Ethiopian leader secures new mandate as conflict rages on

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (center) arrives in Jimma on June 16, 2021, during his visit to the city for his electoral campaign ahead of a vote on June 21. (MARCO LONGARI / AFP)

Ethiopia’s new parliament reappointed Abiy Ahmed as prime minister on Monday following his party’s landslide election win, giving him a five-year mandate to tackle the fallout of a civil war that’s triggered an economic and humanitarian crisis. 

Abiy, who first assumed his post in 2018, initially won investor acclaim for opening up the insular economy and a Nobel Peace Prize for ending a long-running conflict with neighboring Eritrea. He’s fallen from grace since ordering a federal troop incursion into the dissident Tigray province after forces loyal to the northern region’s leaders attacked an army base. Fighting has dragged on for 11 months, leaving thousands dead and 5 million in need of aid. 

Fostering peace and national unity will be among the top priorities of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's new administration

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Fostering peace and national unity will be among the new administration’s top priorities. Abiy intends to convene a national dialog to bring political parties together, although it’s unclear whether it will include his main foes – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Oromo Liberation Army. 

Abiy was assured of retaining his post after his Prosperity Party secured an outright majority in the House of People’s Representatives in the August elections. The vote was postponed to Sept 30 in some of the 547 constituencies due to security concerns and logistical problems and results from those regions have yet to be announced, but they won’t affect the final outcome.  

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Besides having to bring an end to the war, the new administration needs to contain rampant inflation and finalize a program to restructure some of the nation’s almost $30 billion foreign debt under the so-called G20’s Common Framework. That plan, which was first announced in January, spooked investors, with yields on Ethiopia’s 2024 Eurobond reaching record highs this month. 

It will also need to renegotiate a new program with the International Monetary Fund to replace an extended credit facility, which had been agreed but lapsed before the money was disbursed. In September, the Washington-based lender said it was “too soon” to engage with Ethiopia over new programs. 

Abiy’s attempts to secure external funding could be complicated by threats by US President Joe Biden’s administration to impose sanctions on individuals and entities involved in the conflict.