Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa that currently serves as the seat for the African Union. It has a vast history that stretches back to over 2000 years in which kingdoms, monarchies, communism and capitalism have left their footprints.
In recent years the push toward building a strong democratic state with free and fair elections has been a critical question, causing a lot of friction between the ruling party, who has a strong grip on the social, political and economic authority for the past 27 years. This has tarnished the reputation that the government has been trying to create through one of the fastest growing economies in the world with several human rights violations including torture and extrajudicial killing of political dissidents.
The following five major changes occurring in Ethiopia this summer, however, show a different direction that the new leadership is taking with the support of the public through several major reforms.
Five Major Changes Occurring in Ethiopia
- Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s rise to power and the overwhelming public support he received – When Abiy Ahmed took his position following the sudden resignation of the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, he took on the responsibility of leading a nation with a double-digit economic growth that was also full of unrest due to protests from groups who felt marginalized by the ruling party. His background was a crucial part of his image among the public, including the fact that he is the country’s first Oromo leader, which is one of the major ethnic groups who has led antigovernment movements protesting the political, economic and cultural marginalization. He came to power through the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), one of the four ethnic parties that make up the ruling the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), but he has gained the support of other ethnic groups who felt marginalized through his unifying rhetoric, which has led to several mass rallies being held across the country to support Mr. Abiy’s reforms.
- A three months long state of emergency rule ended two months before it was due to expire – Following Abiy Ahmed’s inauguration, the Ethiopian parliament voted in June to lift the state of emergency that was put in place to curtail the antigovernment movements flaring up across the nation. The state of emergency was precipitated particularly by serious protests centered mainly in the Oromia and Amhara regions, which resulted in the arrest of several hundred.
- Political prisoners have been released by the thousands – By June, more than 300 more political prisoners were released on top of the several thousand who were pardoned the months before, which the government states is aimed at widening the political space. Most of the released prisoners, three of them being foreigners, were charged with acts of “terrorism” when the antigovernment movements reached its highest points, and some of them were awaiting death sentences.
- Ethiopia signed a peace deal that ended 21 years of serious conflict with Eritrea – One of the major steps Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took to increase stability in the region and deliver on his promise to bring about peace and unification was to end the long-standing conflict with Eritrea. In June, Prime Minister Abiy announced that the nation is going to honor a deal brokered by the U.N. in 2000 to end the border war that had lasted two years and resulted in the deaths of more than 70,000 people. This has led to one of the most unprecedented and inspiring peace deals signed by Abiy and the Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and formally ended one of Africa’s longest and toughest conflicts.
- Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took a historic trip to The U.S to have discussions about the countries new direction with the Ethiopian diaspora community – Given the history of the Ethiopian diaspora (meaning displaced from their homeland), who left their home country due to the dire political environment, it was a historical trip for the new Prime Minister and the community who had been marginalized in political discourse. The leader was welcomed with overwhelming support that reflected unity and hope for the fast-paced reforms he has brought about. When he arrived in D.C last month, cars that sported Ethiopian and Eritrean flags flooded the streets with people from the metropolitan area as well as the influx of people who traveled from all parts of the country to welcome the leader. This shift to hope in the community is significant in making economic, political and social leaps as one of the most untapped resources the nation has.
Following his rise to power, the government has ended the state of emergency, released numerous political prisoners, held public forums with its citizens nationally and reached the diaspora community in The United States. Furthermore, the state of proxy war and hostility the country faced on its borders by Eritrea has been resolved through a peace deal.
This summer has been a time of monumental political change in Ethiopia both nationally and abroad. The five major changes occurring in Ethiopia this summer were launched with the inauguration of the new prime minister Abiy Ahmed, who has gained more public support than arguably any other leader in the country’s long history. Despite the several security issues, the new leadership is facing and carrying out these changes. The public support remains intact, and the country is making efforts towards building a peaceful and prosperous future.
– Bilen Kassie