ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Ethiopia's new prime minister is making a rare outreach to opposition parties, calling on them to prepare for "peaceful dialogue and negotiations" in an effort to broaden the political space.
Abiy Ahmed spoke Thursday evening as he hosted opposition figures, civic group members and religious leaders in the capital, Addis Ababa. Among the guests were some opposition figures recently released from detention, including Bekele Gerba and Merara Gudina.
"I urge you to serve as alternative idea generators for our country," the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate quoted the prime minister as saying.
The outspoken new leader assumed power early this month amid widespread hopes that he would bring an end to months of the most severe anti-government protests in a quarter-century. Hundreds of people were killed in the demonstrations that began in late 2015. Ethiopia is still under a state of emergency but the level of violence has dropped since Abiy took office.
On Wednesday, the prime minister visited the restive town of Ambo in the Oromia region. The 42-year-old, the first Oromo politician to become prime minister since the ruling party came to power in 1991, was met by cheerful crowds who danced and displayed his portrait.
In a speech during his visit, he highlighted the importance of resolving differences through dialogue.
The months of unrest disrupted business, education and transport in Africa's second most populous country and one of the continent's fastest-growing economies.