The southern Ethiopian area of Sidama is famous for its coffee. But amid the beans, bitterness lingers. More than 50 people were killed in recent violence, as Ethiopia struggles with demands for the creation of a new Sidama ethnic federal state—a right explicitly permitted by the national constitution. USIP’s Aly Verjee discusses the implications of this latest challenge to peace in Africa’s second most populous country.
In Ethiopia, political prisoners are free and the security services revamped. Women now comprise half the cabinet, and serve as ceremonial head of state, chief justice, and chair of the electoral commission. Significant steps have been taken toward resolving a 20-year conflict with neighboring Eritrea and reforms to unleash the economy—already one of Africa’s fastest growing—are ostensibly on the way. Elections are slated for next year. Under Abiy Ahmed, the nation’s popular new prime minister, Ethiopia is changing in ways long desired by American policymakers, agreed four former U.S. ambassadors to the country. Yet the most the U.S. is likely to do is offer encouragement and a bit of support, they said.
A year ago today, 42-year old reformist politician Abiy Ahmed became prime minister of Ethiopia. Abiy came to power during a deep political crisis with widespread grievances across this country of over 105 million people, and quickly began to enact political reforms. USIP’s Aly Verjee and Payton Knopf discuss Abiy’s year as prime minister and identify the challenges that lie ahead for eastern Africa’s most populous country.