Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed paid a visit to a hotbed of anti-government protests Wednesday, asking residents for patience as he works to bring change to the Horn of Africa country.
Abiy is the first prime minister to come from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group the Oromo, who spearheaded more than two years of unprecedented protests against the country’s one-party government that left hundreds dead.
In the university town of Ambo — a flashpoint for the protest movement — Abiy was welcomed by dozens of horsemen adorned in traditional Oromo attire and cheering crowds, composed of the same young people who made up the ranks of the protesters.
Speaking just over a week after his inauguration to a surging crowd of thousands that police struggled to restrain, Abiy hailed the protesters, known as Qeerroo, as the “shield of the Oromo people”.
“We are now on the path of change and love,” Abiy said, appealing for patience from the residents of Ambo, 120 kilometres (75 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa.
“I ask you to give us time … to take organised action,” he said.
“We want to work hand-in-hand with you. What we say and what we do must match.”
- Breaking tradition -
The direct appeal to protesters stood in stark contrast to the situation in Ambo a year ago, when protesting students so feared voicing their opinions in public that they would only meet with journalists in an empty field outside of town.
“This is the first time the most powerful person in Ethiopia visited Ambo. The other leaders didn’t like to visit because they were afraid. He broke that tradition,” said Ambo resident Almaz Bulcha.
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