Ahead of Davos summit, Ethiopia’s premier goes on a mission to reform Africa

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will visit the Somali State, a conflict zone now at the frontline of the fight for which he is known — African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela would often pass through this area during his visit to the country.

The latest visit to Sudan by Abiy comes as the man who ousted his predecessor Ethiopia’s former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and whose reform efforts already include a dramatic easing of security restrictions, today celebrated his National Day.

On Thursday, Abiy came to Kampala, Uganda — an early stop on his tour of South-African-style political reforms with strict new election rules — to preside over Uganda’s Parliament to promulgate new rules that will now ban electioneering until the last quarter of the campaign period.

On Friday, Abiy traveled to Swaziland, Africa’s last royal ruled kingdom, for a two-day tour of the country, a country ruled by King Mswati III since Swaziland became a modern democracy in 1994. There, Abiy announced plans to amend laws that require anyone convicted of treason to be jailed for 25 years. The Supreme Court currently has a backlog of 56 treason cases.

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who like Abiy Abiy was part of the military that took power in 2016, is hoping the Ethiopian premier’s reform efforts can stimulate the reforms that he promised upon taking office. He called the visits a demonstration of the cooperative spirit needed for regional unity and stability.

Speaking on Saturday in the west African nation of Senegal at the African Union Summit, Mnangagwa said that “whoever hopes to lead Africa must show this kind of courage.”

Among the delegates at the Summit was Sanya, Japan’s chief advocate for gender equality, Haruko Akita. Earlier this year, during a visit to Japan, she shared with the Asian country a letter to Abiy from the 17 nations of the South-South Economic Partnership Agreement: “Welcoming the conduct of the prime minister, we express our readiness to support the positive changes taking place.”

On Monday Abiy boarded an Ethiopian Airlines flight to Ethiopia, where he received a warm welcome as “superstar” from students he met with at the university, where news outlets described him as the “superstar” for his anti-corruption reforms, the reduction of tariffs and the de-militaryization of Ethiopia.

The international focus on the foreign policy event of the region will continue next week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The Ethiopian delegation is expected to lead all African countries at this summit.

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