For the past year, workers have been busy transforming a disused plot of land down the hill from Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office into a park showcasing his political vision.
The 48-hectare Friendship Square is rich in symbolism promoting unity: A fountain syncs with the patriotic hit song “Ethiopia” and an elevated speaker’s platform is flanked by 76 araucaria trees — one for each ethnic group represented in the upper house of parliament.
Yet one year after Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize, there are mounting worries this unity message is ringing hollow.
Grisly inter-ethnic violence persists, especially in Abiy’s home Oromia region.
Police and soldiers are increasingly resorting to lethal force against demonstrators.
And several opposition leaders have been locked up on terrorism charges, casting doubt on whether landmark elections expected next year will represent a true break with Ethiopia’s authoritarian past.