Ethiopia: Abiy Ahmed’s first steps

Signs of openness are growing in Addis Ababa, barely a week after the official handover of the new prime minister.

Last Monday, during his investiture speech, Abiy Ahmed was very willing. He apologized to people who lost loved ones in recent protest movements; he reached out to opposition political parties, journalists and human rights defenders.

Eleven of them were arrested on Sunday, March 25: they were released on Thursday. But the atmosphere seems to relax.

First is the release of the eleven-people arrested, without charges against them according to one of their lawyers, quoted by Associated Press.

Then there is the re-establishment of the internet in the regions, mobile data were cut everywhere outside the capital for several months. In some places, particularly in Oromiya, the internet also fixes the most contentious region.

According to the official TV Fana BC, the Maekelawi prison is permanently closed, it was a promise made by the former prime minister in January.

Finally, on Saturday, Abiy Ahmed chose a symbolic place for his first trip: the Ethio-Somali region. The new prime minister travelled to Jigjiga, the regional capital. He hammered out his willingness to implement a lasting peace between the Oromo and Somali communities. Violence at the regional border has left hundreds dead and more than 1 million internally displaced in recent months.

An Oromo official came to reassure the Somalis, the gesture is strong in terms of communication. It remains to be seen how far it will be followed by effects.

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