(iiss) Abiy Ahmed ignited domestic and international fanfare after becoming, at the age of 42, Ethiopia’s prime minister in 2018 and winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. In his second year in office, he confronts several challenges – intractable ethnic violence, slowing economic growth, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a looming constitutional crisis – which threaten his prospects as leader ahead of elections likely to occur in early 2021.
In March 2018, Abiy Ahmed was elected by party elites to lead Ethiopia’s governing coalition, becoming prime minister in April. He succeeded the unpopular and ineffective Hailemariam Desalegn, who resigned the office following mass anti-government protests that began in 2015. The transition from Hailemariam to Abiy was the most significant change in Ethiopia’s politics since the 1991 collapse of the Derg, the Marxist-Leninist junta that had ruled the country since 1974. Abiy’s appointment heralded a transfer of power – seen by many as overdue – between generations and ethnic groups. At 42, he became Africa’s youngest leader and is the first leader of Ethiopia in modern history who is Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group, following nearly 30 years of political dominance by ethnic Tigrayans. (Oromos comprise about 34% of the population and Tigrayans about 6%.) Abiy’s appointment also signalled an opening of political space, given his invitation to opposition groups exiled by the previous government to compete for power in future elections without fear of retribution. This shift suggested that Ethiopia had made substantial progress on its journey from governance by, effectively, single-party authoritarianism towards multiparty democracy. After decades of stifling political repression, and charges by the Oromo and other ethnic groups that they had been marginalised from national politics for a century or more, Abiy’s arrival felt for many like a revolution.
Addis police seized @eskinder_nega‘s phone without court authorization for violating social distancing rules. He fears for his digital security; they’ve unlocked it & have full access. They must immediately return it & stop using #COVID19 as an excuse to infringe upon his rights. pic.twitter.com/1KOs1epkAn