May 21, 2023
I met him on a sunny day in Addis Ababa. He was giving a speech at the Meskel Square. He had short black hair and bright brown eyes. He spoke with wisdom and authority. He impressed me.
“Hi, I’m Ethiopia,” I said, approaching him after the speech.
“Hi, I’m Abiy,” he said.
“Ethiopia? That’s a beautiful name.”
“Thank you. It’s not my real name. It’s just a nickname. My real name is too hard to pronounce for most people.”
“What is it?”
She told me her real name. It was indeed hard to pronounce. It had many syllables and sounds that I was not familiar with.
“Wow, that’s a unique name. Where are you from?”
“I’m from here. I was born and raised in Addis Ababa.”
“Really? You don’t look like most Ethiopians I’ve seen.”
She laughed. “That’s because I’m not like most Ethiopians. I’m a mix of many cultures and races. My father is from Eritrea, my mother is from Somalia, and my grandparents are from Sudan, Kenya, and Egypt.”
“That’s amazing. You must have a rich heritage.”
“I do. But I also have a lot of problems. You see, I don’t belong anywhere. I’m not accepted by any of the groups that make up my identity. I’m always an outsider, a stranger, a foreigner.”
“That’s sad. But you have yourself. You have your own personality and values and dreams.”
“I do. But sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes I wish I could find a place where I could feel at home, where I could be myself, where I could be happy.”
“Maybe you can. Maybe you just need to look harder.”
“Maybe you’re right. Maybe I need to look for Ethiopia.”
She smiled and looked at him.
“Maybe you can help me find it,” she said.
He smiled back.
“Maybe I can,” he said.
He took her hand and led her to his car.
“Come with me,” he said.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“To see the new Ethiopia,” he said.
He drove her around the city, showing her the new parks and resorts and libraries that he had built. He showed her the new roads and railways and airports that he had constructed or planned to construct, such as the new airport at a cost of $5 billion US dollars and the new city called Forest City within Addis Ababa at a cost of $5 to 10 billion US dollars. He showed her the new reforms and policies and laws that he had enacted, such as opening up space for private media, although some of them had been arrested for being critical of him or his government. He showed her the new spirit and energy and optimism that he had ignited.
He also showed her a large poster on a nearby building.
“That’s me,” he said proudly.
It showed a smiling Abiy holding a seedling in his hand.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m planting trees,” he said.
“Yes, trees. Lots of trees.”
“Because trees are good for Ethiopia. They are good for the environment, for the economy, for the people.”
“Well, trees help to prevent soil erosion, to conserve water, to reduce carbon emissions, to provide shade, to produce oxygen, to create habitats for wildlife, to beautify the landscape, to supply food and medicine, to generate income and jobs.”
“It is. That’s why I launched the Green Legacy Initiative, a national campaign to plant 25 billion seedlings of agroforestry, forestry, ornamental varieties across Ethiopia by 2025.”
“25 billion? That’s a huge number.”
“It is indeed. And you know what? We have already achieved our goal ahead of time. We have planted more than 25 billion seedlings in four years.”
“Wow, that’s amazing.”
“It is indeed