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.”


UK and Russia hold first talks in over a year

Updated 16 February 2019
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UK and Russia hold first talks in over a year

  • The meeting is the first between ministers from the two countries following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the English city of Salisbury on March 4
  • The attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, which Britain said was done using a Soviet era nerve agent Novichok, plunged relations to their lowest ebb in decades

LONDON: Junior foreign ministers from Britain and Russia met in Germany on Saturday in the highest-level contact between the two countries since an alleged nerve agent attack in Britain last March froze diplomatic relations.
Britain’s Minister for Europe Alan Duncan held talks with Russia’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov on the margins of the Munich Security Conference, according to the foreign office in London.
“Alan underlined that we have deep differences, and the Russian state would need to choose a different path and act as a responsible international partner before there can be a change in our current relationship with Russia,” it said in a statement.
The meeting is the first between ministers from the two countries following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the English city of Salisbury on March 4 which Britain has blamed on Moscow.
The attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, which Britain said was done using a Soviet era nerve agent Novichok, plunged relations to their lowest ebb in decades.
The attack killed a British woman who came into contact with the Novichok, as well as injuring several others including a policeman.
Among a raft of responses, London suspended all planned high-level bilateral contacts between the two countries, and canceled ministers and members of the royal family attending last summer’s World Cup in Russia.
“(The) minister reiterated the UK’s and Allies’ firm stance in response to the Russian state’s reckless use of chemical weapons in Salisbury,” the foreign office added in its statement.
“He made clear that Russia must address the concerns of the international community.
“This includes ending its destabilising activity in Ukraine; and the persecution of the LGBT community in Chechnya.”
The foreign office said Britain would continue to “build and strengthen our cultural ties and people to people links with Russia wherever we can.”
Ministers from around the world, including those from the US, France, Britain, and Germany, are taking part in several days of talks in Munich this weekend centered on global security issues.