Abiy Ahmed Ali

Abiy Ahmed Ali

Abiy Ahmed Ali
አብይ አህመድ አሊ
Abiyyi Ahimad Alii
12th Prime Minister of Ethiopia
Assumed office
2 April 2018
President Mulatu Teshome
Deputy Demeke Mekonnen
Preceded by Hailemariam Desalegn
Leader of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front
Assumed office
27 March 2018
Deputy Demeke Mekonnen
Preceded by Hailemariam Desalegn
Leader of the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization
Assumed office
22 February 2018
Deputy Lemma Megersa
Preceded by Lemma Megersa
Minister of Science and Technology
In office
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn
Preceded by Demitu Hambisa
Succeeded by Getahun Mekuria
Director of the Information Network Security Agency
In office
Preceded by Teklebirhan Woldearegay
Succeeded by Teklebirhan Woldearegay
Personal details
Born (1976-04-23) April 23, 1976
Jimma Zone, Ethiopia
Political party Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization
Other political
Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front
Spouse(s) Zinash Tayachew
Children 3 daughters
Education Microlink College (BA)
University of Greenwich (MA)
Ashland University (MBA)
Addis Ababa University (PhD)
Military service
Allegiance  Ethiopia
Service/branch Ethiopian Army
Years of service 1993–2010

Lieutenant Colonel

Unit Army Signals Corps
Commands Information Network Security Agency
Battles/wars Ethiopian Civil War
United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda
Ethiopia-Eritrea War

Abiy Ahmed Ali (Amharic: አብይ አህመድ አሊ, Oromo: Abiyyi Ahimad Alii; ) is an Ethiopian politician. He is the 12th Prime Minister of Ethiopia. He is Chairman of both the ruling EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front) and the OPDO (Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization), which is one of the four coalition parties of the EPRDF. Abiy is also an elected member of the Ethiopian parliament, and a member of the OPDO and EPRDF executive committees.

Early Life and Education

Abiy Ahmed was born in Beshasha town in Gomma woreda, near Agaro town, Jimma Zone, Oromia Region, Ethiopia, on April 23 1976. He grew up in a Muslim family (Ahmed Ali, his Oromo father; Tezeta Wolde, his mother) and with Oromo Muslim and Christian grandparents. His childhood name was Abiyot, meaning Revolution, a name that was sometimes given to children in the aftermath of the Derg seizure of power in 1974. The then Abiyot went to the local primary school and later continued his studies at secondary schools in Agaro town. Abiy Ahmed Ali, according to several personal reports, was always very interested in his own education and later in his life also encouraged others to learn and to improve.


While serving in the Ethiopian National Defense Force, Abiy received his first degree, a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from the Microlink Information Technology College in Addis Ababa in 2001. In 2005, Abiy earned a post-graduate certificate in Cryptography at Machihe Dynamics in Pretoria, Republic of South Africa (AES encryption based on block cipher).

Abiy holds a Master of Arts in Transformational Leadership and Change with Merit, earned from the Business School at Greenwich University, London, in collaboration with the International Leadership Institute, Addis Ababa, in 2011. He also holds a Master of Business Administration from the Leadstar College of Management and Leadership in Addis Ababa in partnership with Ashland University in 2013.

Abiy, who had started his Ph.D. work several years ago as a regular student, completed his Ph.D. in 2017 at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies, Addis Ababa University. He did his Ph.D. work on the Agaro constituency with the Ph.D. thesis entitled “Social Capital and its Role in Traditional Conflict Resolution in Ethiopia: The Case of Inter-Religious Conflict In Jimma Zone state”. As a follow-up to his Ph.D. thesis, he published a research article on de-escalation strategies in the Horn of Africa Bulletin in a special journal issue dedicated to countering violent extremism.

Military career

As a teenager and in early 1991, he joined the armed struggle against the Derg Socialist Regime after the death of his oldest brother. He did so as a member of OPDO (Oromo People’s Democratic Organization), which at that time was a tiny organization of only around 200 fighters in the large coalition army of ~100,000 fighters that resulted in Derg’s fall later that year. As there were only so few OPDO fighters in an army with its core of about 90,000 Tigrayans, Abiy Ahmed Ali quickly had to learn the Tigrinya language. As a speaker of Tigrinya in a security apparatus dominated by Tigrayans, he could move forward with his military career.

After the fall of the Derg, he took formal military training from Assefa Brigade in West Wollega and was stationed there. His military post was in intelligence and communications. Later on he became a soldier in the now Ethiopian National Defense Force in 1993 and worked mostly in intelligence and communications department. In 1995, after the Rwandan genocide, Abiy Ahmed Ali was deployed as a member of the United Nations Peace Keeping Force (UNAMIR), Kigali, Rwanda. In the Ethio-Eritrea border war between 1998 and 2000, he led an intelligence team to discover positions of the Eritrean Defence Forces.

Later on, Abiy was posted back into his home town of Beshasha, where he – as an officer of the Defense Forces – had to address a critical situation of inter-religious clashes between Muslims and Christians with a number of deaths. He brought calm and peace in a situation of communal tensions accompanying the clashes.This was like a prelude for his role as an inter-religious mediator he became in later years.

He was co-founder of the Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (INSA) in 2007 and became the deputy director of the Agency. From 2008 until 2010, he was also acting director of INSA due to a leave of absence of the director assigned to the post. During this time, he was also board member of several government agencies working on information and communications, like Ethio Telecom and Ethiopian Television. Until 2010, Abiy Ahmed Ali had achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, when he eventually decided to leave the military and his post as deputy director of INSA and to become a politician.

Political career

Member of Parliament

He started his political career as a member of OPDO (Oromo People’s Democratic Organization). The OPDO is the ruling party in Oromia Region since 1991 and also one of four coalition parties of the ruling coalition in Ethiopia, the EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front). Abiy Ahmed Ali became a member of the central committee of OPDO and congress member of the Executive Committee of the EPRDF – in quick succession.

Religious Forum for Peace with Abiy Ahmed (2010)
Religious Forum for Peace with Abiy Ahmed (2010)

In the 2010 national election, Abiy represented the woreda of Agaro and became an elected member of the House of Peoples’ Representatives, the lower chamber of the Ethiopian Federal Parliamentary Assembly. Before and during his time of parliamentary service, there were several religious clashes among Muslims and Christians in Jimma zone. Some of these confrontations turned violent and resulted in the loss of life and property. Abiy Ahmed Ali, as an elected member of parliament, took a proactive role in working with several religious institutions and elders to bring about reconciliation in the zone. He was then setting up a forum entitled “Religious Forum for Peace” an outcome of the need to devise a sustainable resolution mechanism to restore peaceful Muslim-Christian community interaction in the region.

In 2014, during his time in parliament, Abiy became the Director General of a new and in 2011 founded Government Research Institute called Science and Technology Information Center (STIC). The year after, in 2015, Abiy became an executive member of OPDO. The same year he was re-elected to the House of Peoples’ Representatives for a second term, this time for his home woreda, Gomma woreda.

Rise to power

Starting from 2015, Abiy became one of the central figures in the violent fight against illegal land-grabbing activities in Oromia Region and especially around the capital Addis Ababa. Although the ‘Addis Ababa Master Plan’ at the heart of the land-grabbing plans was stopped in 2016, the disputes continued for some time resulting in injuries and deaths. It was this fight against land-grabbing, that finally boosted Abiys political career, brought him into the spotlight and allowed him to climb the political ladder.

Oromia Urban Development and Planning Office
Oromia Urban Development and Planning Office

In October 2015, Abiy became the Ethiopian Minister of Science and Technology (MoST), a post which he left after only 12 months. From October 2016 on, Abiy served as Deputy President of Oromia Region as part of the team of Oromia Region’s president Lemma Megersa while staying a member of the Ethiopian Federal House of Peoples’ Representatives. Abiy also became the Head of the Oromia Urban Development and Planning Office. In this role, Abiy Ahmed Ali was expected to be the major driving force behind Oromia Economic Revolution, Oromia Land and Investment reform, youth employment as well as resistance to widespread land grabbing in Oromia region. As one of his duties in office, he took care of the displaced one million Oromo people from Somali region during the 2017 unrest.

As head of OPDO Secretariat from October 2017 on, Abiy crossed over religious and ethnic divides to facilitate the formation of a new alliance between Oromo and the Amhara groups, both making up two thirds of the 100 million Ethiopian population.

In early 2018, a lot of political observers considered Abiy and Lemma as the most popular politicians within the majority of the Oromo community and other Ethiopian communities.  This came after several years of unrest in Ethiopia. But despite this favorable rating for Abiy Ahmed Ali and Lemma, young people from Oromia Region called for immediate action without delays to bring fundamental change and freedom to Oromia Region and Ethiopia – otherwise more unrest were to be expected. According to Abiy himself, people are asking for a different rhetoric, with an open and respectful discussion in the political space to allow political progress and to win people for democracy instead of pushing them.

Until early 2018, Abiy continued to serve as head of the OPDO secretariat and of the Oromia Housing and Urban Development Office and as Deputy President of Oromia Region. Then he left all these posts after his election as Leader of EPRDF.

EPRDF Leadership Election

Following three years of protest and unrest on 15 February 2018 the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, announced his resignation which also meant that he resigned from the post of the EPRDF Chairman. As an unwritten rule in Ethiopian politics, the incoming EPRDF Chairman has to be the next Prime Minister. The EPRDF Chairman on the other hand is one of the heads of the four parties that make up the ruling coalition: OPDO, ANDM, SEPDM and TPLF.

Hailemariams resignation triggered the first ever contested leadership election among EPRDF coalition members to replace him. A lot of political observers made Lemma Megersa (the OPDO Chairman) and Abiy Ahmed the front-runners to become the Leader of the ruling coalition and eventually Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Despite being the clear favorite in the general public, Lemma Megersa was not a member of the national parliament, a pre-condition to become Prime Minister as requested by the Ethiopian constitution. Therefore, Lemma was excluded from the leadership race. On 22 February 2018, Lemmas party, OPDO, called for an emergency executive committee meeting and replaced Lemma by Abiy as Chairman of OPDO. Abiy had the advantage of being Member of Parliament in contrast to Lemma. A lot of observers saw that as a tactical move to promote Abiy to become Prime Minister.

On 01 March 2018, the 180 EPRDF executive committee members started their meeting to elect the Leader of the party. Each of the four parties sent in 45 members. The contest for the leadership was among Abiy Ahmed of OPDO, Demeke Mekonnen, the Deputy Prime Minister and ANDM leader, Shiferaw Shigute as Chairman of SEPDM and Debretsion Gebremichael as the Leader of TPLF. Despite being the overwhelming favorite by the majority of Ethiopians, Abiy Ahmed Ali faced major opposition from TPLF and SEPDM members during the leadership discussions.

On 27 March 2018, a few hours before the beginning of the leadership elections, Demeke Mekonnen, who had been seen as the major opponent to Abiy, dropped out of the race which a lot of observers saw as an endorsement of Abiy Ahmed’s candidacy. Demeke was then approved as Deputy Prime Minister and got another term on that post. Following Demeke’s dropout, Abiy received a presumably unanimous vote from both the ANDM and OPDO executive members, with 18 additional votes on a secret ballot coming from elsewhere, probably from SEPDM. By midnight, Abiy Ahmed Ali was declared Chairman of the ruling coalition in Ethiopia, the EPRDF, and was considered as the Prime Minister Designate of Ethiopia by receiving 108 votes while Shiferaw Shigute received 58 and Debretsion Gebremichael received 2 votes.  On 2 April 2018, Abiy was elected as Prime Minister of Ethiopia by the House of Representatives and sworn in.

Prime Minister of Ethiopia

On 2 April 2018, Abiy was confirmed and sworn in by Ethiopian parliament as Prime Minister of Ethiopia. During his acceptance speech, he promised political reform, to promote the unity of Ethiopia and the unity among the people of Ethiopia, reached out to the Eritrean government to resolve the ongoing Eritrean–Ethiopian border conflict after the Eritrean–Ethiopian War and also reach out to the political opposition inside and outside of Ethiopia. His acceptance speech sparked optimism and received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from Ethiopian Public including the opposition groups inside and outside Ethiopia. Following his speech, his popularity and support across the country reached historically high and some political observers argued that Abiy Ahmed Ali is overwhelmingly more popular than the ruling party coalition, the EPRDF.

Personal life

Abiy is married and met his wife, Zinash Tayachew, while both were serving in the Ethiopian Defense Forces. They have three daughters together. Abiy Ahmed Ali is a multilingual and speaks Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Tigrinya and English. He is a fitness aficionado and professes that physical health goes hand in hand with mental health and as such frequents physical and gym activities in Addis Ababa.

A Speech of  Abiy Ahmed Ali

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