(CNN) When Gutama Habro arrived at the Target Arena in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at 6 o'clock in the morning, the line around tickets was already around the corner. Within a few hours, 20,000 fans had packed the room. "People were crying around me," says Gutama, a 28-year-old medical laboratory scientist. "Seeing that this was a dream come true."
Gutama was not at a pop concert. This was the last stage of the three-city American tour through Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Held in July, it was the first time the 42-year-old visited the more than 251,000 Ethiopians in the United States, many in self-imposed exile – fleeing ethnic clashes, violence and political instability in their homeland. "The level of hope was something we had not seen since Barack Obama's election," says Mohammed Ademo, an activist who fled to the US in 2002 and founded OPride.com, a news store that was blocked for years.
Since taking office on April 2, Africa's youngest head of government has electrified Ethiopia with a dizzying array of liberal reforms, attributed by many to saving the country from civil war. Abiy has freed thousands of political prisoners, unblocked hundreds of censored websites, ended the 20-year war with Eritrea, lifted the state of emergency and planned to open up major economic sectors to private investors, including the state-owned Ethiopian Airlines.
In the capital Addis Ababa, taxi windscreens are covered with Abiy stickers, while citizens change their WhatsApp and Facebook profile photos into pro-Abiy slogans and spend their money on Abiy T-shirts. Elias Tesfaye, owner of a clothing factory, says that in the past six weeks he has sold 20,000 T-shirts with Abiy's face, each costing about 300 birr ($ 10). In June, an estimated four million people attended a meeting that Abiy gave on the Meskel Square of the capital.
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