Last fall, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia stood in Oslo’s City Hall to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and a shower of international praise. His efforts to restart peace talks with Eritrea and reform his country after decades of political and economic repression had brought him global recognition.
Fast forward a year, and the prime minister’s failure to foster peace at home threatens to tarnish his international posterchild image and raises questions about Ethiopia’s ability to transition its economy and democracy peacefully.
Since coming to power in 2018, Abiy has embarked on an ambitious reform drive aimed at implementing policies to open the country’s once padlocked economic and governing culture. Thousands of political prisoners have been released; once banned parties have been allowed to register; and legislation has been passed to liberalize the telecoms sector and boost digital investments.
The European Union, and others, have taken notice, jumping at the chance to find a partner in Africa they could work with. The day after her formal inauguration in December, Ursula von der Leyen chose Ethiopia’s capital for her first foreign visit as Commission president. The trip to Addis Ababa, which is also the home of the African Union, was a “political statement,” she declared.
Welcoming von der Leyen, Abiy thanked her for the gesture. “I would also like to express my appreciation for selecting Ethiopia,” he said. Read more