Ethiopia’s prime minister in his first press conference since taking power vowed on Saturday to continue with dramatic reforms “at any cost” and said the longtime ruling coalition soon will prepare for a “free and fair election” in 2020.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also said the World Bank “soon” plans to provide $1bn in direct budgetary assistance, a sign of confidence after years of unrest in Africa’s second most populous nation. Such assistance stopped after the disputed 2005 elections.
“My dream is that doubts about the ballot box will disappear,” Abiy said, saying the vote won’t be delayed and promising a peaceful transfer of power if he loses.
The 42-year-old Abiy took office in April and shocked the country with a wave of reforms including restoring diplomatic ties with neighbouring Eritrea after two decades, pledging to open up state-owned companies to outside investment and releasing thousands of prisoners.
The reforms have been praised by the international community and attracted investors interested in one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.
Recent ethnic unrest in various parts of Ethiopia, however, has dampened the initial jubilation and posed a major challenge to the new leader.
“There are groups that are working in unison to cause chaos in different parts of the country,” Abiy told reporters. “They are triggering peoples’ emotions to this end.”
Some 2.8 million people have been displaced by the unrest, according to the United Nations. “But this didn’t happen due to the reforms,” the prime minister said.
He said the unrest in the eastern Somali region has calmed but measures will be taken against former officials, including the region’s former President Abdi Mohammed Omar, who is suspected of orchestrating the chaos earlier this month that led to the destruction of government offices, looting of businesses and burning of churches.
Asked about internet cuts in the region following the unrest, an unpopular tactic widely used by the previous government, Abiy appealed for understanding and said it might have saved lives.
“But curbing access to information and cutting the internet is not the way forward,” he added, and urged youth to use it responsibly.
The prime minister also in recent months has welcomed a number of once-exiled opposition figures and groups back to Ethiopia and invited them to join in the political conversation.
But on Saturday he drew the line at former military dictator Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam, who overthrew the last Ethiopian emperor, Haileselassie, in 1974 and eventually was sentenced to life for spearheading a “Red Terror” that killed tens of thousands of people. He fled the country in 1991 as rebels, who now make up the ruling coalition, approached the capital.
Some Ethiopians have called on Abiy to offer Mengistu amnesty after a rare photo of him in exile in Zimbabwe went viral early this month.
“Ethiopia’s constitution clearly stipulates the ‘Red Terror’ crimes cannot be covered under an amnesty law,” Abiy said. “So Colonel Mengistu will not … return home. But if the law in the future allows, that may change.”
EU Rejects Bid To Unfreeze Mubarak’s Assets
Egypt’s former president, Hosni Mubarak’s bid for EU to unfreeze his assets in Europe was rejected on Wednesday. The freeze was placed on his assets after his ouster in the 2011 revolution.
European union member countries imposed the sanctions in March 2011 based on lawsuits filed against Mubarak and his family in Egypt for alleged embezzlement of state funds.
After those countries – grouped in the European council – renewed the sanctions in 2017 and 2018, Mubarak asked the EU’s general court to annul them.
After Mubarak’s ouster, Islamist president Mohamed Morsi took power in 2012 before the military toppled him in 2013 following mass protests against Morsi’s rule.
Former military chief Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi became president later that year.
Thousands Of Voting Machines And Ballot Boxes Destroyed In DRC Electoral Commission Fire
Thousand of voting machines and ballot boxes were destroyed when an electoral commission building in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa was razed in a fire. The machines and ballot boxes were to be used in the presidential elections ten days away.
The electoral commission says this would not hamper the election process, but that it is looking into the cause and extent of the fire. It says machines from other parts of the country would be brought in to replace the ones consumed in the fire.
Presidential adviser Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi blames the fire on those he called criminals. He said most of the equipment meant for the polls in Kinshasa, the capital was destroyed in the fire. More than 15 percent of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s population lives in the capital.
Meanwhile, the UK is now advising its citizens against “all but essential travel” to any part of DR Congo. It has also urged non-essential diplomatic staff to leave the country by next Monday.
Ghana To Transport Essential Medical Supplies To Rural Areas By Drones
Ghana Medical Association is reacting negatively to a government decision to transport blood and essential medical supplies to rural areas in the country by unmanned drones. The service has been contracted to an American company.
Deputy minister of information Pius Enam Hadzide said he was shocked by the GMA reaction over what he says would improve health services.
The Ghana Medical Association says the use of drones violates the country’s primary health care policy. It also said it would be counter-productive as it would cause more doctors and nurses to be unemployed in the administration of the drugs.
The drone goes into effect next year. It was approved by parliament by a majority of a hundred and two to fifty-eight.
Rwanda already uses drones for the same purpose.
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