Ethiopia’s government has appointed by way of ballot Abiy Ahmed as the new prime minister after the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn.
Desalegn announced that he would retire following persistent and violent unrest which started in 2015, the greatest challenge to the ruling coalition’s 27-year rule. Ahmed won over 60% of all votes made by the 180-member council Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) making him the new chairman which means that he automatically becomes the prime minister.
Abiy, who hails from the country’s largest ethnic group Oromo, will take over the government of Africa’s second most populous country. Political unrest has gripped the country since 2015, with anti-government protesters initially demanding land rights before broadening into demonstrations over political and human rights.
The government has twice imposed emergency rule, most recently after Hailemariam’s resignation, to contain unrest mainly in Oromiya province, the country’s most populous region. Rights groups have said that amid the violence security forces have killed hundreds of people.
Abiy faces the challenge of implementing democratic reforms that have been pledged by the government. He must also bridge differences that have erupted within the ruling coalition.
Abiy is the chairperson of the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organisation, one of the four ethnic-based parties in the EPRDF coalition. He speaks three Ethiopian languages, holds a doctorate in peace and security from Addis Ababa University and served in the military. He also briefly served as science and technology minister in Hailemariam’s cabinet.
Some analysts and opposition politicians have blamed rising ethnic tensions in the diverse country on Ethiopia’s federal system, which redrew the borders of provinces largely along ethnic lines in 1991.