Ethiopia's new prime minister promises to continue with reforms & # 39; at all costs & # 39;

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia in his first press conference since he had promised Saturday to continue with dramatic reforms "at all costs" and said that the long-standing ruling coalition will soon prepare for a "free and fair election" in 2020 .

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also said that the World Bank "soon" intends to provide $ 1 billion in direct budget support, a sign of confidence after years of turmoil in Africa's second-most populated nation. Such assistance ceased after the disputed 2005 elections.

"My dream is that doubts about the ballot box will disappear," said Abiy, saying that the vote will not be delayed and promises 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 neighboring Eritrea after two decades, and promised to open state-owned enterprises to external investments and release thousands of prisoners.

The reforms have been praised by the international community and have attracted investors who are interested in one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

Recent ethnic unrest in different parts of Ethiopia, however, has somewhat tempered the first joy and poses a big challenge for the new leader.

"There are groups that work together to cause chaos in different parts of the country," Abiy told reporters. "They trigger the emotions of the people to this."

Approximately 2.8 million people have been displaced by the unrest, according to the United Nations. "But this did not happen as a result of the reforms," ​​said the prime minister.

He said the unrest in the eastern Somali region has calmed down, but that measures will be taken against former officials, including the former president Abdi Mohammed Omar, who is suspected of having orchestrated the chaos that led to the destruction earlier this month. government buildings, looting companies and the burning of churches.

Asked about internet cuts in the region after the unrest, an unpopular tactic that was widely used by the previous government, Abiy called for understanding and said that it may have saved lives.

"But restricting access to information and cutting through the internet is not the way forward," he added, urging the youth to use it responsibly.

In recent months, the Prime Minister has also welcomed a number of former exiled opposition groups and groups back to Ethiopia and invited them to take part in the political conversation.

But on Saturday he drew the line to the former military dictator Col. Mengistu Hailemariam, who in 1974 overthrew the last Ethiopian emperor Haileselassie and eventually was sentenced to life for a spearhead of a "Red Terror" that killed tens of thousands of people. He fled the country in 1991 when rebels, now forming 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 at the beginning of the month.

"The Constitution of Ethiopia clearly states that crimes against" Red Terror "can not be covered by an amnesty law," Abiy said. "So Colonel Mengistu will not … return home, but if the law permits in the future, that can change."

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