Ethiopia: The Premier's First Month in Office

Since replacing former Premier Hailemariam Desalegn in a bid to revitalize the ongoing deep reform process in the country, Ethiopia's new Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed has prioritized public speeches and discussions with the general public across the country as instruments of creating national consensus.

In his first month in office, the new Premier has been focusing on maintain peace and regaining trust and popular support for his party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), following the violent protests in some parts of the two largest states of the Federal Republic.

Shortly after assuming office, Abiy has been busy in an effort to rebuild the public's confidence by traveling to different parts of the country. As his first stop, he went to the eastern part of the country to have discussions with the Ethiopian Somali communities. The region was considered as the most important in preventing the Al Shabaab Militants entering into Ethiopia.

In fact, the operation of Ethiopian troops alongside the borders with Somalia halted the threats posed by Al Shabaab. In addition to this, the strong commitment of the Ethiopian Somalis to solidify the federal system closed every opportunity for foreign and local militant groups to gain grounds in the eastern part of country.

Next, the Prime Minister traveled to Ambo, a town in the Oromia State, to have discussion with its residents. The public received him warmly; in a similar fashion to what they did to the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress leaders up on their release from prison.

In a simple calculation, that means he has regained the support of Ambo's residents, a town which has been the epicenter of protests in Oromia.

In his third stop, Abiy went to Mekelle, the Capital of Tigrai State in the Northern tip of the country, and spend a memorable discussion with the People. Being a multilingual Premier, Abiy addressed the crowd with Tigrinya and the frank discussion helped to rebuild the confidence of the public.

During his next trip to Gondar and Bahir Dar, the two cities in the Amhara State, the latter being the seat of the state government, Dr Abiy managed to build the public's trust through his open and honest discussion. He then headed to southern and western Ethiopia, to sit face to face with the peoples of Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples State and Beni-Shangul Gumuz respectively.

Similarly, Dr. Abiy started his first international trip to Djibouti where he discussed bilateral and regional issues with Djiboutian President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, on April 29, 2018.

And today, the Prime Minister is in Sudan. He is expected to discuss with the Sudanese President Omer Hassen Al Basher and Ethiopian Communities in Khartoum.

Noting that the policy that Ethiopia pursues is based on the principle of peace and mutual benefit in the region and outside, Abiy said it will continue to strengthen it so as to stand together with neighboring countries during challenges and successes. Dr. Abiy urged the need to work with neighboring countries for peace and cooperation.

Abiy highlighted the need for peace in order to overcome challenges that the complexity in the region poses and utilize opportunities for better cooperation. "On one hand, that complexity poses challenges as the region has many actors with diverse interests. On the other hand, this same complexity presents us with huge opportunities for cooperation since the area is home to people that are connected by blood, culture, and language".

He underlined the need to seek peace within and outside the country as critical in the journey towards prosperity. Peace is not the absence of conflict; rather it is the active pursuit of finding common grounds to differences. We must seek peace with our borders and outside," he underscored.


Comprehensive abortion care to decline maternal death

Self-induced abortion, or the deliberate termination of pregnancy is one of the most controversial issues in legal discourse. As a legal issue, abortion is usually discussed in light of the principles of criminal law. Depending on circumstances, however, abortion can also be discussed from the standpoint of constitutional law.

In the former case, the issue usually takes the form of criminalizing or decriminalizing the act, while in the latter, the issue becomes whether a pregnant woman has a constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy. The issue thus usually involves the competing arguments in favor of the "right" of the fetus to be brought onto life (i.e. personhood) vis-à-vis the right of the mother to abortion based on her interests and choice.

In May 2005, Ethiopia's new Criminal Code came into effect. The government revised the code to permit abortion for an expanded range of indications. These include: when the pregnancy results from rape or incest; when the health or life of the woman and the fetus are in danger; in cases of fetal abnormalities; for women with physical or mental disabilities; and for minors who are physically or psychologically unprepared to raise a child.

The revised law also notes that poverty and other social factors may be grounds for reducing the criminal penalty for abortion. In addition, the revised code stipulates that the woman's word is all that is needed to justify pregnancy termination in cases of rape and incest.

After enacting one of Africa's most progressive abortion laws in 2005, a year later, the Ethiopian Ministry of Health released guidelines for safe abortion services, making major progress towards implementing revision of the country's abortion law. This comes in the back of the fact that unsafe abortion is one of the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality in Ethiopia. Nearly one third of pregnancy related deaths are caused by the complications of unsafe abortion.

The government in collaboration with partners immediately started rolling out as per the provision of services according to the law by training service providers, building the capacity of health facilities, Health State Minister Dr. Kebede said.

"More women are now accessing comprehensive abortion care services, and the proportion of safe abortion cases shot from zero to 80 per cent. Moreover, the contribution of safe abortion to maternal death decreased from 32 percent in 2005 to less than 10 percent currently."

Dr. Kebede Worku further said that recognizing the huge fall in unsafe abortion, the government has taken courageous position in the historic revision of the penal code in 2005. It was at this time the abortion law was made relatively more liberal than it was before.

According to the state minister, prior to 2005, the abortion law was restrictive and only applicable to save woman's life when she is in grave danger. By contrast, since 2005, the amended penal code expanded the condition in which a woman can access abortion for reasons including rape and incest or if the woman is with mental and physical disability, if it is needed to save woman's life or physical health or if she is not physically or mentally prepared for that.

More recently, the Africa regional conference on abortion, which took place here, commended Ethiopians' effort in reducing unsafe abortion, and in devising and implementing viable policies and strategies.

African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs Dr. Sidiki Kaloko said the continent has shown very firm commitment to include women right in the various continental policy documents. After the adoption of these charters, most African member states have been able to facilitate programs towards the care or the reduction of maternal mortality, and reproductive health as a whole, he added.

The commission continues to play an important role in women sexual and reproductive health, he said. "The issue remains very high following agenda 2063."

This would mean in accordance with Maputo Plan of Action, to support the removal of legal, regulatory and policy barriers limiting women, men and the youth especially adolescence access to sexual and reproductive health, commodities, programs and services, the commissioner stressed.

"Look at the progress here in Ethiopia, thanks to strong collaboration of stakeholders, we were able to come together in early 2000 for law reform and to increase access to safe and legal abortion as well as contraceptive care. Evidences show that it had a profound effect in women health and maternal mortality in Ethiopia. The African Union needs to recognize Ethiopia's experience in maternal health best practice,"IPAS CEO John Hetherington said.

"We have also seen how this evidence has strengthened abortion policy reforms and improve abortion services in a number of African countries. If we have to achieve our goal of eliminating unsafe abortion,we must map the best way froward," he added.

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