On a continent where true political reform often seems to be a mirage, Ethiopia is pursuing change at a breathtaking pace.
Since taking over as premier in April, Abiy Ahmed has spearheaded a redistribution of power across Africa’s second-most populous nation – and its fastest-growing economy – that’s been under the iron rule of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front for a quarter-century.
Vowing a crackdown on the “cancer” of corruption, the 42-year-old has been taking on some sacred cows. As Nizar Manek reports, they include officials at a military-linked conglomerate once in charge of building Africa’s largest hydro power plant, former spy chiefs and elites in the gas-rich east.
He has overseen the end of a state of war with neighboring Eritrea following a 1998-2000 conflict that claimed as many as 100,000 lives, and the appointment of the country’s first female as the ceremonial president and a cabinet half filled by women. Abiy also nominated a once-jailed opposition leader as the new chairwoman of the electoral authority.
But resistance to change remains strong, and the new openness has led to the flaring of ethnic tensions in some regions.
So far, Abiy appears unbowed in his drive to establish a multi-party democracy. The jury is still out on whether he can see it through.