Mass arrest of dissidents threatens to derail Nobel Peace Prize-winning PM’s reform

Mass arrest of dissidents threatens to derail Nobel Peace Prize-winning PM’s reform

Protesters in Glasgow last month demand the removal of Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed. – Skully / Alamy Live News/

He was hailed as Ethiopia’s ‘saviour’ for bringing peace to the Horn of Africa, picking up the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

But Abiy Ahmed, the country’s liberal prime minister and the continent’s youngest leader, is at risk of losing his shine with a brutal crackdown on dissent.

Opposition and critics of the 43-year-old leader have been rounded up and imprisoned.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, at the European council headquarters in 2019, is accused of a brutal crackdown on dissent – Francisco Seco/AP

Rights groups are warning that the dream of a liberal Ethiopia is quickly evaporating.

For much of its history, Ethiopia has been ruled by dictatorial, centralised governments which have kept the landlocked East African nation one of the poorest on earth.

In 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was appointed and introduced a series of spectacular liberalising reforms. The government freed thousands of political prisoners and urged exiled activists and journalists to return home.

Abiy talked about opening up the country’s economy and made plans for free and fair elections. Then in 2019, Abiy won the Nobel peace prize for ending two decades of conflict with Eritrea, which had left around 80,000 people dead.

However, despite rapid liberal reforms, Ethiopia’s government is struggling to contain a series of ethnic horrific clashes, which are destabilising large parts of the country.

Over the last few years, there have been alarming reports of abuses by state security forces in Ethiopia’s Oromia region. This has fuelled resentment towards Abiy’s administration among the Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group.

Ethiopian forces have been fighting a bloody counterinsurgency campaign against armed Oromo Liberation Army rebels in the west of the country since early 2019.

Ethiopian security forces out of carrying out “horrendous human rights violations” in the region including burning homes to the ground, extrajudicial killings and raping civilians suspected of supporting the rebels, according to Amnesty International.

The assassination of Ethiopian singer-songwriter Hachalu Hundessa in Addis Ababa in June sparked violent riots, killing more than 80 people – STR/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Shutterstock

On June 29, the mounting tension came to a head when Hachalu Hundessa, a famous singer and rights activist for the Oromo, was shot dead in Addis Ababa, the capital.