Abiy Ahmed named as head of Ethiopia’s EPRDF ruling coalition

Ethiopia’s ruling coalition has elected a new leader from the country’s Oromo ethnic group, which has been at the centre of nearly three years of anti-government protests.

Abiy Ahmed was elected with more than 60% of the vote, according to state-affiliated media.

The vote paves the way for him to take over as prime minister from Hailemariam Desalegn, who resigned last month.

A national state of emergency was declared the next day.

A statement by the state broadcaster said the state of emergency was necessary to stem a wave of anti-government protests which have swept across the country since 2015, driven by a number of grievances.

In Oromia, where many of the protests have taken place, people say they have been politically, economically and culturally marginalised for years despite being the country’s largest group.

There is some hope that a change of leadership at the top may help deal with some of these issues.

Who is Abiy Ahmed?

The leader of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO), one of the four ethnic parties which make up the ruling the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition, Mr Abiy was seen as the front-runner in the race to succeed the outgoing prime minister.

Analysts say he is an astute politician with impressive academic and military credentials.

He was born in the city of Agaro in Oromia and comes from a mixed Christian-Muslim family. The 42-year-old joined the OPDO in the late 1980s.

He has served in the military and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He also took part in the UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda.

He was the founder and director of the country’s Internet Security Agency between 2009 and 2012 after which he became the minister for science and technology.

He is seen by many as outspoken and competent, with a participatory leadership style.

Mr Abiy is believed to have huge support among the Oromo youth as well as other ethnic groups.

His critics however say that as a ruling coalition insider, he won’t offer much of the change demanded by protesters.

First Published 28.03.18: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-43567007

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