Thursday, August 23, 2012
Hailemariam Desalegn The New Prime Ministe of Of Ethiopia Biography
Power for now passes to interim leader Hailemariam Desalegn, 47, a protege of Meles (pictured) as deputy prime minister, but who is not believed to hold the full reins of control, with the EPRDF expected to elect a new party head in coming weeks.
Mr Hailemariam, 47, served jointly as Mr Meles' deputy and as
foreign minister. He represents the younger generation of
Ethiopian leaders. He was not a rebel fighter in the years
preceding the overthrow of Colonel Mengistu's regime in
He studied water engineering in Finland, and comes from
southern Ethiopia, rather than Tigray, the heartland of
opposition during the war years.
For this reason, the Brussels-based think-tank the International
Crisis Group says Mr Hailemariam might only be "a figurehead
"It is probable the new government will be more fragile, the
security forces more influential and internal stability
endangered," says the ICG.
There remains little doubt that the Tigrayan elite have held
the real power in Ethiopia since their tanks rolled into Addis
Ababa 21 years ago.
A source in Addis Ababa admits it will be harder for Mr
Hailemariam as he will not carry "the same clout" as Mr Meles,
but points out that the new prime minister is highly regarded
and has done a good job in charge of the southern region of
Ethiopia, which has a complicated ethnic mix.
The government has given assurances that Mr Hailemariam
will serve as prime minister until the next national elections in
One person mentioned as a possible successor to Mr Meles
during the illness that preceded his death was his wife, Azeb
Another prospective leader is Berhane Gebre Kristos, a former
ambassador in Europe and America, who also hails from the
northern province of Tigray
“He is placeholder for now,” exiled opposition leader and former mayor of Addis Ababa Berhanu Nega told the BBC.
But Mosley, of Chatham House, said the lack of unrest since June -- while the ailing Meles was absent -- suggests the leadership is capable of controlling a country with a history of military coups.
Roland Marchal, from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).
There are also threats from armed groups in the rebellion-prone country, but while insurgents “may decide to launch an offensive”, Marchal said he sees the strong army as capable of crushing the relatively small and isolated movements.
Acting Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was to be sworn in Thursday following Zenawi’s death on Monday.
Bereket Simon, Ethiopia’s communications minister said the country had “ample time” to swear in the new prime minister. He said Meles will be buried in the capital Addis Ababa
“There is no need to rush into it when the nation is grieving,” Bereket said. “What all the lawmakers and their constituencies and the nation at large want to do at this time is mourn the great loss and honor the late prime minister. We want to first honor this and handle the prime minister’s funeral with due diligence.”
“The succession is already completed, and Hailemariam will take over as a prime minister,” Bereket said.
Bereket also said the death of Abune Paulos, the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, was another reason for the delay. Hailemariam attended and spoke at the Thursday funeral.
Leaders from around the world are expected to attend Meles’s funeral. Meles who ruled Ethiopia for 21 year, died in a Belgium hospital late Monday from an illness that Ethiopian officials have not revealed.
Hailemariam is a relatively young figure on Ethiopia’s political scene and it’s not clear if old guard leaders will allow him to hold onto the prime minister’s seat until 2015 elections.
The future is uncertain as the new regime faces new challenges from inner TPLF power struggles, splits between Tigrayans, the renewed vigor from opposition groups and now, new demands from religious groups, both Muslims and Christians, for freedom from government interference in their religious affairs.
The ruling party holds all but one seat in parliament, making it unlikely that Hailemariam's appointment will be opposed. Mr. Hailemariam has been foreign minister since 2010 but is not well known across the country.
Getachew Reda of the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry has been working closely with Hailemariam for the last few years. Getachew describes Hailemariam Desalegn as a leader with good people skills:
“Hailemariam, is very humble, very friendly," said Getachew. "The sort of person who will not shy away from drawing lessons from everybody, whether subordinate or whatever. He’s the kind of person that tries to create consensus among colleagues.”
A lot of nice words are generally spoken about Hailemariam and Getachew Reda says the new leader can also be tough when he has to be.
“Ethiopians know when to be tough," he said. "Even here as a foreign minister within the government structure there are times that you could be surprised. I can assure you, when it comes right down to it, Hailemariam is like all of them he can be tough.“
The outside world does not know this side of Hailemariam and former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn says if he is going to be in power, he should show his tougher side to the outside world.
“It remains to be seen whether he has that toughness or not," said Shinn. "He is going to have to show Ethiopia and the other countries in the region and international community that he is capable of doing that."
Next to his character, Hailemariam’s ethnic origin is most frequently discussed. Unlike the top of the ruling party, he hails from the South and not from the north of Ethiopia.
Ethiopian political analyst Jawar Mohammed of Columbia University says that the appointment of Hailemariam is mostly symbolic.
“He is not going to have the slightest of power in hand, he is going to be used as a puppet," he noted. "It will make it extremely difficult for the Amhara and the Oromo opposition as well as affiliate parties to criticize him the way they have done because to criticize somebody from the south who was more marginalized then the two bigger ethnic groups would be politically unwise and politically incorrect.”
J. Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council think-tank.
On Aigaforum, a pro-TPLF website
During the last eight years of his premiership, there was
record growth, as high as 11%. It has been driven primarily by
agriculture, including the development of the flower export
Meles had two faces—one for outsiders and one among Ethiopians. To outsiders, like within the African Union, Meles was perceived to be a “uniter” but to Ethiopians, he maintained his power through fomenting division. He was the architect of the Ethiopian system of ethnic federalism, which discouraged a national identity as it accentuated ethnicity; all used as a divide and conquer tactic to maintain control of the majority by a minority group comprised of only 6% of the population. As a result, we all know that the Ethiopia of today is more divided by ethnicity than ever before.
Zenawi disobeyed Antonio Gramsci’s counsel that a leader not only needs to be ambitious, but also needs to differentiate between “lofty” ambition and “petty” ambition. The first locates itself in the lifting of entire social stratum, the latter grabbing power by all means including “scorching everything around” - the burnt villages of Ogaden, Oromia and Gambella included. Zenawi did not embrace a lofty ambition of ethnic neutrality, national harmony, and compassionate political ideals.
What happens to replace the vacuum left by Mr Meles is now the key question. He was a dominant figure in the crisis-ridden Horn of Africa, and a leader for the whole continent. An austere and unsmiling intellectual, he charmed foreign leaders from Bill Clinton to Tony Blair. Despite his Marxist beliefs, he realised that he had to cleave to the Americans, enjoying a close military and intelligence relationship with Washington.
He dressed up his concerns about the rule of Islamists in Somalia, and their support for ethnic Somali separatists in Ethiopia, in the language of the George W Bush's "war on terror", thus enjoying US support for Ethiopia's two invasions of Somalia. At the same time, he brutally crushed all political dissent at home, even jamming Voice of America broadcasts, which he considered seditious, while modelling his economic policies on Chinese state capitalism.
Intellectual rigor was the hallmark of Meles’s many years in office. In his first press conference in Addis Ababa, in reply to a question about his goals, Meles declared that he would consider his government a success if Ethiopians were able to eat three meals a day. All his national policies were framed around the conquest of poverty. Unconvinced by the prescriptions of the I.M.F. and the World Bank, he held back on accepting international loans until his conditions were met and won the admiration of the World Bank’s chief economist at the time, Joseph Stiglitz. Throughout the next two decades, he was uniquely ready to engage in sustained debate with policy makers, diplomats and scholars from around the world.
Many economists criticize Meles for refusing to open up the banking and telecoms sectors and prohibiting private land ownership. Meles’s answer: The time is not yet ripe.
Masterful at dealing with Western governments, he cleverly played off their own security concerns and their rivalry with China and India, to which he also cozied up. There were few African leaders who could berate their donor countries while simultaneously holding out their palm for more aid money, but Meles had the chutzpah to carry it off.
These achievements are even more remarkable given the fact that, according to a Western intelligence officer who knew Meles when he was still a bush rebel and after he came to power, the premier entered office knowing almost nothing about economics.
"When I had my final conversation with him after spending the better part of two months in Ethiopia immediately after he took over in the summer of 1991, I asked Meles what he would like me to do to help him before I left," the man recounted.
"I need to learn something about economics," Meles told him. "Can you get me some basic books?" The intelligence officer then went to an embassy, looked through its library, and picked about a dozen volumes and had them delivered to the new leader.
Meles eventually sat for a long-distance learning degree from Britain's Open University. He came in a remarkable third in his graduating class despite studying while governing one of Africa's most populated countries (friends say he chain-smoked through the exams). Such was Meles's command of economic theory in later years that the former guerrilla, who had in fact dropped out of medical school at 19 to join the rebellion, was often mistakenly believed by some journalists and diplomats to have been studying economics.
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