|Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethipia
Abiy Ahmed Ali, born 15 August 1976, is chairman of both the ruling EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front) and the OPDO (Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization). Abiy is also an elected member of the Ethiopian parliament, and a member of the OPDO and EPRDF executive committees.
Abiy has a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, master's in business administration and PhD in conflict resolution. In 1991 as a teenager, he joined the armed opposition against the Marxist–Leninist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam. He served in Ethiopia's armed forces as an intelligence officer.
Abiy bridged the religious and ethnic divides to build a new alliance between Oromo and the Amhara regions which together make up two thirds of the total population of 100 million Ethiopians.
Ethiopia's ancient name is Abyssinia. Among the first Muslims to arrive in Ethiopia was the first cousin of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) Jafar ibn Abi Taleb, the elder brother of Ali ibn Abi Taleb, who after accepting Islam escaped the persecution of Makkans in 7th century CE. He led a delegation of over 80 Muslim migrants to Habesha (Ethiopia) who were all granted refuge in the African Kingdom by Christian King Nejashi.
About a third of Ethiopia's population is now Muslim with the rest being mostly Christian.
Among the most prominent early Muslims was a slave named Bilal the Abyssinian or Bilal al-Habashi. Prophet Muhammad's close companion Abu Bakr secured Bilal's freedom from his abusive master. Bilal rose to become a close companion of Prophet Muhammad and the first muezzin of Prophet's mosque (Masjid Nabavi) in Madina. Bilal is now among the world's most popular popular Muslim names.
Eritrea was ruled by the Ottomans from 16th to the 19th century. Then it was colonized by Italians. After World War II Eritrea was annexed by Ethiopia. In 1991 the Eritrean People's Liberation Front defeated the Ethiopian government to gain independence. Eritrea's population of about 5 million is equally divided between Christians (Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic and Lutheran protestants) and Muslims. The population of the high plateau (Asmara) is predominantly Christian, whereas that of the lowlands and the coastal region are predominantly Muslim.
The Eritrean People's Liberation Front fought and defeated the Ethiopian military to gain independence in 1991. There was brief period of peace between the two until 1998 when war broke out over disputed territory of Badme.
Conflict between the two neighbors in the Horn of Africa lasted 20 years and claimed 70,000 lives. It was over the territory of Badme which is still held by Ethiopia. Under the peace deal reached Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali of Ethiopia and President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea, Ethiopia accepted Eritrean sovereignty over Badme and agreed to a plan to withdraw from the region.
Currently, landlocked Ethiopia relies on Djibouti ports for trade. Addis Ababa is connected by a 750 kilometer long railway line with the ports in Djibouti. The peace deal opens the way for Ethiopia to gain access to Eritrean Red Sea ports which are much closer to Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has recently made history by electing its first Muslim leader, Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali. Soon after making history, the 41-year-old Prime Minister used his conflict resolution skills to make peace with bitter rival Eritrea. The most important immediate benefit of this deal for landlocked Ethiopia is access to Eritrea's Red Sea ports. Both nations can now focus on developing their economies and reducing poverty to improve the lives of their peoples. Their example should inspire many other developing nations, including India and Pakistan, to reach similar peace deals in the best interest of their peoples.
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