Addis Ababa — It is the compound from which Emperor Menelik II conquered swathes of territory; where Haile Selassie passed judgment until he was toppled by a Marxist revolt in 1974; and from which Meles Zenawi, strongman prime minister until his death in 2012, plotted an Asian-style economic miracle on the Nile. Surveying the same 40ha plot in the centre of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, Abiy Ahmed, the most talked-about leader in Africa, sets out his grand plans for transforming Ethiopia. In an act of political theatre, he leads the FT on a tour of the prime ministerial grounds, from Menelik’s cathedral-sized banqueting hall to the cages where the emperor kept lions and the dungeon where he had disloyal generals and ministers tortured on the rack. In Abiy’s first one-on-one interview with the international media since he was catapulted to the premiership last April, he alternates between homespun prophet, hard man and visionary leader. He mixes humour with a tactile arm-grab wort...

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