During a high-level meeting at Ethiopia’s foreign ministry in July, officials were shocked by social media reports that their prime minister was visiting Eritrea. No one in the room had been informed of Abiy Ahmed’s trip, his second since clinching a peace deal last year that ended two decades of hostility between the two neighbours. “The foreign office was not in the loop,” said a senior official who was present. “We learned of it from the Eritrean media, on Facebook and Twitter.” The surprise visit is typical of Abiy, who both fans and critics say often relies on bold personal initiatives and charisma to drive change instead of working through government institutions. Nebiat Getachew, the foreign ministry spokesman, said policy was well co-ordinated but he did not confirm that Abiy had made the July trip without informing the ministry. The deal with Eritrea won Abiy international plaudits. Abiy Ahmed is the bookmakers’ favourite to win a Nobel Peace Prize on Friday after climate activist Greta Thunberg. But Abiy’s unpredictable style annoys some Ethiopians. It is unclear how much of the fractious ruling coalition — some form of which has been in power since 1991 — backs his reforms, or how durable those reforms would be without his leadership. He has already survived one assassination attempt: a grenade thrown at a rally last year. Lasting change cannot be built through a “cult of personality”, said Comfort Ero, Africa programme director at the International Crisis Group think tank. “None of Abiy’s promised
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister on Thursday pursued a plan to return displaced people to their homes following ethnic violence, meeting communities who recently went home, as relief workers voiced fears that the initiative could provoke fresh violence. Abiy Ahmed, who took office in April 2018, has won international plaudits for announcing bold reform pledges, but the blossoming of political freedoms over the past year has been accompanied by a surge in ethnic violence. Rivalries between ethnic groups — once repressed by a state with an iron fist — have exploded into the open, and the United Nations says 2.4 million Ethiopians are currently displaced due to these conflicts. More people were displaced last year in the Horn of Africa nation than in any other country, according to data published this month. Earlier this month the government announced it was scaling up its plan to return displaced people to their homes as soon as possible, a message Abiy reinforced on Thursday when his office published photos of him speaking with people from the Gedeo and West Guji areas in southern Ethiopia who had recently returned to their homes. The area was the site of brutal violence last year — Reuters spoke in August to the family of a coffee farmer whose limbs were chopped off by a mob of young men. [L8N1VD2UM] About 700,000 people fled ethnic violence in the area last year. Abiy’s delegation, which included his Minsiter of Peace Muferiat Kamil, provided the communities with building materials to rebuild their
Ethiopia’s ruling EPRDF coalition on Friday re-elected Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as its chairman, its chief of staff said, further anchoring the authority of the 42-year-old leader as he pushes through sweeping political and economic reforms. Six months ago Abiy Ahmed took the helm of the once Marxist-Leninist EPRDF at a moment of crisis for the coalition that has ruled Ethiopia with an iron fist since toppling a military regime and taking power in 1991.