Ethiopia’s ruling party picks Oromo ethnic Abiy Ahmed as premier

Ethiopia’s ruling coalition on Tuesday elected as leader Abiy Ahmed, from the country’s largest ethnic group the Oromo, paving the way for him to become prime minister, state media reported.

As the leader of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), Abiy is set to take over from Hailemariam Desalegn, who announced his resignation last month in a surprise move that prompted the government to declare a nationwide state of emergency.

“The EPRDF council has elected Dr. Abiy Ahmed as the leader of the party,” government-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation said.

Abiy will be the first Oromo prime minister in the 27 years of EPRDF rule. The Oromo began months of anti-government protests in late 2015 that resulted in hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of arrests.

The EPRDF government imposed a 10-month state of emergency in October 2016 that quelled the violence, but anti-government sentiment remains strong among the Oromo, and was seen as a factor in Hailemariam’s resignation.

Composed of four ethnically based parties, the EPRDF and its allies control all seats in the parliament, which must confirm the new prime minister.

The latest state of emergency was declared a day after Hailemariam’s resignation and was condemned by Ethiopia’s western allies, including the United States and European Union.

Earlier this week, police arrested a group of dissidents including several who had been freed from jail in February in a prisoner amnesty ordered by Hailemariam to “improve the national consensus and widen the democratic platform”.

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