(Foreign Policy) --
Nizar Manek, 4 April 2018
The announcement of a new prime minister has led to widespread celebrations, but reforming the country without alienating the army will not be easy.
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — In 1990, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) was a guerrilla alliance battling the Derg, a Marxist-Leninist military junta that had deposed Emperor Haile Selassie in a 1974 coup. A year later, the EPRDF took power; it has ruled Ethiopia ever since.
When the Derg fell, Abiy Ahmed, who was recently elected as the EPRDF’s chairman and sworn in as prime minister on Monday, was just 14 years old. But even then, Abiy, who was born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother in the Oromo town of Beshasha in southwestern Ethiopia, was becoming politically active.
“In one way, the world is eagerly awaiting our country’s transition, and in another way, they are waiting in fear,” Abiy said in his maiden speech as prime minister. “We have a country in which our fathers have sacrificed their bones and spilled their blood,” and yet the nation has kept its unity. “This is the season in which we learn from our mistakes and compensate our country,” he continued. “I ask forgiveness from those activists and politicians who paid the sacrifice and youths who wanted change but lost their lives.” He even spoke of applying Ethiopia’s constitution in a way that understands “freedom,” especially freedom of expression and the rights to assembly and association — suggesting that he may lift the state of emergency that has led to the detention of more than 1,100 people.