Abiy Ahmed has been named the worst head of state in 2021 by a panel of professors and researchers, on behalf of the Norwegian newspaper Morgenbladet.
Ida Irene Bergstrøm
2021 hasn’t just been affected by a pandemic, but also bad and dangerous leadership in many countries, writes Norwegian weekly newspaper Morgenbladet.
An expert panel was put together by the newspaper to discuss and conclude: Who was the worst head of state in 2021?
The final verdict: Abiy Ahmed.
In 2019 he came to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, for his “efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation.” Two years later, Ethiopia is marred by civil war.
The New York times recently described the situation as “a year of conflict in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country and a linchpin of regional security, has left thousands dead, forced more than two million people from their homes and pushed parts of the country into famine.”
A wasted opportunity
While dictactors in general, like North-Korea’s Kim Jong-un, suppress their people as a natural part of their leadership, 2021 has been a very active year for Prime Minister Ahmed, Morgenbladet writes.
“Abiy has done nothing to downscale the ongoing civil war in his country, because he wants to secure his own alliances and his own position. He is perhaps the most disappointing head of state of the year,” professor Carl Henrik Knutsen says to the newspaper.
Knutsen served in the newspaper’s expert panel on the topic.
“With the Nobel Prize in his pocket and the recognition that comes with it from international alliances, a lot was in place for Abiy to develop his country in a positive direction. He wasted that opportunity and seems to have put his own concerns over that of his citizens,” he says.
The worst of the bad
The expert panel consisted of Carl Henrik Knutsen, professor of political science at the University of Oslo, Lise Rakner, professor of political science at the University of Bergen, Helle Malmvig, senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies and Dan Smith, Director at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
“A truly bad head of state is an authoritarian and oppressive leader who undermines the political institutions in the country and concentrates all power in his own hands, at any cost,” according to Knutsen.
Discussions that included Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and the king of Saudi-Arabia, Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, finally narrowed down to a list of six nominees:
- Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the UK
- Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus
- Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India
- Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brasil
- Michel Aoun, President of Lebanon
- Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia
Watching people die during a pandemic
Questions that were discussed were whether the head of state has contributed to financial decline in their own country, supported or started a civil war and suppressed civil or political rights. Handling of the pandemic was also an important criterion.
“Leaders who are in denial, who with open eyes watch a large number of people dying during the pandemic and call information about this mortality “fake news” – I believe this is a form of genocide,” said Professor Lise Rakner.
On the more unusual suspect on the list, Boris Johson, Rakner has the following to say:
“The United Kingdom still have a free press, a stable legal system and an independent central bank, which means that Johnson cannot control things in any way he would like to. But if you had given Brasil to Johnson, a lot of things would have gone very wrong. What a clown.”
The violent solution
According to Dan Smith from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the most important criterion in deciding on the worst head of state in 2021 was starting an irresponsible war and using systematic violence. This is why Abiy ends up top, he says to Morgenbladet.
“Since the outbreak of the war, there have been obvious alternative ways of acting, but all of them have been rejected. Both sides have blocked a politically negotiated solution. Instead, Abiy has chosen the most violent solution,” he says.