Ethiopia. Ethiopia experienced a political upheaval in 2018 that dramatically changed the country’s domestic and foreign policy.
After a couple of years of protests against the government of the Oromo and Amhara people, with hundreds of dead as a result, the ruling coalition EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front) decided in January to release the imprisoned Oromo leader Merera Gudina, party leader of the Oromo People’s Congress. The intention was said to be a national dialogue and an end to the protests. Then came the amnesty for hundreds of other political prisoners, including fellow blogger Eskinder Nega and opposition politician Andualem Aragie, sentenced to 18 years in prison and life respectively.
The government of Ethiopia was pressured by the protracted violence between people groups in the Oromia and Somali regions with hundreds of dead and hundreds of thousands of refugees. The unrest created a fight in the EPRDF, and in February Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn decided to resign. Thereafter, a state of emergency was announced, and many people were arrested. Some of those who have received amnesty were arrested again, including Nega and Aragie but they were released again. In April, the EPRDF coalition, dominated by Tigreans, decided to appoint for the first time an unemployment politician to leader and prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. He called for national reconciliation and regretted that people were killed and injured in protests. Many ministers were replaced, including the defense minister whose militants killed protesters. At the same time, Parliament got its first female President. According to Countryaah.com, Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia, a country located in Eastern Africa.
A few weeks after Abiy Ahmed’s take over as head of government, the leader of the banned opposition movement Ginbot 7 was released. After the government promised economic reform, Ginbot 7 decided to lay down arms. Several hundred other opposites were released, thus releasing several thousand prisoners since January.
In July, Parliament approved the government’s proposal to lift the stamp of terror for Ginbot 7 as well as Oromo’s Liberation Front and Ogaden’s National Liberation Front, all of which waged an armed struggle against the government. Ginbot 7’s leader Berhanu Nega later returned to Ethiopia after more than a decade in exile.
The heads of several of Ethiopia’s severely criticized prisons were dismissed, and the new head of government declared them to be investigated on suspicion of crimes. Prisoners have been systematically tortured and abused.
Abiy Ahmed also turned outward with his reconciliation policy. He traveled to Cairo and released Ethiopian prisoners, while promising that Ethiopia’s construction of a giant dam in the Blue Nile should not take water from Egypt.
Abiy Ahmed wanted to end the border dispute with Eritrea. He explained that Ethiopia accepts the UN-supported border commission’s ruling that the disputed city of Badme belongs to Eritrea. In June, both countries sent delegations to each other’s capitals, and in July Abiy Ahmed traveled to Asmera himself, where he received a warm welcome from Eritrean president and dictator Isaias Afwerki.
The two leaders signed a peace treaty that ended 20 years of state war, with a war that cost about 80,000 people their lives. Diplomatic relations were normalized, telephone connections were restored, and families that split during the outbreak of the war in 1998 were able to re-communicate.
The President of Eritrea then visited Addis Ababa, where he was greeted by cheering crowds, and the two countries again opened embassies in each other’s capitals. Air travel between the countries was also resumed, and champagne was served on the first plane from Addis Ababa to Asmera.
In spite of the political thunderstorms, violence again sprang up in the Muslim-dominated Somali region, where in August it was reported killing civilians and priests, burnt churches and looted shops. Government forces seized the region’s leaders, who were accused of human rights violations and for instigating ethnic violence.
In August, the government signed an agreement with Oromo’s Liberation Front (OLF), which promised to switch to political activity with peaceful means. Thereafter, Ogaden’s national liberation front also declared a ceasefire. Before this guerrilla warrior returned to Ethiopia. Over a thousand members of the OLF returned from Eritrea, where they had their guerrilla bases.
Ethiopia was in practice a one-party state, although the EPRDF consisted of several groups, but in August Abiy Ahmed promised that free and democratic elections will be held in 2020. The World Bank put in view $ 1 billion in support of the reforms planned by the government.
In September, the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea was opened in the war-torn area. Thousands of people attended the ceremony, and Abiy Ahmed declared that Ethiopia’s military would be withdrawn from the border area to ease the tension.
Instead, the violence between Ethiopia’s groups increased and spread to Addis Ababa. Several people were killed in rattlesnakes in the capital’s suburbs in September. According to local residents, the Oromung youths had attacked minority groups when the return of the Oromogerillas was celebrated. Several of the deaths were required when police opened fire. Thousands of people were arrested at the riots. Ethnic violence continued in the country, and 1.5 million people were estimated to have left their homes because of unrest.
In October, Abiy Ahmed’s leadership in the EPRDF was confirmed at a party congress with 176 votes to 1. Then he reformed the government, reduced the number of ministers and appointed half women and half men. Women were given responsibility for, among other things, the Ministry of Defense and a newly established peace ministry, which overlooks the police and intelligence service.
In October, President Mulatu Teshome resigned unexpectedly, and Parliament appointed the diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde as new head of state. Thus Ethiopia got its first female president.
Just over a month after Abiy Ahmed’s take on as prime minister, Ethiopian-Swedish doctor Fikru Maru was released in May from the charges of terrorist crimes that caused his imprisonment in Ethiopia for five years. He traveled to Sweden, but soon returned to Ethiopia to realize his plans for a new cardiac hospital.
In December, 66 soldiers were sentenced to between 5 and 14 years in prison for marching against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office in October.