Abiy Ahmed’s swearing-in ceremony was on October 4 following the June Federal election. The election didn’t include the election of MPs from three out of the nine federal regions. The nomination and approval of the over 20 Federal Cabinet Ministers was thus done in the absence of representatives from three regions and constituencies from the six regions where elections were not held in June.
Unprecedented in recent history was the big fanfare that included an open-air celebration of Abiy Ahmed’s swearing-in at the largest square of the country, Meskel Square with a lot of parades and choreographed shows. In the weeks and months before October 4, delegations led by the Abiy Ahmed himself and his senior officials went to capital cities in African countries to invite their leaders to attend the swearing-in ceremony. Some did.
A notable figure to miss the parliament session and the open-air celebration was His Holiness (HH) Mathias I, Patriarch of Ethiopia, Head of Archbishops, Archbishop of Axum, and Etchege of the See of Teklehaymanot.
The head of the Church with more than 40 million followers has been sidelined by Abiy Ahmed for fear of his speaking up about #TigrayGenocide and his calling for negotiations. When he got a chance, he did speak up about the genocide, albeit in a video message recorded by a visitor, not through his own church media and any mainstream media. His access to church and state media has been severely limited by a committee spearheaded by Abiy Ahmed’s close ally Daniel Kibret a prominent figure both in the palace and the church.
HH was forced to leave out a part of his written appeal for negotiations a week earlier on the same square of Abiy Ahmed’s inauguration celebration from his televised address by the Daniel Kibret and Adanech Abiebie, Mayor of Addis Ababa.
Abiy Ahmed didn’t take lightly the absence of the Patriarch from the parliament and the public ceremony of his inauguration.
His advisor, Daniel Kibret now known for his recent “weed” and “make them the last of their kind” genocidal speech was tasked to do something to dispel the effect of HH Mathias’ boycott. Daniel promptly arranged for a visit to the palace of the second sitting patriarch HH Merkorios and other bishops one of which was Abune Yosief who read a statement allegedly prepared by Daniel Kibret that included HH Merkorios’ blessings of Abiy Ahmed’s new term.
The arrangement was seen as an effort of further isolating HH Mathias by bringing HH Merkorios who remained numb for years by choice or because of health reasons. Some sections of the Church went further saying that this is Abiy Ahmed’s act of weakening and/or dividing the Church. These sections are quick to point that Abiy Ahmed is a Prosperity Gospel follower, not an Orthodox. A visible backlash thus went on for a couple of days after the visit. As the optics of the arranged visit was not welcome even by people who defended Daniel Kibret in his genocidal speech, Daniel went with a plan B according to a UMD Media source who requested to remain anonymous fearing repercussions.
Daniel went to the Patriarchate located around 2. 5 kilometers to the North of the Palace around 9 am to tell that the PM would come to see HH Mathias. The Patriarch was not able to see Daniel as he was in a meeting. After waiting for a couple of hours and was having a word with HH Mathias, Abiy Ahmed showed up.
According to our source, Abiy Ahmed complained about HH’s absence from the swearing-in ceremony to which Abune Mathias responded:
- That the government is interfering in HH’s day-to-day activities.
- That he was in no mood to attend a festive celebration while many people are dying, displaced and suffering all over the country.
- That he has been silenced whenever he wanted to speak up
- That people closer to him including the clergy inside the Patriarchate are arrested because of their Tigrayan identity.
Abiy Ahmed told HH that as he is not a Patriarch of Tigray, but Ethiopia, shouldn’t thus advocate for Tigray as much as he did to which the Patriarch responded that it is because of the fact that he is the Patriarch of Ethiopia including Tigray that he has been crying out for victims in Tigray and the rest of Ethiopia. He said the PM as the PM of Ethiopia including Tigray should have cared for Tigray as well.
HH Mathias explained at length the need for negotiation and national dialogue to which the PM didn’t give any positive answer.
He instead insisted that he needs the support of HH in transiting the country. He clarified that is why he took the initiative to visit him in ‘breaking the silence.
Abiy Ahmed also said that he had no information about those detained from the church because of their identity. He said he will send Temesgen Tiruneh and Demelash Geberemichael who are heads of security and police respectively to sort that out with HH. Abiy Ahmed was with HH for more than an hour.
Temesgen Tiruneh and Demelash Geberemichael showed up around 6 pm the same day. According to our source both Temesgen and Demelash were much softer than their previous visits to HH. When Temesgen and Daniel saw HH the last time, Temesgen threatened HH to retract his video message on Tigray Genocide by appearing on State TV which the Patriarch refused to do.
This time both Temesgen and Demelash apologized for the detention of many including the clergy from the Church because of their identity and said they are aware of baseless accusations made against Tigrayans and promised to correct that. They said they will in the future be happy to hear from HH any time he wishes to speak to them.
Observers confided to UMD Media that Abiy Ahmed’s visit won’t contribute to stopping the sufferings of the people of Tigray which is at the heart of the many sufferings in the country that keep HH Mathias awake at night according to sources.
The observers see two points that the Abiy Ahmed hopes to gain from his visit to the Patriarch.:
1) He would use this visit to say that he made an effort to close the rift between him and the Patriarch and use it for PR purpose the same way he said he made an effort to talk to TPLF before going to war.
2) With this visit he might try to convince the Patriarch to visit him in the Palace and get his blessing and use it for media purposes as a way of adding to legitimizing his power and pull the Patriarch far from advocating for the people of Tigray. That way he might be hoping to release some of the pressure from the international community and the followers of the Church.
Which way all this might lead to would remain to be seen.