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Winds of Change in Ethiopia

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Abiy Ahmed

Prime minister Abiy Ahmed called on Ethiopians in Europe to play their role in building the country, by contributing financially or otherwise in all sectors.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has launched a campaign of political liberalisation at home and sought to end disputes with Ethiopia's neighbours, in particular Eritrea.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed received a Masters of Art in Transformational Leadership and Changefrom London based Greenwich.In 2017, Abiy received his PhD as a Doctor of Philosophy from the Institute for Peace and Security Studiesat Addis Ababa University. His PhD thesis was based on the religious conflict that took part in the Jimma Zone and he also published research articles on de-escalation strategies focused on countering violent extremism.

The pace of change in Ethiopia has been so fast since Abiy Ahmed became prime minister in April that it is almost like observing a different country.

The reforms he has introduced were unthinkable not so long ago.

Ethiopia is Africa's oldest independent country and its second largest in terms of population. Apart from a five-year occupation by Mussolini's Italy, it has never been colonised.

It has a unique cultural heritage, being the home of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church - one of the oldest Christian denominations - and a monarchy that ended only in the coup of 1974.

It served as a symbol of African independence throughout the colonial period, and was a founder member of the United Nations and the African base for many international organisations.

Drought and civil conflict left Ethiopia in a state of turmoil until 1991, when the long authoritarian rule of Meles Zenawi brought a degree of stability.

The government seemed impervious to criticism from human rights groups that the state stifled free expression, sidelined and imprisoned opposition leaders and cracked down on protests.

It also appeared steadfast in its disagreement with a border commission ruling that was meant to end the two-decade conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.

But all that has changed.

In just a few months, Mr Abiy has lifted the state of emergency, ordered the release of thousands of prisoners, allowed dissidents to return home and unblocked hundreds of websites and TV channels.

He has also ended the state of war with Eritrea by agreeing to give up disputed border territory, in the process normalising relations with the long-time foe.

But there is some opposition to the pace of change. In June, Mr Abiy was targeted in an attack, with two people killed in an explosion at a rally held to show support for him.

The prime minister, who came to power after the unexpected resignation of his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn, has shown himself to be an astute politician with impressive academic and military credentials.