Abiy Ahmed Ali (Ph.D.) is an Ethiopian politician and the current Chairman of EPDRF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front) and OPDO (Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization). Until 2018, he served as the head of OPDO Secretariat and Oromia Housing and Urban Development Office with the title of Deputy President of Oromia Region, one of the nine regions of Ethiopia.
Abiy Ahmed was born on August 15, 1976[disputed] in Agaro, Jimma Zone. He grew up in multilingual and multireligious family household where his father, Ahmed Ali, is an Oromo Muslim and his mother is a Christian. He studied his elementary, middle school and High school at a local school in Jimma. As a teenager in 1991, he joined the armed struggle against the Derg Socialist Regime and was a soldier in the coalition army that resulted in Derg’s fall in 1991. 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.
While Serving in the military Abiy received his first degree in Computer Engineering from Microlink Information Technology College in Addis Ababa in 2001. In 2005, Abiy completed his post-graduate advanced diploma in Cryptology, Machine Dynamics Cipher-ED Pretoria, RSA (Republic of South Africa) (AES encryption based on block cipher “the system which encrypts and decrypt a data communication between two parties”). Abiy also holds an MA, Transformational Leadership and Change with Merit, Greenwich University, London in collaboration with International Leadership Institute, Addis Ababa in 2011. He also holds an MBA from Leadstar College of Management and Leadership in Partnership with Ashland in 2013.
Abiy completed his Ph.D. in 2017 from Institute for Peace and Security Studies at Addis Ababa University. He did his Ph.D. work on Agaro constituency entitled “Social Capital and its Role in Traditional Conflict Resolution in Ethiopia: The Case of Inter-Religious Conflict In Jimma Zone”.
After the fall of Derg, 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, he 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. Until 2010, Abiy achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
He established the Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (INSA) in 2007. Until 2010, he was the founding director of INSA. During this time, he was also a board member of several government agencies working on information and communications, like Ethio Telecom and Ethiopian Television.
In 2010, Abiy left INSA to become a politician. 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). He became a member of the central committee of OPDO from 2010 – 2012 and Congress member of the Executive Committee of the EPRDF.
In the 2010 national election, Abiy represented his home woreda of Agaro and became an elected member of the House of Peoples’ Representatives, the lower chamber of the Ethiopian Federal Parliamentary Assembly. 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 took a proactive role in working with several religious institutions and elders to bring about reconciliation in the zone. He was re-elected to the House of Peoples’ Representatives in Gomma woreda in 2015. Abiy was then set 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, Abiy established a new GRI (Government Research Institute) called Science and Technology Information Center (STIC) with the intention of creating a science, technology, and innovation excellence center. He became Director General of STIC. Abiy became an executive member of OPDO in 2015. In 2016, Abiy moved and became the Ethiopian Minister of Science and Technology (MoST), a post which he left after only a few months to go back into his home region of Oromia to take over more responsibilities and duties.
From late 2016 on, Abiy served his home region of Oromia with the rank of Deputy President of Oromia Region while staying a member of the Ethiopian Federal House of Peoples’ Representatives. He is considered to work closely together with Oromia Region’s president Lemma Megersa. Abiy also became the Head of the Oromia Urban Development and Planning Office. In this role, Abiy was expected to be the major driving force behind Oromia Economic Revolution, Oromia Land and Investment reform, youth employment as well as resistance to wide-spread 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.
A multi-lingual (Amharic, Afan Oromo, Tigrigna and fluency in the English language) Abiy is said to be the engine behind OPDO and a more assertive role for Oromia and for OPDO in Ethiopian politics. 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
Abiy is married and met his wife while he was serving in the Ethiopian Defense Forces.They have three daughters together. Abiy is a multilingual and speaks Afan Oromo, Amharic, Tigrinya, and English. Abiy 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.