News / Africa

Ethiopia’s New Prime Minister and the Challenges Ahead

by Sophia Gebrehiwot

Dr.Solomon Deresso AyeleDr.Solomon Deresso Ayele
Dr.Solomon Deresso Ayele
Dr.Solomon Deresso Ayele
WASHINGTON D.C.---------Solomon Ayele Dersso Phd, is a senior researcher with Peace and Security Council Report Program at the Addis Ababa Office of the Institute for Security Studies. He has published articles on the ongoing political situation in Ethiopia.

Regarding the newly appointed Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn, Solomon says, it did not come as a surprise. However, to concerns raised by observers that the new Prime Minister might not hold real authority, Solomon asserts that the Prime Minister ship is the highest executive authority in the country, and the person holding the position cannot be said not to have authority, because he/she has the power inherent in the job.

Solomon draws a parallel between former Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi and Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn.  “Daniel Arap Moi like Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister came from a small ethnic community. When Jommo Kenyatta passed away and Mr.Moi assumed the presidency, he was met with resistance from the group that at that time was dominating the power base in Kenya."

Despite the initial resistance from ‘real power holders’, Mr Moi managed to very successfully make himself an influential president and ruler of Kenya,” states Solomon.
When critics point to the fact that the Prime Minister is a political novice and might be overshadowed by his subordinates with longer experience in politics Solomon says, “he is not new to politics."

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has been around, particularly in the seat of power in Addis Ababa following the 2005 elections as well as serving as an advisor to the late Prime Minister. After the 2010 election he was appointed deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.”

However Solomon admits that the new Prime Minister might have limited experience when compared to those who have been in power for the past two decades in the ruling party. Although that could be construed as a disadvantage, the Prime Minister, according to Solomon, has to reconcile with the situation. Ultimately, Solomon says, “what matters is the team of people the prime minister is going to surround himself with. If he has a very good team of people to provide him with the necessary historical memory and insights on various aspects of leading the country, then surely he can compensate for the shorter period of political experience and be able to exert and assert his full authority.” 

Drawing a parallel with Meles Zenawi, Solomon states, “we need to understand how long it took for the late Prime Minister to become as influential as he was at the time of his death.  It took quite a lot of time in terms of asserting his full authority within the government as well as in the country as a whole”.

According to Solomon the rise to power of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is a continuation rather than a start of the succession plan by the EPRDF. It is a process of replacing the old guard with, ‘the new generation leadership’. According to Solomon the fact that Hailemariam is now appointed as Prime Minister after Meles Zenawi, is surely an indication of the commitment by the EPRDF to continue the succession plan that began earlier. On the issue of whether or not we will see a complete withdrawal of the old guards by 2015, Solomon says it could be a phased process.” 
In his acceptance speech the newly appointed Prime Minister expressed his willingness to work with various sectors of society including the opposition. According to Solomon the Prime Minister’s speech emphasized more continuity rather than change. He seems reluctant to reverse the direction set by the late Prime Minster. However, Solomon points out that the Prime Minister needs to be flexible and needs to adjust to emerging circumstances as events warrant.

Solomon also highlighted a number of areas that require a very serious consideration. “The new leadership should show a high level of willingness to listen to the concerns of all sectors of society,” Solomon asserts.   He further noted the need to abrogate laws that proved to be inimical  to individual freedoms and liberties adopted since 2005 , as well as tackle inflation to  address the economic challenges that some sectors of the Ethiopian society is facing .

Solomon also talked about the needed interventions in the area of major development projects. For a successful implementation of this development projects he says it is important to engage sections of the society that are directly affected by the projects. In this effort he points out mobilizing the support of sectors outside the power base is paramount. 

On the challenges of building a multi- party democracy with some opposition parties not committed to working together, Solomon said, “strengthening the legal, political and social environment of the country will allow different political ideologies and political movements to triumph in the society. Working together is always good for the society and the country but is not necessarily a sign that multi-party democracy does not work.” He further states that freedom of association and expression are strongly entrenched  in the constitution but they are not fullfilled in practice.   

To the concerns raised by some that due to his rather strict religious orientation that the Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn  might be too soft to resolve pending issues such as the Ethio-Eritrean question and EPRDF's relation with opposition parties Solomon said,“the Prime Minister’s religious conviction will not have so much influence on his exercise of power rather the central background for his action seems to be the conviction surrounding the ideological orientation of his political party.”

Liston to Dr Solomon Ayele interview with Sophia Gebrehiwot
Liston to Dr Solomon Ayele interview with Sophia Gebrehiwoti
|| 0:00:00

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Awot from: Addis Ababa
October 09, 2012 3:32 PM
It is a good analysis but the replacement of old guard by the new generation is not working in Tigray and TPLF the region that fought the major war for fredom is not free yet. Still the new TPLF leader Abay Woldu is one of the OLD guard.

by: Yaya from: US
October 09, 2012 8:18 AM
Strict religious orientation ...... might be too soft ???? Seriously???
Had he been a Muslim, wow! let alone being strict, even if he just had a Muslim name, it would have been a chaos of blames and quarrels claiming "He is a Muslim, he could be fair to Muslims, he might might support them..." People are deliberately blinded when it comes to non-Muslims, well he's 'Strict and soft' Laughable!

by: BG from: NY
October 08, 2012 5:13 PM
Solomon (Dr.) intersting obserbation real both have to see their positive role in the development of democratic env;t in this country. I do share gov.t should do farther on peaceful oppositions and privete or opposition medias. the other points regarding to New PM, which you argude is very reasonable, so i appericaite.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs