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Ethiopian soldiers protesting over pay meet with PM

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopian soldiers protesting over pay met with the prime minister on Wednesday after their appearance in the capital caused security concerns, with internet services cut off for hours.

“They raised issues related to their living conditions, low pay and a dismal benefits package and demanded to meet the prime minister,” commissioner of the Federal Police Commission, Zeynu Jemal, told The Associated Press.

“(Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed) told them the way they presented their grievances was not correct but anyway heard their issues. At last, he ordered all of them to do 10 push-ups and then invited them dinner. That’s it.”

Chief of staff Fitsum Arega, tweeting photos of the meeting, said the prime minister promised to “meet properly in the near future to positively consider their demands.”

Rebellious soldiers are a rare sight in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country.

Some of the dozens of soldiers in uniforms and red berets standing outside Abiy’s office refused to comment. Others, heavily armed, were seen elsewhere in Addis Ababa. They had been returning through the capital to their base in southern Ethiopia.

Abiy announced sweeping political and economic reforms after taking office in April. The new government now faces the challenge of opening up political space while keeping tensions among some of the country’s scores of ethnic groups in check.

Ethiopia’s army is one of the five largest in Africa, deputy government spokesman Kassahun Goffe said earlier Wednesday. The country is a key regional security ally for the United States and others in the restive Horn of Africa region.

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