Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi faces a tough challenge to convince the outside world that his democratic credentials are intact, particularly after authorising a security crackdown after disputed elections.
Under international pressure to show restraint after security forces gunned down at least 26 people this week, Meles expressed regret at the loss of life, but warned he would take "preventative" measures to curb further unrest.
In his first public comments since Ethiopia's worst bout of violence in four years, Meles told Reuters he remained committed to bringing democracy to the Horn of Africa's dominant power, saying reforms should be speeded up.
"(The elections) are an indication that our democracy is maturing. I believe there's no turning back," he said. "The purpose of struggle has always been to ensure progress and democracy in our country. It is very gratifying to see we are making enormous progress in that regard."
But, with the shooting of students, rounding up of young men and bodies piled up in morgues across the capital Addis Ababa, many Ethiopians fear Meles' strong arm tactics signal a slide back to repression.
Ethiopians say "United we stand with our people!" More pictures.