Attempted coup derails reform efforts of Ethiopia’s dynamic new prime minister

Attempted coup derails reform efforts of Ethiopia’s dynamic new prime minister

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrives in Khartoum, Sudan on Friday, June 7, 2019, to try and mediate between the ruling military and the country’s protest leaders amid an army crackdown that has killed over 100 people this week. (AP … more >

By Tonny Onyulo

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — (washingtontimes)—-Ethiopians of all stripes cheered and hoped for calm after years of political turbulence and ethnic violence when Abiy Ahmed was sworn in as prime minister last year.

Within a few months, the 42-year-old onetime military intelligence officer moved to release thousands of political prisoners, signed a peace agreement with neighboring Eritrea, widened press freedoms and pledged to repeal laws suppressing civil rights. He earned raves internationally as one of the world’s most dynamic new political figures.

The state-owned airline has been partially privatized, and a panel has been selected to guide the country into its long-delayed entry into the World Trade Organization.

Mr. Abiy appointed women to fill 50% of his Cabinet posts, a surprising move in a highly traditional country where women had little visibility in political life.

Just over a year later, the bloom is off the Ethiopian rose. Many worry about the faltering pace of change and political liberalization. Although many embrace the changes, the new political freedom is allowing some groups with sectarian interests to flourish and undermine the reforms, analysts say.

“The new prime minister has good intentions for the country. He has opened political space for opposition groups and departed from decades of oppressive government,” said Peter Wafula Wekesa, a political scientist specializing in East Africa at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya. “But there are some individuals who are taking advantage of the reforms to destabilize his government and pursue their own interests.”

Analysts say the prime minister is under increasing threat as he rolls out ambitious reforms in Africa’s second-most populous nation. In June, his army chief of staff and close ally, Gen. Seare Mekonnen,