The Abiy Project

God, Power and War in the New Ethiopia

June 2024 9781911723103 368pp, 16 colour illustrations
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Available as an eBook
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In 2018, Ethiopia and the world were in the throes of ‘Abiymania’, a fervour of popular support for the divided country’s young, charismatic new prime minister. Arriving as if from nowhere, Abiy Ahmed, a Pentecostal Christian, promised democratic salvation and national unity. For his role brokering a historic peace with neighbouring Eritrea, he received the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. Hailed at home as a prophet and abroad as a liberal reformer, Abiy was all things to all men.

But his democratic revolution wasn’t quite what it seemed. Within two years, Ethiopia had lurched into a devastating civil war, threatening state collapse. By 2023, fighting on an apocalyptic scale had killed hundreds of thousands in the northern Tigray region; famine stalked the land; and Ethiopia’s once-promising economy lay in tatters. But Abiy had never looked stronger.

Based on hundreds of interviews with Ethiopians of all persuasions, and extensive reporting across the country, this book traces the fading hope of Ethiopia’s transition, unravelling the paradoxes of an enigmatic world leader. Despite everything, Abiy remains in power, embodying the new Ethiopia in all its contradiction, triumph and tragedy. But his attempt to remould the country in his image almost broke it—and may break it still.


‘Tom Gardner is an exceptional journalist, and this essential book showcases his intelligence, thoughtfulness and considerable writing skills.’ — Fergal Keane, former Africa Editor, BBC News

‘This is the book on Abiy Ahmed, the ambitious and messianic leader of Ethiopia. Gardner assembles the complex pieces in the Ethiopian puzzle, making this essential reading for anyone hoping to understand the causes of the past, present and future conflicts of the Horn of Africa.’ — Jon Lee Anderson, staff writer, The New Yorker

‘The rise, fall and rise of Abiy Ahmed, Nobel Peace Prize winner and prosecutor of one of the world’s bloodiest civil wars, is a compelling and confusing tale of our age with ramifications well beyond Ethiopia. We could wish for no better guide than Tom Gardner, who knows the story inside out and who conveys it in clear, crisp prose and with trenchant analysis.’ — David Pilling, Africa Editor, Financial Times

‘A riveting, detailed autopsy of Ethiopia’s heartbreaking journey to the brink of state collapse in a mere five years. Essential reading—even for a seasoned Ethiopia observer—to fully comprehend the myriad factors that have led to wanton bloodshed and human suffering under the watch of a Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister.’ — Zecharias Zelalem, award-winning journalist and Ethiopian press freedom advocate

‘An outstanding book, which will serve as a foundational text for anyone seeking to understand the complex developments in Ethiopia since the installation of its new prime minister.’ — Christopher Clapham, Professor Emeritus, Centre of African Studies, University of Cambridge

‘This is excellent. The book is not simply an account of the war; it tells of Abiy’s career in all its dimensions and ramifications—political, economic, social, ethnic, religious, diplomatic, all handled superbly.’ — Paul Gifford, Professor Emeritus, SOAS University of London

‘An important book that sheds new light on a complex and controversial chapter of Ethiopia’s recent past. Analysts of Ethiopia and the broader Horn of Africa will read, engage and debate its insights for years to come.’ — Michael Woldemariam, Associate Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland


Tom Gardner moved to Addis Ababa in 2016 as The Economist’s Horn of Africa Correspondent. He covered Ethiopia during its most tumultuous years in decades, travelling to all corners of the country before his expulsion by the Abiy Ahmed government at the height of the Tigray war in 2022. Since 2024 he has been The Economist’s Africa Correspondent based in Nairobi.  

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