Ethiopia PM asks protesters for patience as he seeks change

Ethiopia’s newly elected prime minister Abiy Ahmed received a traditional welcome when he visited Ambo in the Oromiya region. (Reuters)
Updated 12 April 2018
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Ethiopia PM asks protesters for patience as he seeks change

  • Abiy is the first prime minister to come from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group the Oromo, who spearheaded more than two years of unprecedented protests.
  • In the university town of Ambo — a flashpoint for the protest movement — Abiy was welcomed by dozens of horsemen adorned in traditional Oromo attire.

Ambo: Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed paid a visit to a hotbed of anti-government protests Wednesday, asking residents for patience as he works to bring change to the Horn of Africa country.
Abiy is the first prime minister to come from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group the Oromo, who spearheaded more than two years of unprecedented protests against the country’s one-party government that left hundreds dead.
In the university town of Ambo — a flashpoint for the protest movement — Abiy was welcomed by dozens of horsemen adorned in traditional Oromo attire and cheering crowds, composed of the same young people who made up the ranks of the protesters.
Speaking just over a week after his inauguration to a surging crowd of thousands that police struggled to restrain, Abiy hailed the protesters, known as Qeerroo, as the “shield of the Oromo people.”
“We are now on the path of change and love,” Abiy said, appealing for patience from the residents of Ambo, 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa.
“I ask you to give us time ... to take organized action,” he said.
“We want to work hand-in-hand with you. What we say and what we do must match.”
The direct appeal to protesters stood in stark contrast to the situation in Ambo a year ago, when protesting students so feared voicing their opinions in public that they would only meet with journalists in an empty field outside of town.
“This is the first time the most powerful person in Ethiopia visited Ambo. The other leaders didn’t like to visit because they were afraid. He broke that tradition,” said Ambo resident Almaz Bulcha.
A 42-year-old former minister of science and technology, Abiy rose to prominence as part of a group of Oromo politicians within the all-powerful Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), who reached out to the protesters.
He was chosen to lead the party, which has been in power for 27 years, after former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced in February that he would step down, a surprise move that analysts believe was partially driven by his inability to quell the anti-government sentiment.
Under Hailemariam, the government imposed a 10-month state of emergency to halt the violence in Oromia and the neighboring Amhara region.
But anti-government sentiment remained strong among both ethnic groups, which together comprise 60 percent of Ethiopia’s population and resent what they see as the over-representation of the Tigrayan minority within the ruling regime.
It is unclear how much of a factor Abiy’s entreaties to the protesters and his Oromo ethnicity played in his appointment as prime minister.
Since Abiy’s inauguration, 11 high-profile dissidents arrested last month have been released from jail and Internet service has been restored in the countryside after a months-long shutdown.
Last week, he paid a fence-mending visit to the southeastern Somali region, which saw clashes last year between Oromos and Somalis along their shared regional border that killed hundreds and displaced a million people.
However a state of emergency imposed after Hailemariam’s resignation has yet to be lifted and all eyes are on the new premier’s next moves.
“As a young man, I’ve never heard of an Oromo being leader of Ethiopia,” said university student Dejenu Taye. “Being a leader is not enough. I’m now looking forward to him keeping his promises.”


Man accused of killing tourist appears in New Zealand court

A police officer investigating the murder of British tourist Grace Millane stands at a crime scene along a section of Scenic Drive in the Waitakere Ranges outside Auckland, New Zealand, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. (AP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Man accused of killing tourist appears in New Zealand court

  • Before she vanished, Millane had been staying at a backpacker hostel in Auckland and left some of her belongings there

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: A man accused of killing 22-year-old British tourist Grace Millane made his first appearance in a New Zealand court Monday.
The 26-year-old man stared at the ground while a judge addressed him during the brief appearance at the Auckland District Court. The man has not yet entered a plea on murder charges and the court has temporarily blocked his name from being published.
Millane’s father, David Millane, traveled to New Zealand last week after his daughter vanished, and Judge Evangelos Thomas addressed him and other family members.
“I don’t know what to say to you at this time, but your grief must be desperate,” he said, according to television station Three. “We all hope justice will be fair and swift and ultimately bring you some peace.”
The case has riveted people both in Britain and New Zealand.
Described by her father as fun-loving and family-oriented, Millane had been traveling in New Zealand as part of a planned yearlong trip abroad that began in Peru. She went missing Dec. 1 and failed to get in touch with her family on her birthday the next day, or on the days that followed, which alarmed them.
Before she vanished, Millane had been staying at a backpacker hostel in Auckland and left some of her belongings there. Detective Inspector Scott Beard said she met a man for a couple of hours in the evening before surveillance cameras showed them entering the CityLife hotel at about 9:40 p.m.
A week after Millane disappeared, police detained a man for questioning and later charged him with murder.
On Sunday, police found a body they believe is that of Millane in a forested area about 10 meters (33 feet) from the side of the road in the Waitakere Ranges near Auckland. Police believe Millane’s body was taken to the area in a rental car that was later left in the town of Taupo.
The suspect’s lawyer, Ian Brookie, applied on Monday for name suppression on the basis his client needed it for a fair trial, an argument that Judge Thomas rejected on the basis of open justice. Brookie appealed, triggering the man’s name to be temporarily suppressed.
The man is scheduled to make his next court appearance Jan. 23.