Ethiopia’s Mandela steps up pace of change – but provokes enemies (Financial Times)

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(FT.com) – Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s youthful prime minister, may be the most popular politician in Africa but he has also made enemies. On Saturday, at a huge rally in Addis Ababa, an explosion that may have been intended to kill him left two dead and 156 people injured, five of them critically.

No one took responsibility for the blast and PM Abiy did not try to pin the blame on anyone. “To those who tried to divide us, I want to tell you that you have not succeeded,” he said.

Analysts said perpetrators of the explosion, which occurred after Abiy Ahmed ended an address to tens of thousands of supporters in Meskel Square, could have been disgruntled members of the security forces. Their power is threatened by the sweeping reforms Abiy has launched since becoming premier in April.

There was also speculation that his peace overtures to Eritrea, in which he said Ethiopia would give up its claim to disputed land, might have triggered the attack. 

PM Abiy came out of the blocks so fast in his first few weeks in office that few believed he could maintain the pace. But, if anything, the 42-year-old former army officer has stepped it up.

Since being appointed just more than two months ago, he has overseen the release of thousands of political prisoners, ended a state of emergency that was imposed to quell two-and-a-half years of deadly anti-government protests, and announced an economic liberalization plan, including partial sale of state telecom and airline assets.

More recently, he has reorganised the once-untouchable intelligence services and admitted publicly that the authoritarian government has committed acts of torture and terrorism on its own people.

His charm offensive in the Gulf also appears to have borne fruit. The United Arab Emirates agreed last week to provide $3bn in badly needed loans and investments to ease a chronic foreign exchange shortage. […] CONTINUE READING