In early 2018, amidst incessant protests especially in Ethiopia’s Oromo and Amhara regions, Abiy Ahmed Ali became the new prime minister of Ethiopia. His ascent to power initiated an unprecedented series of reforms intending to democratize the country’s political system and liberalize its economy by embracing the capitalist mode of production.
After weeks of speculation about the fast-eroding ties between the federal government of Ethiopia and Tigray regional authorities, the nightmare scenario that many analysts and regional watchers had been warning about finally materialised when the Ethiopian Prime Minister - a Noble Peace laureate - declared war on the Tigray region on November 4.
The Ethiopian PM received the 2019 Nobel Prize for his peace agreement with Eritrea, breaking nearly 20 years of stalemate. After the Tigray conflict erupted last November many observers asked: “He got the Nobel Peace Prize, but starts a war the next year: why”?
In his two years in office, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has cultivated a reputation internationally for his commitment to diplomacy and international cooperation, even winning the 2019 Nobel Prize for his efforts to promote peace in the Horn of Africa.
In February 2018, in the midst of ongoing political turmoil, few could have predicted the radical political change of direction Ethiopia would experience within a matter of weeks. The election in March 2018 of Abiy Ahmed as Chairman of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and consequently the country’s Prime Minister heralded the beginning of a major shift in leadership style and approach in one of Africa’s most authoritarian polities.
When African rulers south of the Sahara are under discussion there is usually an irrepressible tendency to reach for stereotypes; but in the case of Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister such stereotypes are more misleading than ever. Abiy Ahmed, who has been at the helm of his country for only eight months, has lost no time in making his mark as a new broom.