News / Africa

Ethiopia's PM Expected to be New AU Chair

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 28, 2012.
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 28, 2012.
African heads of state will choose a new chairperson for the African Union next Sunday.  Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is expected to be elected. Hailemariam has only been in office since September, after long-time leader Meles Zenawi died in August.

Institute for Security Studies senior researcher Solomon Dersso says the Ethiopian leader has shown he is involved in African affairs.

"During that period the major African engagements that we have seen was basically his trip to Somalia, where he attended the inaugurational ceremony of the new president, and his recent trip to Sudan, South Sudan, and also the facilitation that he provided for the signing of the 27 September agreements between Sudan and South Sudan," he said.

Hailemariam, who is an engineer by training and was a dean of the Arba Minch University, joined one of the four parties that make up ruling coalition Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front in the mid-nineties.

He was the vice administrator and later also administrator of the southern regions before moving on to become special adviser to the late prime minister for social affairs.  He became Ethiopia’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister in 2010.

Getachew Redda worked closely with Hailemariam at the Foreign Ministry, but says it is difficult to point out what legacy he left behind.

“I am not sure if two years is long enough for someone to leave a larger visible imprint.  But one thing I know is Hailemariam’s presence here in the foreign ministry for the last two years has had very significant influence on how things are done," said Getachew Redda. "For one thing, he is not the kind of person who wants to create a cult around himself, he is much engaging with everybody.  It is not just about people who are supposedly close to him."

There are some noticeable changes in Ethiopian politics since Prime Minister Hailemariam assumed office.  A collective leadership has been put in place, including the appointment of three deputy prime ministers, instead of one.

A long-time friend of the prime minister and colleague at the university, Seleshi Bekele, says team building has always been part of the Hailemariam leadership style.

"The way I see it, also what they have done, having a few more deputy prime ministers, is really to bring about broad-based type of leadership.  His leadership style is really transformational and at the same time also trusts on team building and team leadership," said Seleshi Bekele.

There have been few developments domestically that can be attributed to the vision and leadership of the new prime minister.  Political scientist at the Addis Ababa University, Demeke Achiso, says Hailemariam just is not that powerful.

“I can not say that he is not exercising any power, of course he is enjoying power, prime ministerial power, but very much reduced as compared to Meles Zenawi.  Before holding any kind of meeting, discussion, or diplomacy, he has to strongly work with the party and then he has to ventilate the voice of the party," said Demeke Achiso.

The African heads of state are expected to elect Hailemariam on January 27, the first day of the African Union summit.  President Yayi Boni of Benin currently holds the position.  The chair rotates between the five regions of the continent and is elected every year.

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by: Behailu
January 22, 2013 1:34 PM
Hailemariam is a modest and efficient person. He has proven that by the positions he has assumed over the last few years. But the TPLF inner circle did not allow him to exercise his full potential.Meles over stretched him between two key positions (Foreign minister and deputy prime minster) so that he could not exercise a full and efficienct power in any of the two. I hope and am sure he will be successful in serving Africa as his predecessor compatriots did.

by: Awot Gidey
January 22, 2013 1:18 PM
Appointing Tigrians does not mean serving Tigrians purpose. The Tigrian people is suffering as any others. It is only a small group of people that are benefiting. You can know these benefitiaries from their irrelevant responses to any criticism against the tyrant regime.

by: Alem
January 21, 2013 10:15 AM
Truth, you still need to tell the viewer which of my statements is wrong. This time try to use facts and please stay away from negative emotions. Are you denying Tedros Adhanom has no training or experience in diplomacy or that he is from Tigray or that there are many capable individuals outside Tigray region to head Ministry of Foreign Affairs? While you are at it please explain why and how $12 billions of aid money was transferred to foreign banks and why there is no investigation to bring the culprits to justice. American people need to know what happened to their money! [By the way, my name is Alem; does that tell you something?]

by: TRUTH
January 21, 2013 7:02 AM
Despite the venomous propaganda of remnants of the dergue regime , who are expected to b envious of the successes of their defeater ,Ethiopia is on the right political ,Economic and social track .

by: Alem
January 20, 2013 5:50 PM
Marthe, Thank you for this very balanced piece of reporting. I know you know by now that ethnic Tigrayans have reserved key positions in the country. Two deputy PM positions were recently created to make it sound balance is the goal when in fact the real purpose was to put Info & Comminications, Finance & Economy, and Electric Power under Debretsion [a Tigrayan]. Foreign Ministry went to another Tigrayan Tedros Adhanom. Tedros' only experience in things foreign was that he had studied in the UK. Not kidding. No training or experience in diplomacy. There are many much better qualified individuals outside Tigray region who may not share the late-PM Meles' vision but are all the same seriously concerned with the direction their country is taking. What's more, Tedros never could answer why as head of Ministry of Health more physicians than are in the country left to go abroad. Institute of Security Studies is just another outfit run by the ruling minority; Getachew Redda is director of communications at the Foreign Ministry and is ethnic Tigrayan. "Collective leadership" is a way to not allow independence of thought [one is obliged to be sworn to secrecy]. In other words, Hailemariam is there to deflect criticism that the ruling minority excludes Ethiopians outside Tigray region from participating in their country's welfare. That is why you hear Hailemariam crying at every opportunity that he is there to implement Meles' [that is, ethnic ruling minority] vision! That is his way of keeping his overseers happy and also keeping his own position. That is why you have Debretsion so close by and running four major offices.
Please continue to tell the American taxpayer where and how $3 billions of their hard-earned money is going in these trying times and how Ethiopians continue to suffer under a one-party dictatorship [I hope American realize one group has been in power in the past 22 years and counting]. I hope they could ask their leaders why if that much money is poured into a country tens of thousands of young women choose to be maids in the Middle East, why tens of thousands youths leave the country on foot and suffer on the way to freedom and opportunity, why so many children are auctioned off for adoption at $35K per child, why there is virtually no private press and why Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu, etc are in jail for writing the country is going in the wrong direction and that Ethiopians should be allowed to participate in the welfare of their own country.

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