IBTimes UK has spoken to the Ethiopian ambassador to the UK – Dr Hailemichael Afework Aberra – on topics including development, terrorism threat, the state of emergency and the refugee crisis in what is considered one of the most stable countries on the Horn of Africa.

Ethiopia is working hard to lift millions of people out of poverty and promote basic rights, including those of women.

"Gender occupies a very important place in the Sustainable Development Goals that Ethiopia has adopted in its five-year growth plan, now we have reached 35 to 40% of female enrolment in universities," Aberra explained.

"In the countryside, women's rights, including inheritance, are being addressed, it is important that countries support Ethiopia's effort," he continued, adding the country "manages well" aid received by, among others, the UK, the US and the European Union.

More than 13 million people are currently in need of food assistance in Ethiopia – one of the countries worst hit by a drought – and there are fears the number will increase.

The country, one of the fastest growing economies in the continent, is currently housing some 800,000 refugees, becoming the world's fifth-largest refugee hosting nation. Refugees come mainly from South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea.

The country is also building a dam – the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd) – near the Blue Nile River. The project has attracted some criticism from Egypt, which is highly dependent on the Nile, arguing the dam would result in a reduction of water availability in the country, affecting its main source of irrigation.

But Ethiopia denies the claims. "Egypt will get more water, regulated flow throughout the year," Aberra said. "Ethiopa has never, ever, tried to harm its neighbours. Electricity can be shared, for our industries in Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti... All of us can benefit, rise and develop.

"Science has proved the use of the dam – beyond any shadow of doubt – it will be more beneficial to all countries and no country can face any significant negative effect because of the dam," he continued.

Anti-government protests and state of emergency

In 2016, Ethiopia made headlines worldwide after protests resulted in the government implementing a state of emergency in the Oromia and Amhara regions. The leadership was blamed for a violent crackdown against protesters amid allegations at least 500 people had been killed.

The government – which rejected allegations of excessive violence and blamed "outside forces" including from Eritrea and Egypt for the protests – maintains the unrest was an isolated episode in a country that is working to achieve full development through democratic principles.

"When the state of emergency was declared,a few thousands people were arrested, taught, educated for about a month and then set free – a few who committed crimes of arson and will appear in court," Aberra said.

"The country is stable, we have been stable for many centuries, we should not be surprised if sometimes something like this happens, people are working hard to change their lives."

Aberra said the country is investing at least 10bn Birr ($438m; £351,000) to build new infrastructure and promote youth employment.

"Industrial parks and agro-processing industrial parks are being developed in the country, which will create jobs for millions of people. Investment is flowing into the country,"he continued.

However, Human Rights Watch told IBTimes UK: "The government has tried to reframe the protester grievances in terms of jobs and investments. [Worries over a] lack of jobs is not what protesters were expressing on the streets of Oromia and Amhara. If the government wants to ensure it remains a stable destination for investment, it needs to address the real grievances of protesters and not just try to promote investment at the expense of local communities.

"Not only will investment not deter future protests, it could exacerbate them if the government continues to displace local communities without compensation for these projects."