Ethiopia has a new Prime Minister – 42-years-old Abiy Ahmed is the first to hail from the dissenting Oromo region, which has been at the forefront of the political protests that led to the resignation of his predecessor – Hailemariam Desalegn, last month.
Following a week-long meeting, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition, has chosen Abiy Ahmed as its Chairman. The Addis Standard newspaper reported that Ahmed received 108 out of 180 votes by the EPRDF’s Council.
Under Ethiopian law, the ruling party’s leader automatically becomes the Prime Minister. The EPRDF which controls all 547 seats in Ethiopia’s parliament, will confirm the new Prime Minister.
Ahmed, is of Oromo ethnicity and the chairperson of the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organisation, (OPDO) one of the four (ethnic-based) parties, that make up EPRDF coalition – the others being the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM); the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM) and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The Oromos are one of the largest ethnic groups that have relentlessly led mass protests and dissent against the government since 2015, eventually forcing former PM Hailemariam Desalegn to resign last month – ostensibly to pave way for reforms.
According to Reuters, although the Oromos comprise 34 percent of Ethiopia’s 100 million population, they have not held power in the Ethiopia’s modern history.
Therefore, some media reports and analysts have indicated that Ahmed’s ascendance to the top political post, may quell further tension. But his appointment comes just days after several recently freed (by Desalegn) political prisoners and journalists were re-arrested at a social gathering, for “violating” state of emergency laws, which prohibit gatherings without police authorization. Similar arrests were also reported in Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara region – another hotbed for political dissent and protests of the past three years.
Whether Ahmed will lift the six-month state of emergency re-imposed soon after Desalegn’s resignation – is one move that is being closely watched.
What we know about Abiy Ahmed so far:
- He was unanimously elected chairman of the 81-member OPDO central committee;
- He is a former minister of science and technology under Desalegn;
- He has doctorate in peace and security from Addis Ababa University;
- He speaks fluent English and three Ethiopian languages,
- According to the online Asharq Al-Awsat he is Ethiopia’s first Muslim prime minister, having been born to a Muslim father and Christian mother.
- He comes from a military and intelligence background and ranked as high as colonel in the Ethiopian army.
- He was also a member of the peacekeeping force that was deployed in Rwanda.
- It was only last year that he completed a PhD from Institute for Peace and Security Studies at Addis Ababa University.
Meanwhile, other reports indicate that the government of Ethiopia has begun providing financial support to the tune of half a billion birr to companies that have been affected or damaged in the course of recent political clashes.