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AFRICA/ETHIOPIA - For the first time, an Oromo at the head of the government coalition: a turning point in the crises'

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Posted on: 04/02/18
Addis Ababa - Abiy Ahmed is the first member of the Oromo, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, to become President of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front , the coalition that has been leading the Country since 1991, and in all probability will soon be appointed Prime Minister to replace Hailemariam Desalegn, who resigned last month.
Ahmed was elected by the board of 180 members of the EPRDF with 108 votes. There has been speculation for weeks on his possible election in place of Hailemariam, since he is the head of the Oromo ethnic party within the EPRDF coalition. The Oromo, the largest Ethiopian community, have been protesting for more than two years against the Tigrayan-dominated government, calling for agrarian reform, their full political participation and the end of human rights violations.
The authorities reacted strongly to demonstrations, repeatedly interrupting access to the Internet, forbidding the use of social media to document the unrest and in the end they were forced to admit that from August 2016 to April 2017, 669 people died in clashes between demonstrators and security forces. The state of emergency is still in force in the Country.
In order to appease the minds, the government chaired by Hailemariam had already begun to release political prisoners and journalists, promising to close the notorious Maekelawi detention center. In these days, however, some of the released journalists were arrested again, without the authorities filing any charges against them. In the Oromia region, moreover, the violence that forced about 10,000 people in recent days to seek refuge in the border town of Moyale in Kenya has not yet finished.
According to several observers, by electing Ahmed, the EPRDF hopes to avoid its own disintegration and appease protesters. Ahmed has in fact relations with both the young Oromo, who animate the protests, and with the political and security agencies of the Country. He also has a Christian mother and a Muslim father and speaks Amaric, Oromo and Tigrinya fluently, the languages of Ethiopia's three major ethnic groups.
Some, however, underline that Ahmed founded the Information Network Security Agency, the Ethiopian electronic surveillance agency, which uses sophisticated software and equipment to monitor opponents at home and abroad, questioning whether he is able to bring a significant change in national political life.


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