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Dr. Abiy Ahmed: The ex-peacekeeper tasked with steadying Ethiopia's political waters

Dr. Abiy Ahmed: The ex-peacekeeper tasked with steadying Ethiopia's political waters


Ethiopia’s is set to swear-in a new Prime Minister – leader of government business.

The ruling 180-member Executive Committee of the ruling coalition, the Ethiopia Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) on Tuesday elected a new leader in the person of Dr. Abiy Ahmed.

As is the case, leader of the ruling coalition at any point is also Prime Minister. The 42-year-old is leader of the Oromo bloc of the four-member ruling coalition.

The Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization (OPDO) elevated him to leader of the party precisely to allow him to be eligible for the Prime Minister post. He swapped places with Lemma Megerssa, the then OPDO chief. Lemma, however, kept his position as Oromia regional State president.

Of Abiy’s credentials, he has served in the military, has gone on peacekeeping mission, he is a one-time minister of state and is reputed as a political reformist.

Here are some top facts about the man thrust into a tough job of steadying Ethiopia’s choppy political waters.

  • He is largely seen as an astute politician with impressive academic and military credentials.
  • Born in the city of Agaro in Oromia, Abiy comes from a mixed Christian-Muslim family. He joined the OPDO in the late 1980s.
  • His military days saw him serve and rise to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
  • He also took part in the UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda. The Rwandan state-affiliated New Times portal sang his praise after he was elected.

Dr. Ahmed, 42, has served in the National Defense Force up to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was instrumental in establishing the Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (INSA). He is also a one time minister of Science & Technology.#Ethiopia

— The New Times (Rwanda) (@NewTimesRwanda) March 27, 2018

  • He was the founder and director of Ethiopia’s Internet Security Agency between 2009 and 2012 following which he took the ministerial portfolio for science and technology.
  • Many see him as outspoken and competent and a person who leans to a participatory leadership style.
  • Abiy was the youngest among the possible four candidates in the running to replace Hailemarian Desalegn.
  • Back in his home state of oromia, he is believed to have huge support among the Oromo youth as well as other ethnic groups.
  • Along with Lemma Megerssa, the duo are credited with rebranding and positioning the OPDO to be more relevant in national politics.

An Oromo activist, Mohammed Ademo shares some more insights on the next Prime Minister.

Incoming PM Abiy Ahmed secured 108 of the 175 votes, more than needed, and a “clear winner” per addisstandard. The current Deputy PM, Demeke Mekonnen, kept his job. Clearly, the new leader doesn't have the unanimous support of all EPRDF Council members. Something to watch.

— Mohammed Ademo (OPride) March 27, 2018

That said Dr. Abiy's rivals did not even come close. The runner-up, SEPDM chairman, Shiferaw Shigute, received 59 votes and TPLF's Debretsion Gebremichael got ONLY two votes, per addis_fortune. It appears Demeke Mekonnen wasn't even nominated. Or he got the remaining 7 votes.

— Mohammed Ademo (OPride) March 27, 2018

Abiy's election is significant for many reasons. 1) It's the only thing that could save EPRDF from dissolving. 2) He's the only one remotely palatable in Oromia, epicenter of anti-government protests since 2014. 3) His sudden rise and election is a direct result of #Oromoprotests

— Mohammed Ademo (@OPride) March 27, 2018

Abiy was elected VP of Oromia state in October 2016 along with Lemma Megersa at the height of #OromoProtests. Their sudden ascent was meant to ease tensions. The dynamic duo promised change, appealed for calm and vowed to reform their party and fight for equitable representation.

— Mohammed Ademo (@OPride) March 27, 2018

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