Bangkok Post

New term for Ethiopian PM

Abiy sworn in amid criticisms on Tigray


ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was sworn in for a new five-year term on Monday, telling a crowd of thousands he would protect the country from foreign interferen­ce, amid global criticism over the war in the northern region of Tigray.

His party scored a landslide victory in June’s election, cementing his power domestical­ly despite internatio­nal concern over his government’s handling of the conflict.

After parliament confirmed his appointmen­t, between 30,000 and 40,000 people attended a public ceremony — unusual in Ethiopia — in the capital Addis Ababa.

Mr Abiy spoke from a dais covered in yellow carpet in the newly refurbishe­d

Meskel Square, where brand new lights and stadium-style benches sit next to a crumbling museum dedicated to the murder and torture victims of a previous regime.

In his speech, Mr Abiy denounced the leadership in the northern region of Tigray, where rebellious forces are battling the central government and where the United Nations says hundreds of thousands of people are experienci­ng famine due to a government blockade of aid.

The government denies it is preventing aid deliveries.

Mr Abiy’s speech offered little hint as to whether he would pursue an offensive to claw back territory taken by Tigrayan forces.

“In order to narrow our difference­s we will have a national dialogue,” he said, while also promising “a capable security and intelligen­ce force will be built”.

Mr Abiy also repeated warnings that Ethiopia would not accept foreign interferen­ce in its internal affairs.

Conflict broke out in Tigray 11 months ago between federal troops and forces loyal to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party that controls Tigray.

Thousands have died and more than 2 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

On Thursday, Ethiopia announced it was expelling seven senior United Nations officials, accusing them of diverting aid and communicat­ion equipment to the TPLF, failing to demand the return of aid trucks deployed to Tigray, violating security arrangemen­ts and spreading misinforma­tion.

The United Nations said on Monday that it stands by the neutrality and profession­alism of its staff and again reiterated that it does not accept Ethiopia’s declaratio­n that the officials are personae non gratae.

However, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said the UN officials had “been moved from the country to ensure their safety”.

The United States has condemned the expulsions and threatened unilateral sanctions against those who obstructed humanitari­an efforts.

“It is critical that these individual­s be allowed to return to Ethiopia in order to carry out their important lifesaving work and duties,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said of the United Nations officials on Monday.

Mr Abiy was appointed prime minister by the then-governing coalition in 2018 and promised political and economic reforms.

Within months of taking office, he lifted a ban on opposition parties, released tens of thousands of political prisoners and took steps to open up one of Africa’s last untapped markets.

But rights groups say those freedoms are now being rolled back.

 ?? AFP ?? Ethiopian leader Abiy Ahmed, first row on the right, salutes members of the defence forces during the inaugurati­on of the new government, in Addis Ababa.
AFP Ethiopian leader Abiy Ahmed, first row on the right, salutes members of the defence forces during the inaugurati­on of the new government, in Addis Ababa.

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