1 year under new premier, Ethiopia's path still unclear

                              By Addis Getachew and Seleshi Tessema</p>  <p>ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AA) – When Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, came to power a year ago this month, he promised reforms that would touch on the military and security, the economy, and electoral politics. He enjoyed widespread support.</p>  <p>One year on, some promised reforms are in the pipeline, but many were left unaddressed, and people are growing more impatient.</p>  <p>Regassa Bayssa, a lecturer in federalism and conflict management at Addis Ababa University in the nation’s capital, blames the deflated hopes on baggage from the past.</p>  <p>“Ethiopian ethnic federalism was designed to bring about justice and equity among the nation’s ethnic groups by devolving power. However, the federal system was undemocratic, centrist, and corrupt from the very beginning,” Regassa told Anadolu Agency.</p>  <p>The Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s (TPLF) “total domination of the system coupled with a parasitic oligarchy related to the dominant group has created public discontent that has triggered reform from within the ruling party.”</p>  <p>The TPLF, one of four parties in the ruling coalition, had been a mover and shaker until a year ago, when it lost clout to the Oromo and Amhara, two groups pressing for reform as three years of anti-government protests shook the nation. </p>  <p>“The reforms spearheaded by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had put in place several measures aimed at democratizing the federal system which could work for all sectors of society,” explained Regassa.</p>  <p>“Despite challenges, the reform is succeeding and will succeed because it has won the hearts and minds of Ethiopians across the nation.”</p>  <p>“Simmering ethnic nationalism, ethnic attacks and displacements are the work of those who lost their dominant political and economic status,” he added.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>- 3M displaced</p>    <p>More than 3 million people have been displaced due to ethnic attacks that flared up in various parts of Ethiopia over the past year.</p>    <p>Abiy, however, contests this figure, saying there had been a backlog of more than one million people displaced before he even took office. </p>  <p>There were large-scale displacements in rural Ethiopia during the three years of anti-government protests, and the reform period is by no means the only time people got displaced.</p>  <p>Displacements continued over the course of the year as ethnic tensions got strained, with in-fighting flaring up more often than usual, stoking fear in peoples’ hearts and minds of a time worse even than that. People in Ethiopia are mindful of what happened decades ago in neighboring Somalia – a much more homogenous society – as a result of clan-based politics. </p>  <p>Ethiopia has long been plagued by ethnic tensions, sometimes sparking into clashes as with the Oromo and Somali communities, and most recently between Amhara and Oromo speakers in the Amhara regional state. </p>  <p>As the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide (against Tutsis by the majority Hutus) is fresh in people’s memories, one might wonder why people still propagate ethnic politics – politics of exclusion and division in a country that for ages has maintained its independence and unity.</p>  <p>Yet despite that, social media is replete with hate speech, forcing the Ethiopian parliament to draft a bill sanctioning hate speech (up to five years in prison and fines of 5,000 Ethiopian birr, or $173). And there have been many activists riding on ethnic federalism – a system that has been becoming entrenched in Ethiopia since 1995.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>-Unity threatened</p>  <p>Tigistu Awelu is a prominent politician who leads a national party called the Unity (Andinet) Party.</p>  <p>“So far the forces of unity in Ethiopia are getting weaker while the forces of division are rearing their heads stronger,” he told Anadolu Agency.</p>  <p>According to Tigistu, the multifaceted, far-reaching reform drive cannot be successful if the government fails to unify the nation.</p>  <p>“But conditions seem to favor proponents of ethnic politics rather than citizen-focused politics,” he said.</p>  <p>But Abiy, the reform’s architect, contends that clashes will begin to die down at some point as the pushing and shoving witnessed across the country was the result of longtime repression, during which the people were gagged and dragged along a prescribed political line. </p>  <p>“People tend to let off their emotions in various ways when they suddenly find themselves at liberty to express themselves freely,” he told a press conference last week, playing down a spate of comments – some criticizing the government – that could damage social cohesion.</p>  <p>Since taking office on April 2, 2018, the reformist leader has achieved many things, and perhaps too quickly. He opened up a political space that had been non-existent in the country, and he helped armed groups hitherto dubbed terrorists to the political fold – all of them, such as the OLF, ONLF and PG7, are now back home from the desert in neighboring Eritrea from where they waged war against the now-defunct repressive system.</p>    <p>The reform also saw the release of political prisoners, as the prime minister promised to hold free, fair, and democratic elections in May 2020.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>- A fine balance</p>  <p>Africa’s youngest leader has had stellar achievements in foreign relations as well. He made peace with Eritrea and also brought the leaders of Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia, and Kenya – countries long accustomed to eyeing each other with suspicion – together for a regional integration drive.</p>    <p>He struck a fine balance between Ethiopia looking East or West by following a policy that tilts to neither the U.S. and Europe nor to China, and most important of all he met with the leaders of Middle East superpowers the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt.</p>  <p>Many daunting challenges remain in the domestic field, though. And these challenges may threaten to unseat him if the charismatic, humble scholar-leader keeps ignoring them, as he has so far.</p>  <p>At a recent press conference, Temesgen Tiruneh, Abiy’s security adviser, said over the past year 10,000 political prisoners have been released and 7,000 exiled politicians came back home or were absolved from abroad from trumped-up charges.</p>  <p>The army leadership has been fundamentally changed to reflect the country’s ethnic diversity, he said. “The army is no longer dominated by a single ethnic group.”</p>  <p>He said: “The most real threat to the security of Ethiopia to date is ethnic politics.”

Ethiopian, Eritrean leaders open new border

By Munira Abdelmenan Awel

ANKARA (AA) – Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki officially opened a new road linking the two Horn of Africa nations on Monday.

The two leaders opened the Oumajir-Humera border in continuation of normalizing of Ethiopian-Eritrean relations, according to Office of the Ethiopian Prime Minister.

Afwerki and his delegation welcomed Ahmed in the Eritrean town of Teseney accompanied by chief administrators of the regional states of Amhara and Tigray.

This move is expected to boost people-to-people relations on both sides and promote cross-border trade in the long term, local media reported.

Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993 and from 1998 to 2000 the two countries fought a bloody war in which an estimated 70,000 people perished on both sides.

The two countries broke two decades of tension after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed extended an olive branch to the Eritrean president in his inaugural speech in April 2018.

Both opened their respective embassies, while Eritrea allowed Ethiopia to use its Red Sea ports.

Last September, the two leaders announced the opening of the borders allowing free movement of goods and people leading numerous families to reunite.

Telecommunication and flights between the two countries have also restored after two decades.

Ethiopia opens agricultural processing industrial park

             By Addis Getachew</p>  <p>JIMMA, Ethiopia (AA) - Leaders of three Horn of Africa nations on Saturday joined hands to cut the ribbon on a new industrial park in southwestern Ethiopia.</p>  <p>Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh inaugurated the park, dominated by agricultural processing firms.<br> <br> The industrial park, spanning 51 hectares in the town of Jimma in the Oromia regional state, represents an investment of $61 million.<br> <br> The park will create jobs for 10,000 people, according to information made available at the opening. <br> <br> The three East Africa leaders also attended the opening of a hospital and the graduation ceremony of 2,700 students, including over 300 that studied medicine.<br> <br> Speaking at the graduation ceremony, al-Bashir pledged that his country will give scholarships to 10 students annually for two years.<br> <br> Jimma is the birthplace of Ahmed, and though it is a top commercial center thanks  to coffee farms and trade, the town remained undeveloped, with inadequate infrastructure.</p>  <p> 

UPDATE – Ethiopia reopens embassy in Eritrea

UPDATE WITH PM COMMENTS

By Addis Getachew

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AA) – Ethiopia on Thursday reopened its embassy in the Eritrean capital Asmara after a 20-year hiatus.

The reopening ceremony was attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Eritrean President Isaias Afeworki and senior officials of both countries.

“The embassy has the best location and the Eritrean government renovated it demonstrating the extent to which it cherishes cooperation with Ethiopia,” Ahmed said.

Ethiopia in July named Redwan Hussein as its ambassador in Eritrea.

Eritrea opened its embassy in Addis Ababa in mid-July.

The two countries have broken out of a two-decade tension in a dramatic turn of events after Ahmed extended an olive branch to the Eritrean president in his inaugural speech in April.

The two leaders met in July vowing to revamp relations.

Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993.

From 1998 to 2000 the two countries fought a bloody war in which an estimated 70,000 people perished on both sides.

Ethiopia reopens embassy in Eritrea

By Addis Getachew

ADDIS ABABA(AA) – Ethiopia on Thursday reopened its embassy in the Eritrean capital Asmara after a 20-year hiatus.

The reopening was attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Eritrea’s President Isaias Afeworki and senior officials of both countries.

Ethiopia in July named Redwan Hussein as its ambassador in Eritrea.

Eritrea opened its embassy in Addis Ababa in mid-July.

The two countries have broken out of a two-decade tension in a dramatic turn of events after Ahmed extended an olive branch to the Eritrean president in his inaugural speech in April.

The two leaders met in July vowing to revamp relations.

Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993.

From 1998 to 2000 the two countries fought a bloody war in which an estimated 70,000 people perished on both sides.

In historic thaw, Eritrean leader arrives in Ethiopia

By Addis Getachew and Seleshi Tessema

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AA) – Eritrea’s president arrived in neighboring Ethiopian on Saturday for a visit — the first such visit in two decades — the result of a fast-tracked diplomatic thaw between the two countries.

Issaias Afeworki got a warm welcome, with people lining the streets leading from the airport all the way to the national palace. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed welcomed Afeworki and his high-level delegation.

During the two-day visit, Afeworki and his delegation will also meet Ethiopia’s President Mulatu Teshome and other top officials. Afeworki will also cut the ribbon to reopen the Eritrean Embassy in the capital Addis Ababa.

The Eritrean delegation is also scheduled to visit the Hawassa Industrial Park, 270 kilometers south of the capital, and on Sunday it will attend a music festival by famous Ethiopian singers.

The landmark visit follows a period of 20 years during which the two Horn of Africa countries largely took a no-war, no-peace stance towards each other.

Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993, in the process taking away its access to the sea. From 1998 to 2000, the two fought a bloody war in which an estimated 70,000-80,000 people perished on both sides.

An agreement brokered by Algeria’s president ended the two-year war, and an international boundary commission gave Badme — a flashpoint for the war — to Eritrea, while compelling it to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for the huge Ethiopian shipments it confiscated at the Port of Assab.

The new diplomatic thaw was made possible after the rise to power in Ethiopia of Ahmed, Africa's youngest leader, who has taken numerous reform measures domestically and also taken a friendly stance towards Eritrea.

Last Sunday Abiy led a high-level delegation to Eritrea on a two-day visit which finally saw a formal end to the war between the two countries along with agreements to mutually reopen embassies, allow Ethiopia to use the Port of Assab at cheaper rates, and resume phone and air transport services.

-'Only politics kept us apart'

Getachew Tadesse and Alem Kassa are two of many Ethiopians with a deep love for Eritrea. Some 53 years ago, they got married in Assab, where both used to work.

Ethiopians and Eritreans “are inseparably tied; it is only politics that set the two peoples apart for the past two decades,” said Tadesse, who served the then-Ethiopia Navy and later worked at customs in Assab.

“I gave birth to most of my seven children there in Assab. Eritreans are good people. Most of our friends are Eritreans. It pains my heart we have been separated. Now I hope to meet most of them again, God willing,” Kassa said pensively.

According to Tadesse, it was just a matter of time before the peoples of the two countries reunited.

“But regardless of the two peoples living under one flag or two, they are brothers and sisters who share the same destiny, the same culture, the same religions, and same temperament.”