Ethiopia gets first Muslim leader in its history

Ethiopia’s ruling coalition has elected a new leader in the person of Dr Abiy Ahmed. He will eventually become Prime Minister of the country, its first Muslim leader ever.

The change in leadership follows the surprise resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn last month. He was the first ruler in modern Ethiopian history to step down; previous leaders have died in office or been overthrown. He said he wanted to clear the way for reforms.

State-affiliated FANA Broadcasting Corporate (FBC) reported late Tuesday that the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) had elected Abiy as its chairperson.

His rise to become Prime Minister – head of government – is premised on approval by the Front’s Council and subsequent approval by the parliament. Political watchers hold that the process is a mere formality.

Abiy is leader of the Oromo bloc of the EPRDF – the Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization (OPDO). He is also the first Premier from the Oromia region – Ethiopia’s largest and most populous regional state.

The EPRDF is made up of four region-based parties but is dominated by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front. The Tigrayans are a much smaller ethnic group than the Oromo who have long complained of being sidelined from political power.

Abiy assumes leadership of the East African economic giant in a time of heated political crisis emanating from his state, Oromia. Anti-government protests in Oromia and northern Amhara region have plagued the country since 2015 till early this year.

The disturbances have led to two state of emergency declarations over a two-year period. The first was between October 2016 to August 2017 with the latest round declared in February barely 24-hours after the resignation of Prime Minister Desalegn.

Adira Kallo with agency

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