DON'T MISS : Talking Africa Podcast – Mozambique's insurgency: After Palma, what comes next?

Ethiopia’s Abiy: From peace prize to frontline fighter

By The Africa Report
Posted on Wednesday, 24 November 2021 14:09

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrives for the inauguration ceremony of the Meskel square, marking the last election rally he will hold in Addis Ababa
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrives for the inauguration ceremony of the Meskel square, marking the last election rally he will hold in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 13, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Ethiopia's Abiy Ahmed was widely hailed as a dynamic young reformer when he swept to power in 2018, but that reputation lies in tatters one year into a brutal civil conflict in the north of the country marked by allegations of mass starvation, gang rape and ethnic cleansing.

This week, as rebels led by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) continued their advance towards the capital, Addis Ababa, Abiy pledged to personally direct the fight from the frontline and urged citizens to join him. “We prefer to die and let Ethiopia exist, than we live and Ethiopia dies,” he said.

His bullish tone was a far cry from the message of hopeful reconciliation and change, which characterised the speeches he made shortly after sweeping to office in April 2018. At the time, he was Africa’s youngest leader, aged 41.