ADDIS ABABA, May 29 (Xinhua) -- Reforms instituted by Ethiopia's new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed could lead to national consensus and long-term stability of Africa's fastest growing economy, an Ethiopian expert said on Tuesday.
Ahmed's call for open dialogue with local and exiled opposition groups will help lessen political tensions in Ethiopia. Abebe Aynete, senior researcher at Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies (EFRSS), a local think thank, told Xinhua.
The country's two most populous regional states, Amhara and Oromia, accounting for about 65 percent Ethiopia's estimated 100 million residents, have witnessed persistent protests since 2016, over allegations of political and economic marginalization.
Since the swearing-in of Ahmed on April 2, several thousand prisoners, including prominent opposition figures and activists, have been released to facilitate national consensus and reconciliation.
"I hope the PM's promise to open up Ethiopia's political space will persuade those currently in the bush and those opposing the government locally or abroad to be constructive players in Ethiopia's ongoing rapid economic development," Aynete said.
"The return of exiled opposition group Oromo Democratic Front (ODF), and a desire by other exiled groups to return to Ethiopia to conduct legal and peaceful political activities is positive for the country," he said.
Recent suggestions by the ruling coalition, Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), to open up Ethiopia's political space for opposing sides is a sign that it's willing to concede seats in the upcoming 2020 general elections, Aynete said.
EPRDF and allied parties now control all the 547 seats in parliament and are overwhelmingly dominant in regional and local government structures.
Aynete acknowledged that there are legal obstacles that need to be cleared if all Ethiopian opposition groups are to be included in Ahmed's call for national dialogue and reconciliation.
"Outlawed groups like OLF and Ginbot 7 need to be taken from the terror list by the Ethiopian parliament, but first these groups have to renounce armed struggle and accept the Ethiopian constitution," he said.
Nevertheless, Aynete is cautiously optimistic that the prime minister's call for dialogue with all opposition groups can lead to the creation of a national consensus and stability in east Africa's largest economy.
"The Ethiopian PM has made promises to have dialogue with all local and exiled opposition groups," he said. "All opposing groups in Ethiopia have the opportunity to be part of Ethiopia's transformation by accepting the call."