Ethiopians are voting in national elections on Monday. It’s a day of reckoning for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as he hopes to boost his legitimacy with the vote.At his first and last campaign rally this week, he said his main goal is to uphold what he called the unity and freedom of the country. The election is taking place against a backdrop of tensions.In 2018 Abiy rode to power on a wave of optimism after 3 decades of oppressive rule dominated by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Forces, a party anchored in the northern region.After taking office Abiy made peace with neighboring Eritrea, bringing an end to a 20 year conflict.That move earned him the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, but it also angered the TPLF forces who neighbor Eritrea. Then last year Abiy sent the army into the northern Tigray region to crush the TPLF. Thousands have been killed and millions displaced. To make matters worse ethnic violence has flared elsewhere. Hundreds have died in clashes on the border between Oromia and Amhara, the country’s two most populous states. Critics accuse Abiy of denying states with different ethnicities more autonomy. It’s led some opposition figures to boycott the poll. Despite violence between government forces and local insurgent groups in several parts of Oromia state, the officials in the Prime Minister’s home village of Beshasha say there’s nothing to worry about.Abiy’s birthplace might guarantee safe polls, but in other parts of Oromia unrest is rampant. Oromo armed groups actively contest the holding of elections, claiming they’re undemocratic and that the current government is illegitimate.The two main opposition parties in Oromia decided to withdraw. Their main leaders are behind bars.Especially in Western Oromia, clashes between the Oromo Liberation Army and federal forces pose a major threat to the elections. Inter-ethnic violence has also left hundreds dead and thousands displaced.As a consequence, several constituencies will not be able to vote on June 21st. The international community has warned of electoral violence.To reduce the risks, the European Union held trainings such as this one to provide tools for peacebuilding – targeting women, youth groups and traditional leaders.Through the vote, Abiy Ahmed seeks to establish his political legitimacy. But the prime minister is facing various challenges, including the conflict in Tigray, for which he is facing mounting pressure, at home and abroad.
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