocide.
But the audio, which made rounds in the social media, after all, portrays Abiy Ahmed as an authoritarian leader who has little regard for the rule of law and democracy, something which could worry the entire Horn of Africa and the world at large.
In the audio, Ahmed is heard blaming the Coronavirus pandemic for the delay of Ethiopia's elections which had been scheduled for August 2020, arguing that: "On our part, we will do whatever possible to ensure there are no irregularities in the upcoming polls."
"We are committed to holding the elections this year to avert a situation like what we experienced last year," the PM adds in the middle of rounds of applause from members of the ruling party, which is under pressure to pave for democracy and the rule of law.
The PM goes on to poke holes in the opposition, the media, and activists, who he accuses of plotting to "grab" power. The Prosperity Party political Think Tanks, he adds, must do everything to "thwart" such attempts in coming years.
He asks the party members to take precautions, noting that gains made by his administration will be eroded should "strangers" take overpower. He terms the opposition and activists as "unpredictable lots", who may "water down all our gains".
"It must be taken into consideration that the so-called politicians and activists want to grab power. Because of this, we must take precautions to thwart their attempts," the PM is heard saying in the explosive audio whose origin is yet to be ascertained.
Of more worrying is the party where Abiy Ahmed swears never to hand over power to anyone at least for the next decade, an indication that he's kept to cling to power like other African strongmen. In Africa, incumbents prefer to cling to power through orthodox means.
"No one will be able to form government in the next coming ten years. I would rather die than hand over power to them. We will take action. As a result, there will be a high level of death and bloodshed," he's heard insisting.
But the office of the Prime Minister has since termed the clip "fake" even as many voice analysts insisted that it's "genuine". According to the PM's team, the clip was a compilation of "unrelated" remarks made by the PM during the meeting with party members last week.
"The Office of the Prime Minister wishes to affirm that supposed leaked audio of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali during Prosperity Party meeting of last week is a FAKE audio compilation which has been put together by drawing on different unrelated remarks made by the PM," read the statement.
"By editing it into one compilation, the fake audio is being made to be leaked. In this era of disinformation and as the elections draw nearer, we urge citizens to be vigilant about such types of disinformation campaigns aimed at creating discord."
Abiy Ahmed has struggled to take control of the Horn of Africa nation, often accused of unfairly targeting critics like Jawar Mohammed, a media mogul arrested early this year following protests in the capital, Addis Ababa. Around 300 people have been killed in ethnic cleansing.
But of more worrying is the current situation in the Tigray region, where the army has been unleashing violence on innocent civilians, leading to mass murder. The government denies these allegations despite different corroborating evidence given by various media houses.