Ethiopian prime minister’s new reform agenda

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
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    Written by: Meshack Masibo

    A few days ago dozens of people were hurt in a grenade attack at during Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s first mass rally in the capital. According to international news Abiy had just wrapped up his speech in the heart of Addis Ababa before tens of thousands of people when the explosion went off. The government later said that the blast was orchestrated by groups who wanted to undermine the rally.

    Police later used tear gas to clear the area, while an AFP photographer saw two men and two women taken into custody on suspicion of being involved with the blast. This was Abiy’s first public speech in the capital since he took office in April, although he has made several in provincial areas.  This occurrence has caused a short lived stillness on the positive measures that the government has undertaken under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy.

    In the past three months, Abiy has made major changes in Ethiopia including shaking up the security services, releasing jailed dissidents, moving to liberalise the economy and to resolve a two-decade conflict with Eritrea. However, the biggest reforms of the government have been on the economy.  Abiy has enacted major policy shifts including the partial privatization of the state-run telecoms monopoly and government-owned Ethiopian Airlines which is likely to cause a rise in the amount of foreign direct investment in the country.

    Ethiopia has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa but opponents of the ruling EPRDF coalition that has ruled since 1991 say that national resources and benefits have not been shared equally between the country’s different ethnic groups and regions. This will enable Ethiopians in Diaspora, who have wished to contribute to the development of their country, and foreigners to play a positive role in the country’s growth, according to a statement issued by the government.

    Abiy has enacted major policy shifts including the partial privatization of the state-run telecoms monopoly and government-owned Ethiopian Airlines which is likely to cause a rise in the amount of foreign direct investment in the country

    The ruling EPRDF coalition, which has held power since 1991, argues that it has taken the decision because economic reforms were needed to sustain rapid growth and to boost exports. In a country whose economic growth has been threatened by a shortage of foreign currency a statement by one of Africa’s leading money transfer companies, Dahabshiil, welcoming the new move has whispered the hopes of a new dawn in its economic growth. The move further opened a door for new entrepreneurs, investors and experts in different fields to move in to bring new ideas which will be beneficial for the growth of the country.

    According to financial experts, another serious problem that drives remittances and affects Ethiopia’s ability to attract more foreign currency is the serious limitations faced by remittance companies that use Ethiopian banks. Because of the measures economic pundits are optimistic that the new government, which is bent towards spurring economic growth, is likely to act on the problem of remittances that affect the inflow of foreign currency to encourage the more than three million Ethiopians in the Diaspora to send more money through formal and direct channels in order to help boost the economy.

    Abiy succeeded Hailemariam Desalegn, who resigned in February amid a wave of anti-government protests led by the country’s two largest ethnicities, which started in late 2015 and left hundreds of people dead and his actions thus far represent dramatic shifts in the power balance within East Africa’s manufacturing  hub.

    Abiys regime has also ushered in a new era of political freedom in a country where opposition parties previously complained of harassment by the state. This is to the level that at the rally where the attack occurred, people openly displayed flags of banned groups such as the Oromo Liberation Front something that would have previously  resulted in arrest.

    Abiy’s reforms have also received a welcome response from anti government groups, for example the group Ginbot 7 recently announced that it would cease armed attacks in the country because of the Prime Ministers reform agenda. The attack has drawn in the interest of western powers such as the United States who offered assistance to the landlocked state. This is after news headlines showed that the  head of Ethiopia’s Federal Police Commission Zeinu Jemal announced that experts from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation will be coming to assist the local police in investigations so as to hasten the process of determining the perpetrators of the tragic incident.

    It is reported in Ethiopian news that the U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce Gilbert Kaplan made the offer while talking to Ethiopia’s minister of foreign affairs, Workneh Gebeyehu, on Monday. In spite of this, Prime Minister Abiy has pledged to increase government openness, accountability and transparency and to do his best to reconcile a country torn by protests since the year 2015. The government has shown goodwill concerning this by releasing thousands of jailed dissidents since the beginning of the year, including members of armed groups.


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