The Stream

Can Abiy Ahmed build on a lightning start leading Ethiopia?

Prime minister has won plaudits for reforms during his first year in office but faces challenge of long-running ethnic tensions.

Abiy Ahmed has led Ethiopia at a breathless pace since becoming prime minister a year ago this month, winning praise for tackling a host of internal and regional problems. But as the initial goodwill towards his ascent to the premiership recedes he faces tough challenges that may yet complicate his flourishing reputation.

When Ethiopia’s ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) elected Abiy he became the country’s first ethnic Oromo prime minister since the EPRDF came to power in 1991. He pledged to heal divisions following deadly protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions that precipitated the resignation of his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn – and within weeks lifted martial law imposed under a state of emergency. He went on to release hundreds of political prisoners and all imprisoned journalists, signed a peace deal with neighbouring Eritrea and began work on economic reforms aimed at boosting prospects for under-developed parts of the country.

But deep-seated ethnic divisions fester. More than two million people are displaced, largely due to the impact or threat of ethnic violence. Tensions have been exacerbated by the impact of a prolonged drought. Abiy’s plan to boost national inclusivity among dozens of ethnic communities has been undermined by demands from several groups that new federal states be formed. The continuing instability and spectre of Balkanisation has had a knock-on effect on civil cohesion and economic development.

As Abiy enters his second year in charge we’ll look at his successes and mis-steps, as well as the continuing disputes and dilemmas he must safely negotiate. Join the conversation.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Abebe Gellaw @abebegellaw
Jouranlist, Ethiopian Satellite Television & Radio

Tsedale Lemma @tselemma
Editor-in-chief, Addis Standard

Goitom Gebreluel @goitom_gebrelue
Political analyst

Read more:
Abiy’s year one: Ethiopia faces the threat of ethnic conflict – Al Jazeera
Abiy’s year one: Ethiopia’s best hope for stability – Al Jazeera

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