The fractious rise of Abiy Ahmed

ADDIS ABABA DESPATCH | INTERNATIONAL
(The Hindu) -- 
Nizar Manek, 7 April 2018
Abiy Ahmed, who leads the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization, representing the Oromia region, emphasised the need for unity in a country where ethnic and regional divisions run deep
When Abiy Ahmed was sworn in as Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister earlier this month, the central message of his inaugural address was ‘andinet’ — an Amharic word for unity. Mr. Abiy, who leads the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO), representing the Oromia region, emphasised the need for unity in a country where ethnic and regional divisions run deep. Over 60% vote at the Council of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front brought Mr. Abiy in as its third chairman in its over quarter-century history — and by extension as Prime Minister of the country. But the election marked a break with the Front’s Leninist-inspired “revolutionary democratic” tradition, which seeks to avoid divided votes that could give rise to factionalism.
Mr. Abiy didn’t receive as large a mandate as his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn received in in 2012 after the death of the Front’s first leader Meles Zenawi. At that time it was certain that Meles’s deputy, Mr. Hailemariam, would assume power uncontested. Mr. Hailemariam resigned mid-February this year in the wake of severe clashes between militia under Ethiopia’s Somali region and Oromo and violent anti-government protests in Oromia and Amhara regions, which make up over half the country’s population. “Unity does not mean sameness,” Mr. Abiy said in his maiden speech as Prime Minister, which invoked even Mahatma Gandhi. “Unity has to enclose difference and diversity within itself.” The andinet Mr. Abiy was talking about may be different from the ‘old’ concept, but talking about “unity” is nothing without ensuring equality in practice, said Gutema Yadesa, a socio-linguist at Addis Ababa University.
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