Ethiopia's prime minister Abiy Ahmed. Picture: REUTERS/ TIKSA NEGERI
Ethiopia's prime minister Abiy Ahmed. Picture: REUTERS/ TIKSA NEGERI

Ethiopia has "no option" but to open up its politics for multiparty democracy in order to secure lasting progress, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Sunday.

Ahmed spoke in the capital of Addis Ababa while meeting nearly 50 political parties, including four from overseas, "who demanded reform to include election laws," Fitsum Arega, the prime minister’s chief of staff, said on Twitter.

"Given our current politics, there is no option except pursuing a multiparty democracy supported by strong institutions that respect human rights and rule of law," Abiy said. "This will allow us to mediate our differences peacefully and to ensure lasting progress." Abiy took office in April, and faces the task of bringing an end to several years of sporadic regional protests over alleged land grabs and political neglect that threaten to derail the boom in Ethiopia’s state-planned economy.

While the party leaders appreciated reforms such as freeing political prisoners and reconciliation both at home and regionally, they demanded improvements to election laws and institutions, Fitsum said on Twitter.

Ethiopia’s ruling party has also announced plans to open up state monopolies, including sugar, airlines and telecommunications, to foreign investors, while opposition political groups have begun to be tolerated and thousands of detainees released.