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Ethiopia PM appeals for unity, pledges democracy and improved relations with Eritrea

Ethiopia

<p><strong>Ethiopia’s parliament swore in Abiy Ahmed as prime minister on Monday with a mandate to implement democratic reforms aimed partly at defusing ethnic tensions in the Oromia province from which the former army lieutenant general hails.</strong></p> <p>The ruling coalition picked Abiy last week to replace Hailemariam Desalegn who quit to clear the way for reforms.</p> <p><img src="https://static.euronews.com/articles/45/14/451443/1024x576_bonus-SWORNIN.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Abiy, 42, took the oath of office in a ceremony at the House of People’s Representatives in Addis Ababa.</p> <p>Addressing a parliament session attended by 478 members of parliament, the new prime minister gave an impassioned speech on the need for unity and reform in the Eastern Africa nation.</p> <p>“Today is a historic day. We bear witness to a peaceful transfer of power. Today our situation presents us with opportunities and threats. Today we are in the midst of uncertain times,” Abiy said in a speech to parliament.</p> <p>In his first address to the nation, Abiy gave a glimpse of what his government will address including:</p> <ul> <li>The respect for rule of law, but it is also government’s responsibility to maintain the rule of law.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>He expressed his readiness to negotiate with the Eritrean government, to solve the differences between the two states as part of his plan to stabilize the horn of Africa region.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Abiy promised to crackdown on rampant corruption in Ethiopia.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>He says his government will prioritise improving the quality of education by adopting sound policies.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>He pledged to create job opportunities for the youth, create more young entrepreneurs and business owners.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Abiy called on Ethiopians in the diaspora to return home to help build the nation.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>He apologised to civilian victims of the state crackdown and security forces killed in the recent protests.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>He extended an olive branch to opposition parties, saying they will henceforth be viewed as ‘competitors not opponents’.</li> </ul> <p>‘‘Their members and supporters are not enemies but our brothers and sisters who hold different political beliefs and viewpoints.’‘</p> <p>The prime minister also paid a moving tribute to his mother and wife, a gesture local media said is rare for Ethiopian politicians.</p> <p>The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (<span class="caps">EPRDF</span>) has been in power since 1991, when it took over from the Derg military regime. </p> <h3>Ethnic, youth tensions</h3> <p>But the protests and unrest in Oromia have posed the biggest ever threat to the <span class="caps">EPRDF</span>’s continued rule. Oromia, which surrounds the capital Addis Ababa, has been rocked by violence since 2015. </p> <p>This is fuelled largely by a sense among young members of the Oromo ethnic group, which makes up roughly a third of Ethiopia’s 100 million population, that they are politically and economically marginalised.</p> <p>Abiy’s Oromo heritage appears to be a calculated attempt to soothe tensions in his home region. Human rights groups say that security forces have killed hundreds of people in violence.</p> <p>Tens of thousands were also jailed. But in the run-up to Haliemariam’s resignation last month, more than 6,000 prisoners had been freed as the government struggled to calm discontent. It is unclear how many remain in jail.</p> <p>Ethiopia, which is Africa’s second most populous nation and also has had the continent’s fastest growing economy over the past decade, has been under a state of emergency since Feb. 16, the day after Hailemariam resigned.</p>

Today is a historic day. We bear witness to a peaceful transfer of power. Today our situation presents us with opportunities and threats. Today we are in the midst of uncertain times.

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