- Berhanu Nega, who had been exiled for many years because of his critical views of the regime, finally returned to Ethiopia, a signal of Abiy Ahmed’s sweeping democratic reforms.
Ever since Abiy Ahmed took over as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, he has been making valiant efforts to cultivate a culture of democracy in the country, a feature that had been bereft from the country for a long time. He has been opening up the space for the voices that were once shut down to speak again. But this is not to say all is now rosy in Ethiopia.
Rebel leader Berhanu Nega, who had been exiled from Ethiopia for many years, finally returned to the country in an environment favourable towards democracy. He faced a death penalty at home because of how he coordinated attacks on Ethiopian soldiers from his base in Eritrea. This is now different from what he was doing a year ago, as he returned to Ethiopia in September, welcomed by tens of thousands of supporters. Berhanu had been fiercely critical of the Ethiopian government and believed the violence was the appropriate way to challenge the regime.
This alone speaks volumes about the reforms in Ethiopia being instituted at the initiative of Abiy Ahmed. Since Ahmed took office in April, dozens of political dissidents, former rebels, and secessionist leaders have returned home, and Berhanu is just one of the high profile figures among these. What Ahmed has been doing – opening up the space for these former “enemies of the state” – is creating a perception that Ethiopia is on the path to finally embrace democracy. However, the journey will not be smooth and there is a long way to go.