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From Nobel Peace Prize to grinding war: Ethiopia's PM Abiy

i24NEWS - AFP

clock 2 min read

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responds to questions from members of parliament at the prime minister's office in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 30, 2020.
AP Photo/Mulugeta AyeneEthiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responds to questions from members of parliament at the prime minister's office in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 30, 2020.

Critics say Abiy has slipped into the same authoritarian tendencies he once railed against

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office vowing sweeping reforms that earned him a Nobel Peace Prize, before becoming mired in a gruesome internal conflict that shows no sign of ending.

Now, as Ethiopia prepares to vote in a general election on Monday, Abiy finds his global standing – and the surge of hope that accompanied his appointment – significantly diminished.

Yet even as he confronts persistent insecurity that has stymied basic poll preparations in some areas, Abiy appears unbowed, insisting his vision for Africa's second-most populous country remains on course.

Born to a Muslim father and Christian mother, Abiy has described sleeping on the floor in a house with no electricity or running water.

He joined the military as a radio operator while a teenager, eventually rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, having seen fierce fighting in the brutal 1998-2000 border war with Eritrea.

The veteran then entered government as the first head of Ethiopia's cyber-spying outfit. 

Following popular protests against the government and the resignation of its head of state, Abiy become prime minister in 2018. He immediately released dissidents and apologized for previous repressive government policies. 

Despite this, ethnic tensions in the country remained simmering, particularly in the northern Tigray region. 

The prime minister’s promises of a short conflict there have dissolved into seven months of bloodshed, blighted by accusations of war crimes

Gone are the heady days of "Abiymania." 

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