(OPride) — Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Monday appeared before the country’s parliament to give an update on recent political developments and to answer questions from members of parliament. In an unprecedented and daringly honest exchange, televised live and streamed online, the PM called for national reconciliation, defended his party’s decision to partially privatize state-owned enterprises and the release of political prisoners. He also emphasized the need for opening up the political space and genuine democratization.
Since taking over the reins of power in April, Abiy has vowed to reform his own party and widen the country’s democratic sphere. A flurry of executive actions saw the dismissal of key security officials as well as a cabinet reshuffle.
Tens of thousands of political prisoners have been released. The Prime Minister has been crisscrossing the country to appeal for national unity and to help ease ethnic tensions.
He has pledged to end the “bloodless war” with neighboring Eritrea by fully complying with the 2000 Algiers agreement that ended a bloody conflict between the two nations.
Less than three months into his term in office, PM Abiy has visited nearly all the countries in the region – Djibouti, Sudan, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Somalia. In each of these countries, the PM sought and secured the release of Ethiopians held at various prisons. In Egypt, some 32 prisoners were promptly released and returned to Ethiopia on the same plane as the prime minister.
In his address to parliament on Monday, Abiy offered a vigorous defense of the decision to normalize relations with Asmara; he appealed to his compatriots to transcend the current preoccupation ethnic differences; he challenged the parliament to play its part as a check on the executive branch; he made a case for free media and a market place of ideas to fight corruption and hold those in power to account; he hinted at the repeal of the sweeping anti-terrorism law.
In a rare moment of honesty – perhaps for the very first time – PM Abiy acknowledged something much of the world has known for years: That his party, the EPRDF, and the country’s security forces have unlawfully used the force of the law to rule, to torture, force into exile and to terrorize citizens.
Here is a selection of his comments via Twitter.
#Ethiopia PM Abiy defends reform plan and calls for democratization