Ethiopians welcome New Year 2011 with newfound hope

By Addis Getachew

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AA) – With the ongoing reform and national reconciliation measures which kicked off five months ago, Ethiopians celebrate Tuesday their New Year, hoping for a brighter future.

Ethiopia has its own ancient calendar system that has 13 months — 12 months of 30 days and a 13th month having 5-days that counts 6 every four years to make up for a leap year.

For Ethiopian Muslims, the day brings double joy as it coincides with Al-Hijri (Islamic calendar) New Year.

Speaking to a huge gathering on the New Year's Eve at the Millennium Hall, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Africa’s youngest leader who initiated an all-out reform drive since he came to power on April 2, said, "The future in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa region as a whole augurs well for extricating poverty and setting in motion a path of growth and prosperity."

As part of the key reform measures, Prime Minister Ahmed’s government freed political prisoners, and made peace with the country’s northern neighbor Eritrea, transforming the relations of the two countries from enmity and tension to partnership and friendly coexistence.

At the event, the prime minister made an appearance with Berhanu Nega, the leader of Ginbot 7, who returned to Ethiopia after 11 years in exile after abandoning armed struggle.

High-level officials, religious figures, leaders of opposition parties and thousands of city residents, as well as representatives of regional state governments, attended the event.

– Hope on the horizon

Omar Redi, a renowned journalist and communications specialist, told Anadolu Agency that this year’s New Year is special in many ways.

"For me, this Holiday is truly unique in several years for this is the first time that I think Ethiopians are celebrating their New Year with a sense of freedom and under a new-found climate of hope and positive changes," he said.

"[…] We are looking forward to a brighter future, greater unity, democracy, justice, and freedom," he said.

"It is also unique in that we are celebrating the New Year with almost all Ethiopian political forces and activists returning home thanks to the sense of patriotism and compromise displayed by all parties.

"Add to that the newly-heralded peace with Eritrea which has come in nearly two decades and cooperation with the Horn of Africa neighbors as spearheaded by Ethiopia’s new leadership, and we find a future of enhanced economic partnership and subsequent integration in the region," he added.