It is New Year in Ethiopia, a modern republic and former ancient monarchy in the Horn of Africa that still follows the Julian calendar. To celebrate, Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s 42-year-old prime minister and the most dynamic leader in Africa, opened the frontier with old-enemy Eritrea, allowing families separated for a generation to pour across the border in a tearful reunion.
These days, it feels like New Year in Ethiopia every day. Mr Abiy has been prime minister for less than six months, after the abrupt departure of his predecessor. Such has been the thirst for political change that his ascendance, and the startling use he has made of his new-found authority, have been greeted with near-euphoria. Polls suggest he has a 90 per cent support rate.
People in a country with a median age of 19 snap up books about their new hero, the first prime minister drawn from the politically marginalized Oromo ethnic group. The Oromo make up about 35 percent of the country’s swelling population of 105m.
Mr Abiy, a former army intelligence officer, speaks all three of the country’s main languages. His father was Muslim and his mother Christian. Educated in computer engineering in Addis Ababa, business studies at London’s University of Greenwich and with a doctorate in conflict resolution, Mr Abiy is an insider with an outsider’s perspective on his country’s complexities and contradictions. The new prime minister has become a sort of cross between Che Guevara and Emmanuel Macron. Almost inevitably, his rise has spawned the term Abiymania. So far, despite an assassination attempt, Abiymania has not bitten the dust. […] CONTINUE READING