Perhaps most unusual of all, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has welcomed political differences of opinion — almost unheard of in a country where dissidents have often been imprisoned.

By Somini Sengupta (The New York Times) |

ADDIS ABABA—They call themselves a book club. Usually they meet one Saturday a month, men and women mostly in their 20s and 30s, to discuss a literary classic.

Today is unusual. Today, they have decided to discuss the story of their country. Its protagonist: their prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, whose ascension to the top post in late March has pulled Ethiopia back from the brink of a political implosion.

At 41, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is one of the youngest leaders in all of Africa, itself the continent with world’s youngest population. And he is shaking up some of the old ways of doing things.

Since taking office, Mr. Abiy has held town hall meetings around the country and listened to what people had to say. He has apologized for the killings of protesters by government forces and called for unity among the country’s many ethnic groups.

Perhaps most unusual of all, he has welcomed political differences of opinion — almost unheard of in a country where dissidents have often been imprisoned. On Friday, his office said on Twitter that it would no longer block 264 websites, blogs and television stations, many of them pro-opposition.

“He feels our pain,” said one member of the book club, a university lecturer named Mekonnen Mengesha, 33. “Because he’s our contemporary. We have a generation gap with the old leaders.”

“It’s refreshing,” said Makda Getachew, 31, a public policy expert.

Not everyone is cheering the changes. On Saturday, someone tossed a grenade into a rally for Mr. Abiy in Addis Ababa, injuring several people, according to officials. A spokesman said the prime minister was “safe.”

Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous country after Nigeria. And even for Africa, it is astonishingly young. The median age of its 100 million people is 18.

Continue reading this story at The New York Times
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