WORLD Ethiopia's new PM visits town that was center of anti-government protests

WORLD

Ethiopia's new PM visits town that was center of anti-government protests

Reuters

05:36, April 12, 2018

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Ethiopia's newly elected prime minister Abiy Ahmed waves to the rally during his visit to Ambo in the Oromiya region, Ethiopia, April 11, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)

Ethiopia’s new prime minister pledged on Wednesday to address grievances in his native Oromiya region, center of violent unrest that threatened the ruling coalition’s hold on Africa’s second most populous nation.

Abiy Ahmed was sworn in as premier on April 2. His predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn resigned in February, signaling divisions in the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, in power since 1991, over how fast to pursue reforms.

The 42-year-old former army officer faces the challenge of calming the anger of young members of his own Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, who complain they are politically and economically marginalized.

Abiy was met by thousands of cheering locals, some of whom held his portrait aloft, when he arrived on Wednesday in Ambo, a town at the heart of protests and clashes with security forces since 2015.

Protests began in opposition to a development plan for the capital Addis Ababa that critics said would expropriate land for farmers in Oromiya province, which surrounds the capital. Demonstrators later began protesting for political rights.

Hundreds of people were killed between 2015 and 2017.

“You have expressed your grievances and have made demands. We give you our unwavering commitment to resolving them,” he said in a speech, a group of spear-wielding Oromo horsemen in colorful capes and baboon skin headdresses looking on.

“But for us to succeed, we also need your unwavering support,” Abiy said, after blessings from traditional leaders and a moment of silence in memory of those who died.

Abiy Ahmed was sworn in as premier on April 2. His predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn resigned in February, signaling divisions in the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, in power since 1991, over how fast to pursue reforms.

The 42-year-old former army officer faces the challenge of calming the anger of young members of his own Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, who complain they are politically and economically marginalized.

Abiy was met by thousands of cheering locals, some of whom held his portrait aloft, when he arrived on Wednesday in Ambo, a town at the heart of protests and clashes with security forces since 2015.

Protests began in opposition to a development plan for the capital Addis Ababa that critics said would expropriate land for farmers in Oromiya province, which surrounds the capital. Demonstrators later began protesting for political rights.

Hundreds of people were killed between 2015 and 2017.

“You have expressed your grievances and have made demands. We give you our unwavering commitment to resolving them,” he said in a speech, a group of spear-wielding Oromo horsemen in colorful capes and baboon skin headdresses looking on.

“But for us to succeed, we also need your unwavering support,” Abiy said, after blessings from traditional leaders and a moment of silence in memory of those who died.


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