Leaders at odds as Ethiopia’s president pledges navy to unite the Middle East

(Todor Negic/AP)

On a bitter day in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, President Abiy Ahmed was raising spade-sized U.S. dollars before one of the country’s top military commanders pledged an Ethiopian Red Sea fleet capable of uniting the Horn of Africa and Middle East, reports BBC.

Addis Ababa has been besieged for days by demonstrators angry about a crackdown on a LGBT activist — sparking talk of unrest dating back to his election in April. Within hours of Abiy’s visit Sunday, which coincided with the Red Sea Fleet announcement, more than a million protesters flooded the streets. On Monday hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police again, and the demonstration had tapered off to a small crowd with National Security Service keeping reporters far away, reports The Guardian.

Abiy, who is seeking to move the country away from its authoritarian image, promised a thorough overhaul of Ethiopia’s political system that includes relinquishing a majority of parliament’s seats to opposition parties, and a review of the country’s 35-year war with Eritrea.

Nonetheless, while Abiy has been preaching to the converted, Olympic gold medalist Lilesa Akinwole won bronze for the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2018 IAAF world championships, and followed Abiy’s tour in one of the country’s biggest cities on the Red Sea coast to see Ethiopia’s military operations on the Somali River’s banks.

Akinwole said the military has bolstered its presence across a wide swath of the country as protests continue.

“The military presence is very noticeable now,” he told the Associated Press in London. “When we arrive at a place, we are looking for the military, especially soldiers, because they are always present everywhere.”

While the women were cheering on Abiy, the men were together in the air, the Ethiopian newspaper Addis Standard reported.

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