Ethiopia’s Ahmed defends his reform decisions

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The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, has appeared before the Ethiopian parliament to defend some of the political and economic decisions that he’s made during the past two months since assuming power. He says it’s time for a change in the country and that sacrifices must be made.

Immediately after assuming power in April this year, Ahmed announced decisions to shake the social economic and political status quo that has existed in the country for 27 years. And the parliament is demanding explanation.

Member of parliament, Meseret Jemenaneh says, “We heard your decision that Ethiopia will reach out to Eritrea for peace by agreeing to solve their border conflict. You decided very fast, I thought this should be decided by the people? Because Ethiopians sacrificed lives in the 2000 war with Eritrea.”

But Prime Minister reminded the parliament that the decision for border dispute with Eritrea had already been resolved by the 2002 Algiers Agreement signed by the two countries – it just hasn’t been implemented over the past 18 years.

“If we need peace it will cost us. We can’t get peace freely when the boundary commission decided we got some areas and Eritrea some. Like us they also have demands. And I expect the Eritrean people and government to fulfil their part, otherwise the problem will continue. But we the executive are ready for negotiations and we accept the decision. We are only waiting for the parliament.”

He went ahead to explain that the country couldn’t continue operating under business monopolies. He defended his decision to sell out stakes in the country’s only telecommunication firm, Ethiotelecom.

5% of it will be sold to as many Ethiopians as possible, while 40% will be tendered out to an international company with experience in telecommunication.

“Today between 1000 and 2000 people are asking for new simcards daily. What we are doing with the reforms is to allow the Ethiotelecom to satisfy the demand of the people. Ethiotelecom cannot ask for another loan before repaying what they owe the government. Somalia has 4 telecomm companies with 40 million people, Ethiopia has 100 million people and only One telecom company. We cannot continue like this.”

The parliament also wanted to know why he has decided to sell shares in the national carrier Ethiopian airlines. The prime minister says, selling out will help attract more, much needed foreign currency by improving efficiency.

“Ethiopian airlines already owns almost half of the shares in airlines in Malawi, Guinea, Chad and Zambia, we are big but we have to change. For example from passenger services of receiving luggage to arrival this sector is only run by Ethiopian airlines. Even selling tickets too! It is not done like this anywhere in the world. We have to open up for efficiency.”

With ongoing corruption scandals in the country the prime minister says that opening up more freedom of expression and press freedom will help the government identify corrupt people.

Premier Ahmed has also admitted that the government has used torture and persecution under its anti terrorism law, and stated that this has to stop.

The prime minister has condemned the ongoing fighting especially in the Southern regions of the country . he says without peace the country cannot achieve the political , economic and social changes that it is gearing towards.