Abiy Ahmed on the country’s new romance with a supernatural bent

Written by Staff Writer

“If no one escapes me with their lives, God willing, I will bury my opponent,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said this week during a controversial speech at Addis Ababa’s Addis Ababa University.

What Ahmed didn’t say but what some see in that troubling sentence, is that he’s known to be extremely superstitious and that last year, he introduced the idea that Ethiopians were equal and any differences between them should be noted in mirrors.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announces that he’s ready to hold talks with his opponent following years of political deadlock. He demands that Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, the leader of the opposition, the current president of Ethiopia and the former prime minister, release political prisoners, including journalists. At the same time, Abiy Ahmed calls for peace talks between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Credit: HASSAN SAFDANE/AFP/Getty Images

The role of symbolism

The symbolism inherent in such a statement alone is quite clear.

On the surface, by doing so Abiy’s comment may be interpreted as merely poking fun at his opponent. Then again, his fans in the opposition, from members of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to the party’s political opposition, may interpret this as a rather dangerous threat.

The human mind is naturally drawn to meaning in everything we do and in everything we’re told.

In this case, the meaning of Abiy’s statement is clear. It sends a clear message to the opposition — to the politicians who the Prime Minister meets, to the press and even, to his staff — that, when it comes to Ethiopians, there is one rule and one rule only — with Abiy in power, people must play by his rules.

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