New Ethiopian PM clears way to lift state of emergency


Draft law approved after Abiy Ahmed says law and order has been restored

 Aglionby in Nairobi JUNE 2, 2018 Print this page0 Ethiopia’s cabinet has approved lifting the country’s state of emergency two months early, the clearest sign yet of how Abiy Ahmed, the new prime minister, is transforming a country wracked by more than two years of deadly anti-government protests.  Fitsum Arega, Mr Abiy’s chief of staff, tweeted on Saturday that the council of ministers “reviewed the security situation . . . [and] noted that law & order has been restored”.  “It has approved a draft law that lifts the State of Emergency. The draft will be sent to parliament for its consideration,” Mr Fitsum added, without clarifying when the legislature would debate the measure.  The state of emergency was imposed in February, when Mr Abiy’s predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn, resigned after having failed to contain the public unrest. It was the second state of emergency since protests began in late 2015 against the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, a coalition which has tolerated almost no dissent since taking power in 1991.  The protests have been led by a largely well-educated but underemployed youth demanding meaningful democracy — the EPRDF controls every seat in parliament — and an end to ethnic and economic marginalisation.  Recommended World Decades of volatility test Ethiopia’s young leader About 1,000 people were killed and tens of thousands detained as authorities tried to contain the protests, but the crackdown failed and Mr Hailemariam was forced from power. Mr Abiy, who took office in April, has begun to deliver on his promise of political reform. He has released many prominent political dissidents, dropped terrorism charges against activists who have fled abroad, and started to reform the state-owned conglomerates that the previous regime used to dominate the economy.  But diplomats said the new prime minister’s reform credentials would remain under question while the state of emergency was in place. Zemedeneh Negatu, a prominent Ethiopian businessman, said that after decades of despair for many, “Prime Minister Abiy represents hope, especially for young Ethiopians”. “Since his election Ethiopians have been riding a positive wave, something similar to what I witnessed first hand in the US when Barack Obama was elected [president] in November 2008,” he said.  Hallelujah Lulie, an Addis Ababa-based analyst, said Mr Abiy still faces many challenges, particularly from the “deep state” in the military and intelligence services.  “All the promises for opening up of the political space and a government that respects accountability and transparency and an inclusive state . . . will not materialise unless Abiy reforms the military and the intelligence,” he said. “These two institutions are not just security institutions. They have strong stakes in the economy and they are also very very strong political forces.”  Mr Abiy met the country’s military commanders on Friday and stressed the importance of the armed forces’ professionalism, according to government officials.  Ahmed Shide, Mr Abiy’s chief spokesman, said the prime minister was committed to reform. “He understands the complexity of the challenges and opportunities we have in terms of comprehensive change in Ethiopia,” he told the Financial Times recently. “He’s focusing on building national consensus — that we need to deepen our democratisation process.”   


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