Timeline: Ethiopia’s change of political leadership

This is a record of significant events that have been unfolding in Ethiopia since mid February 2018 when the then Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegne resigned. His resignation and the rise of Abiy Ahmed to the Prime Ministership brought about some changes that took many Ethiopians by surprise.

Please note that there is no commentary on this page about any of the events, nor is there praise or criticism of anything or anyone - just a record of the facts for easy reference.

Background

Ethiopia’s ruling party EPRDF is a coalition of four political parties. The parties are the Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization (OPDO), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM) and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

Largely dominated by TPLF, the ruling party gained power in 1991 following the downfall of the Derg military regime.

In February 2018, following years of widespread and consistently violent protests across Ethiopia, the then Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegne resigned his post both as Chair of EPRDF and Prime Minister.

Nearly two months later, following a complex political manoeuvre, the Chairman of the Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization Abiy Ahmed (PhD) was elected Chair of the ruling EPRDF party and Prime Minister of Ethiopia. The election was conducted by way of a secret ballot in the EPRDF Council which has 180 members comprised of 45 delegates from the four parties that make up the ruling coalition.

15 February 2018 Hailemariam Desalegn resigned as Chair of the EPRDF and Prime Minister.
27 March 2018 The EPRDF Council elected Chairman of the Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization Abiy Ahmed as Chair of the ruling EPRDF party.
02 April 2018 Abiy Ahmed was confirmed and sworn in as Prime Minister of Ethiopia. In a clear departure from the ways his predecessors ran Ethiopia, the new PM gave a message of unity referring to Ethiopians as one people in his maiden speech delivered in the chamber of the Ethiopian Parliament.
07 April 2018 On a mission to find reconciliation between the Oromia and Somali regions, Abiy Ahmed travelled to Jijiga, the capital of the Somali region, where clashes had displaced nearly a million people.
11 April 2018  Abiy Ahmed visited the city of Ambo, 125KM west of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. Ambo was often described as the epicentre of the three year long anti government protests that eventually led to Hailemariam Desalegne’s resignation.
13 April 2018 

Continuing his tour of key regions across Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed arrived in Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray region.  Known to be multilingual, the PM addressed the audience attending his visit in the local language of Tigrigna.

19 April 2018 Abiy Ahmed unveiled his new cabinet. On the same day the Parliament also elected Muferait Kemil as Speaker of the Parliament.
20 April 2018  Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrived in the city of Gondar in northern Ethiopia. The PM addressed tens of thousands of residents of Gonder who were gathered to hear from him at the Gondar Stadium. He also held a meeting with a delegation representing the Wolqayt region and gave them assurances that their grievances would be responded to properly, timely and in accordance with what the Constitution says.
06 May 2018 The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and Spokesperson Fitsum Arega started posting tweets on behalf of the Prime Minister from his own account. Designed to keep the public up to date on the PM’s activities, the tweets gained significant attention and engagement in an instant.
29 May 2018 The Secretary-General of Ginbot 7 Andargachew Tsege was released from jail following the Government’s announcement that it had pardoned hundreds of political prisoners. Ginbot 7 is an opposition political party that was labeled a terrorist organisation by the EPRDF Government and Andargachew Tsege was abducted by Ethiopian security forces while in transit in Yemen's Sana'a International Airport and was held in an unknown location in Ethiopia since June 2014.
31 May 2018 Abiy Ahmed met with Andargachew Tsgie in his office. A photo tweeted by the PM’s Chief of Staff showed the PM and Andargatchew Tsgie smiling and shaking hands. The tweet said: “Andargatchew Tsgie met HE PM Dr Abiy Ahmed today to express his gratitude for the government’s decision to grant him pardon”.
05 June 2018 Abiy Ahmed’s EPRDF Government announced that it reached a decision to fully accept the 2003 verdict of the Ethiopian-Eritrean Boundary Commission which ruled the disputed territory of Badme was Eritrean. Despite Ethiopia and Eritrea agreeing that the Boundary Commission’s ruling would be final and binding, the then Prime Minister Meles Zenawi backtracked saying he only accepted the ruling in principle.
05 June 2018 The State of Emergency that came into effect in February 2018 was lifted. The decision followed a resolution by Abiy Ahmed's Cabinet that assessed the security situation in the country. The PM’s spokesperson Fitsum Arega tweeted that the Council of Ministers noted that law and order had been restored and it had approved a draft legislation to lift the State of Emergency. On its first sitting since the Cabinate's decision, the Federal Parliament passed the legislation ending the State of Emergency.
16 June 2018 In a major break with its broadcast tradition under EPRDF, the state television started airing programs of national significance, and particularly of music that glorify Ethiopia. The television station’s news bulletins also started to report on various human rights violations including torture that particularly took place in prisons around the country which subsequently led to the dismissal of prison officials.
18 June 2018 Abiy Ahmed admitted that under previous administrations, EPRDF’s security forces tortured and committed acts of terrorism against the people of Ethiopia. The PM made the admission while responding to a question from a Member of Parliament that challenged the constitutionality and legality of some of his government's decisions, particularly to release political prisoners accused of terrorism. He said terrorism was not just an act of trying to forcefully overthrow a government, but it also included EPRDF’s unconstitutional use of force to stay in power, making clear that the constitution didn’t sanction torture.
23 June 2018 Tens of thousands of people converged on Addis Ababa’s Meskel Square in a rally organised to show support for the new Prime Minister and his reforms. The rally saw large placards that condemned the previous administration and its actions while many wore t-shirts bearing photos of the new PM. Many residents of the city turned up waving and wearing the Ethiopian flag without EPRDF’s emblem chanting pro Abiy Ahmed slogans.
23 June 2018 Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed survived an assassination attempt just moments after he addressed attendees of a rally organised in his support at Meskel Square. An explosion struck not very far from the stage where the PM stood killing one person on the spot and wounding up to a hundred. A second person died of his injuries days later. Six suspects were under investigation for involvement in the attack including the Deputy Commissioner of Addis Ababa Police. In an address broadcast afterwards on state television, the PM said to resort to killing innocent civilians was a sign of weakness and defeat. Later in the afternoon he was shown on state television visiting the wounded in hospital and a few days later, he was also shown giving blood to help the wounded.
26 June 2018 A high-level Eritrean delegation led by Foreign Minister Osman Saleh arrived in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for talks on ending the decades-long conflict between the two countries. The delegation, which included senior advisor to Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, Yemane Gebreab, was received by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at Bole International Airport. This was the first time in more than two decades that a top-level delegation from Asmara visited Ethiopia.
28 June 2018 Abiy Ahmed’s Government introduced legislation to Parliament that would rescind previous EPRDF legislation that categorised a number of Ethiopian opposition political parties as terrorist groups. These political parties include the Oromo Liberation Front or OLF, the Ogaden National Liberation Front or ONLF and Ginbot 7 Patriotic Front and they all operated outside of Ethiopia. The Government said the decision to lift the terrorist status of these organisations would encourage them to use peaceful political means to achieve their objectives. The legislation would also allow the Government to grant amnesty to individuals and groups either under investigation or convicted of treason and similar offences.  
28 June 2018 Abiy Ahmed arrived in the Afar Region and met with local residents.  
01 July 2018 A massive rally was held in the city of Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara Region, in support of the new Prime Minister and his government’s reforms. Addressed by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen and held at Bahir Dar stadium, the rally was adorned with a 500-meter long Ethiopian flag not bearing EPRDF’s emblem. The speeches of Deputy PM Demeke Mekonnen and Gedu Andargachew, who is President of the Amhara Region, drew exuberant cheers from the crowd. The rally was broadcast live on Ethiopia’s State television in its entirety.  
04 July 2018 Abiy Ahmed announced that he had meetings with the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council and the Ethiopian Muslim Solutions Committee with the purpose finding a solution to the problems that plagued the Ethiopian Muslim communities. The PM said following his efforts, the two parties had agreed to resolve their issues peacefully and in accordance with Islamic teachings.
05 July Abiy Ahmed arrived in Djibouti for an official visit.  
08 July 2018 In a landmark visit, Abiy Ahmed landed in the Eritrean capital Asmara for a bilateral summit aimed at repairing relations between the two countries. Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and a number of senior government officials greeted Abiy Ahmed at the airport while crowds of Eritreans took to the streets to express their approval of the measures the two countries were taking to normalize relations after almost two decades of hostilities.
10 July 2018 Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed signed a peace agreement with Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki officially ending the war between the two countries.  The historic agreement would see the opening of embassies, development of the Port of Assab for use by Ethiopia and the resumption of flights between the two countries.  
14 July 2018 Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki arrived in Ethiopia for a three-day state visit. Isaias and his delegation visited an industrial park in the southern Ethiopian town of Hawassa on his first day. He also gave a brief speech in Amharic at a ceremony held in his honour at Addis Ababa’s Millennium Hall.  
16 July 2018 Eritrea reopened its Embassy in AddisAbaba at a ceremony observed by Isaias Afwerki and Abiy Ahmed. The Eritrean embassy had been shut for almost 20 years.  
18 July 2018 Ethiopian Airlines resumed flights to Eritrea. Two Ethiopian Airlines planes landed in the Eritrean capital Asmara - one carried dignitaries and business leaders set to meet with Eritrean officials while the second aircraft had people flying to reunite with family members after years of separation.  
18 July 2018 The Office of the Prime Minister announced that it had set up what it called the Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund and made public the the bank account details for the fund which Ethiopians in the diaspora can use to start making financial contributions towards projects that would make a difference in the country’s efforts to fight poverty. This followed the PM’s call on 7 July for the establishment of an independently managed Diaspora Trust Fund.  
23 July 2018 In an address to academics from universities across Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed announced that his Government would reinstate the 42 academics expelled from Addis Ababa University in 1993 - two years after EPRDF came to power. The expulsion was politically motivated and stripped the university community of its academic freedom.  
26 July 2018 The manager of a hydroelectric power plant being built along the Nile River was found dead in the capital Addis Ababa. Engineer Simegnew Bekele was found shot dead in a Toyota Land Cruiser which had been parked near a busy road at Meskel Square.
27 July 2018 Following the Prime Minister’s efforts to facilitate the repatriation of the exiled Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and its Patriarch Abune Merkorios, an announcement was made that the Synod and the Patriarch would return to Ethiopia ending 27 years of division and feud that plagued the Church and its followers. The announcement was made in Washington D.C. where the Prime Minister met with Abune Merkorios and senior members of the exiled Synod.
28 July In a 5 day overseas tour the Government called: “Let’s break the wall and build a bridge”, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed embarked on a campaign of meeting Ethiopian communities in Washington D.C., Los Angeles and Minnesota. Joined by the First Lady, his Foreign Minister, Communications Minister and President of the Oromia Region, the PM addressed crowds of Ethiopians in the three cities and took questions in town hall style sessions. In his opening address to those who gathered to hear from him in Washington D.C., the PM invited prominent activist Tamagne Beyene to the stage where the two embraced each other in a rare effort to forge better relations between the Ethiopian Government and political activists in the diaspora. Tamagne Beyene was one of many political activists the PM met during his tour including Professor Alemayehu Gebremariam, Jawar Mohammed, Abebe Gelaw, Abebe Belew, Alemtsehai Wedajo and staff from the satellite television station ESAT.
01 August 2018 The reinstatement of the exiled Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and its 4th Patriarch Abune Merkorios was confirmed as the Patriarch and senior members of the exiled Synod arrived back in Ethiopia. Accepting the Prime Minister’s invitation, the Patriarch and senior members of the exiled Synod flew to Ethiopia on the aircraft carrying the PM and other senior government officials.
04 August 2018 Former Prime Minister Tamirat Layne, who secretly orchestrated and authorised the illegal removal of Ethiopia’s 4th Patriarch, visited the recently reinstated Abune Merkorios in his Patriarchate in Addis Ababa to formally apologise and seek the forgiveness of His Holiness. The Patriarch accepted Tamirat Layne’s apology and said he had forgiven him.
04 August 2018 President of the Ethiopian Somali regional state was arrested by members of the Ethiopian Federal Defense Force following his unwillingness and refusal to work with the Federal Government to stop a situation in which Churches were burnet, businesses looted and many residents were killed violently. A local militia-type force armed by the President, Abdi Illey, was said to have been committing crimes against non-Somali residents for months, which caused the displacement of thousands of people and the destruction of property.
18 August 2018 The Tigrai Regional Government conformed that it detained a number of Federal Defence personnel upon their arrival at Mekelle airport before deporting them back to the capital Addis Ababa. A spokesperson for the Regional Government said the Tigrai Government wasn’t told about why the Federal Defence personnel were sent to their region and that they couldn’t let them in. The deportation followed 18 days of detainment at the airport and the Federal and Regional Governments were negotiating during that time. There has been no comment on the issue from the Federal Government. Tigrai is a stronghold of the TPLF party.  
07 September 2018 Police in Addis Ababa said that according to their investigation of the death of Engineer Simegnew Bekele, who was manager of a hydroelectric power plant being built along the Nile River, he committed suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot.
16 September 2018 A massacre was carried out against residents of Burayou and Ashewa Meda in the outskirts of the capital Addis Ababa resulting in the violent and graphic deaths of scores of people. The suburbs are predominantly inhabited by those of the Oromo tribe and the attacks particularly targeted non-Oromo residents and were carried out by a mob of knife-wielding youths. A lot of the victims reported that the attacks took place in the middle of the night and that their properties were looted and deliberately destroyed. Following the attacks thousands of residents fled their homes and they were given temporary shelters in school compounds in Addis Ababa. The Prime Minister, who was visiting Saudi Arabia at the time, visited some of the victims that took refuge in some of the schools upon his arrival in the country.
24 September 2018 Police in Addis Ababa admitted that members of the police force shot and killed 7 residents of the city during protests that were held in response to the racially-motivated violent killings of innocent civilians in the Burayou area. Police also said that several youth were rounded up and detained in connection to matters unrelated to the current political situation or the protests.
10 October 2018 Several hundred armed soldiers marched unannounced into the Prime Minister’s office in the capital demanding to see the PM saying they wanted to ask for a pay rise. The situation caused alarm, leading to road closures in the area and the internet to be shut off for hours. The solders were allowed to enter the Prime Minister’s office grounds and were filmed taking selfies with him and doing press-ups at the request of the Prime Minister. Talking to local media on the day, the PM said the soldiers wanted a pay rise and that he had a good discussion with them. In subsequent days, it was reported on Ethiopian Television that the soldiers’ actions were unconstitutional and that they had apologised. Less than two weeks later during a parliamentary session, the Prime Minister said that the true motive behind those who orchestrated the events of that day was to stage a coup and derail the path of reform that his government was undertaking. He also added that he used his skills as someone of a military background to defuse the situation.
16 October 2018 In a major reshuffle, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that 50 per cent of his cabinet is comprised of women. In the reshuffle, the PM assigned key portfolio responsibilities including Defence and Transport to female members of the Government.
25 October 2018 Abiy Ahmed’s Government appoints veteran Ethiopian diplomat Ambassador Shalework Zewde as the country’s next President. Executive power in Ethiopia is exercised by the Prime Minister and the role of the President is largely ceremonial. Ambassador Shalework Zewde is the country’s first female President.
25 October 2018 Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrived in Paris as part of a visit to hold bilateral meetings with leaders of France and Germany as well as to meet with Ethiopians living in Europe. The PM first met with President Macron of France where they held a joint press conference – Emmanuel Macron in French and Abiy Ahmed in Amharic. He also met with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin before attending the G20 Investment Summit there. The PM travelled to Frankfurt next, where over 20,000 Ethiopian living across Europe gathered to hear him speak. Following his address to the crowed, the PM took wide-ranging questions from representatives of the different Ethiopians communities in France, Germany, Russia and UK.
01 November 2018 Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that he nominated lawyer Meaza Ashenafi for the position of President of the Federal Supreme Court and the Ethiopian Parliament unanimously endorsed her nomination. Described as one of Ethiopia’s most seasoned lawyers and a prominent women rights activist, Meaza Ashenafi became Ethiopia’s first woman to hold the position. Making the announcement during a parliamentary session, the PM said the very organization that was supposed to ensure justice was served in Ethiopia was unjustly engaged in exchanging justice for money and making life difficult for vulnerable Ethiopians. He also added that he had confidence in the ability of the incoming President of the Supreme Court to clean up the mess and restore Ethiopians’ confidence in the justice system.
05 November 2018 The Government announced the creation of a new media unit within the Office of the Prime Minister, naming Billene Seyoum as its inaugural Press Secretary. Addressing a gathering of journalists at a televised press conference, Billene Seyoum said the main objective of the Prime Minister’s media unit was to provide the public with accurate information in a timely manner. The announcement meant that EPRDF’s Government Communication Affairs Office would cease to exist. It was also announced that Shimelis Abdissa would replace Fitsum Arega as Chief of Staff to the Office of the Prime Minister. Fitsum Arega returned to his previous post as Commissioner of the Ethiopian Investment Commission. The media unit created a new Twitter account for the Office of the Prime Minister to replace Fitsum Arega’s personal account which was used to update followers since Abiy Ahmed came to power in April 2018.  
12 November 2018 In a one-hour-and-25 minutes televised addressed to the nation, Ethiopia’s Attorney General Berhanu Tsegaye announced that senior management members of the state owned Metals and Engineering Corporation have been arrested for alleged corruption. Discussing the extent of the corruption within the corporation, the AG said they had uncovered embezzlement activities worth billions of Ethiopian Birr. The Attorney General also said former leadership members of the Ethiopian National Intelligence and Security Service have also been arrested on alleged violations of human rights. Giving a catalogue of some of the crimes committed, the AG said political prisoners had been subjected to rampant torture, harrowing abuse and some gruesome and inhumane treatment in dungeons across Ethiopia causing deaths, physical and mental disabilities. The AG didn’t reveal the names of those detained saying the investigations were ongoing and they were still trying to locate suspects including some who might have fled the country to avoid capture.
13 November 2018 Ethiopia’s national broadcaster ETV showed live pictures of the moment former CEO of the Metals and Engineering Corporation, General Kinfe Dagnew, was placed under arrest around the border between Ethiopia and Sudan while en route to crossing the border. Hours later, the broadcaster showed live vision of the suspect arriving in Addis Ababa handcuffed in a helicopter and surrounded by armed federal security personnel. General Kinfe Dagnew and all those detained on charges of corruption and human rights abuses appeared at a federal court without delay and within 48 hours of their arrest.
14 November 2018 In a remarkable turnaround for Ethiopia’s national broadcaster ETV, its Facebook Page reached one million likes. ETV’s Facebook Page started taking its daily news bulletins live on Facebook since Hailemariam Desalegn resigned as Prime Minister on 15 February 2018 and has been the main source of information for Ethiopians across the world. The Ethiopian public noticed a sudden and significant shift in ETV’s editorial standards since the start of the new administration which caused a spike in meaningful engagement with its contents.  
19 November 2018 At a press conference held in Mekele, President of the Tigray Regional Government and leader of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front expressed his opposition to measures being taken by Federal authorities to arrest and bring to justice former senior officials in connection with corruption and violations of human rights. Speaking in Tigrigna, Debretsion Gebremichael questioned the Federal Government’s motives, labelling it “political”. Referring to how the former CEO of the Metals and Engineering Corporation General Kinfe Dagnew was arrested, Debretsion said it was unnecessary to handcuff suspects. He also accused the Federal Government of orchestrating a campaign to subdue Tigray and its people and that TPLF would be unwilling to cooperate with the process.  
21 November 2018 A New York based independent and non-governmental organisation working specifically to promote press freedom and defend the rights of journalists around the world said as far as it was concerned, for the first time in 13 years, there were no journalists in jail in Ethiopia. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) closely monitored the worsening situation for Ethiopian journalists over the years and exposed countless violations of their rights including torturing, killing and forcing them into exile. The organisation advocated for some of Ethiopia’s well-known journalists perused by the TPLF-led administration and issued various detailed reports to expose the extent of its crackdown on journalists who were critical of the government.  
22 November 2018 Ex-political prisoner and former judge Birtukan Mideksa was sworn in as Chair of the National Election Board of Ethiopia. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed nominated Birtukan Mideksa during a parliamentary session and the nomination was endorsed and approved by the Parliament through a vote. Birtukan’s appointment came only 15 days after her return to Ethiopia from exile following the demise of TPLF. She was sentenced to life in prison under the former TPLF-led government before her release in 2010. The following year, she was awarded the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship of the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, giving her five months in Washington, D.C. to study the principles of democracy. As of 30 March 2013, Birtukan was a fellow at Harvard University's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.  
25 November 2018 TPLF staged protests across the Tigray region in opposition to the measures being taken by Federal authorities to bring to justice those alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights and organised corruption. Carrying portraits of the late Meles Zenawi, TPLF’s flag and placards denouncing the government’s actions as biased against Tigray, the protestors called for an end to the arrests.  
27 November 2018 Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed held discussions with 81 political parties including those who returned to Ethiopia over the last few months following the government’s invitation to all political parties to return home and participate in a new political process. The discussions focused on reforms that are needed to ensure the upcoming general elections, scheduled for 2020, were free, fair and peaceful. The PM urged the political parties to merge, where possible, so that they become stronger and the electoral process becomes less complicated for the public.  
25 November 2018 TPLF staged protests across the Tigray region in opposition to the measures being taken by Federal authorities to bring to justice those alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights and organised corruption. Carrying portraits of the late Meles Zenawi, TPLF’s flag and placards denouncing the government’s actions as biased against Tigray, the protestors called for an end to the arrests.  
27 November 2018 Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed held discussions with 81 political parties including those who returned to Ethiopia over the last few months following the government’s invitation to all political parties to return home and participate in a new political process. The discussions focused on reforms that are needed to ensure the upcoming general elections, scheduled for 2020, were free, fair and peaceful. The PM urged the political parties to merge, where possible, so that they become stronger and the electoral process becomes less complicated for the public.