In a burst of occasionally heated exchanges, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed confronted ethnic unrest in his nation Monday. To an audience of 5,000 Ethiopians gathered in the capital’s Bole stadium, the 42-year-old said he would apologize for previous abuses. “I want you to know that the people of Ethiopia do not approve of war,” he said.
His goal, he went on, was to restart the country’s long-stalled reform program. “I would like to say from my heart and in my heart that the worst kind of fear for any government is to face the people of Ethiopia,” he said. “Let’s continue this process in a peaceful manner that respects all the laws of the land.”
After praising the “heroic peacemakers,” Mr. Abiy did not mention dissidents who have sought refuge abroad, or the hundreds of demonstrators killed by security forces since his new government came to power.
Ethiopia’s reaction to a 2015 uprising, in which thousands were killed and a government crackdown left scores missing, has been one of extreme fear and suspicion of every word of the new leader. On Monday, the message of calm was met with skepticism.