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Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed sees meteoric rise to Nobel Peace Prize

Abiy Ahmed, the son of poor villagers, and now PM of Africa's fastest-growing economy, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

Addis Ababa

THE son of poor villagers, a spy boss, and now the man behind dizzying attempts to reform Africa's fastest-growing economy and heal wounds with Ethiopia's neighbours, Abiy Ahmed, has seen an unpredictable and peril-strewn rise to fame.

Another chapter was added to his remarkable tale on Friday when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Since becoming Ethiopian Prime Minister in April 2018, the 43-year-old has aggressively pursued policies that have the potential to upend his country's society and reshape dynamics beyond its borders. Within just six months of his swearing-in, Mr Abiy made peace with bitter foe Eritrea, released dissidents from jail, apologised for state brutality, and welcomed home exiled armed groups branded "terrorists".

More recently, he has turned to fleshing out his vision for the economy while laying the groundwork for elections currently scheduled to take place next May. But analysts fret that his policies are, simultaneously, too much too fast for the political old guard, and too little too late for the country's angry youth, whose protests swept him to power. Despite the challenges, Mr Abiy's allies predict his deep well of personal ambition will prompt him to keep swinging big.

The immediate demands of Ethiopian politics, however, may leave him with no choice but to shift his focus inward in the months to come. Holding credible elections by next May, the current timeline, is a daunting task, yet Mr Abiy is keen on scoring the kind of victory that would give him a mandate with the general public. First, he must contend with Ethiopia's formidable security challenges. Ethnic violence has been on the rise in recent years. Last June, Mr Abiy faced the greatest threat yet when gunmen assassinated high-ranking officials including a prominent regional president and the army chief. Mr Abiy seems well aware of the danger he faces, and makes public reference to attempts on his own life.

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For now, as he noted in the Sheger FM interview, he remains in control. "There were many attempts so far, but death didn't want to come to me," he said. "Death shied away from me." AFP

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