Abiy Ahmed: Meteoric rise of the man trying to remould Ethiopia

12 October, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Abiy Ahmed: Meteoric rise of the man trying to remould Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA: The son of poor villagers who became a spy boss, and now the man behind dizzying attempts to reform Africa’s fastest-growing economy and heal wounds with Ethiopia’s neighbours, Abiy Ahmed has seen an unpredictable and peril-strewn rise to fame, reports AFP.

Another chapter was added to his remarkable tale on Friday when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Since becoming Ethiopian prime minister in April 2018, the 43-year-old has aggressively pursued policies that have the potential to upend his country’s society and reshape dynamics beyond its borders.

Within just six months of his swearing-in, Abiy made peace with bitter foe Eritrea, released dissidents from jail, apologised for state brutality, and welcomed home exiled armed groups branded “terrorists” by his predecessors.

More recently he has turned to fleshing out his vision for the economy while laying the groundwork for elections currently scheduled to take place next May.

But analysts fret that his policies are, simultaneously, too much too fast for the political old guard, and too little too late for the country’s angry youth, whose protests swept him to power. Despite the challenges, Abiy’s allies predict his deep well of personal ambition will prompt him to keep swinging big.

Tareq Sabt, a businessman and friend of Abiy’s, says one of the first things that struck him when they met was the prime minister’s drive: “I always said to friends, when this guy comes to power, you’ll see a lot of change in Ethiopia.”

“I have said often that winds of hope are blowing ever stronger across Africa. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is one of the main reasons why,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said after Abiy’s Nobel victory was announced.

Born in the western town of Beshasha to a Muslim father and Christian mother, Abiy “grew up sleeping on the floor” in a house that lacked electricity and running water.

“We used to fetch water from the river,” he said in a wide-ranging radio interview with Sheger FM last month, adding that he didn’t even see electricity or an asphalt road until the seventh grade. Yet Abiy progressed quickly through the power structures created by the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), after it took power from the Derg military junta in 1991.

 


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