Friday, January 04, 2013

Ethiopia’s PM marks 100 days in office

(Jan 04, 2012, Deutsche Welle)--On 21 September 2012 Hailemariam Desalegn was sworn in as Ethiopia’s prime minister. He was regarded as a compromise candidate and many Ethiopians expected more political freedom. 100 days on, hope is fading.

A few days before Ethiopia's new prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, was sworn in, the Ethiopian government pardoned 2,000 political prisoners. Desalegn's inauguration coincided with the Orthodox New Year which falls in September. At the same time the Ethiopian government started negotiations in Kenya with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a separatist group based in the eastern part of the country.

The Ethiopian government classifies the armed wing of ONLF as "terrorists".  When the new prime minister hinted at the prospect of peace talks with arch rival Eritrea, many Ethiopians believed they were finally entering a new era of political sunshine.

The 47-year-old engineer and father of three daughters, is considered moderate and affable, compared to Meles Zenawi, Desalegn's charismatic predecessor. Zenawi ruled the country with an increasingly iron fist following the bloody 2005 elections.

A technocrat, Hailemariam Desalegn was a former provincial governor, foreign minister and deputy prime minister. He was also one of the closest confidants of Zenawi. Since he comes from one of Ethiopia's smallest ethnic groups, the Wolayta, many saw Desalagn as the best compromise candidate in the midst of political and economic infighting between the dominant Amhara, Oromos and Tigreer ethnic groups.

All hail Hailemariam
"Appointing someone from a small population like the Wolayta who have not traditionally been part of the power elite can have a strong symbolic value," Jason Mosley, an expert on Ethiopia at the Chatham House think tank, told DW in an interview. "But of course it has to work in practice."

Opposition politician Wondemagegn Demeke of the All Ethiopia Unity Party (AEUP)  shares Mosley's view. "Hailemariam's appointment is unprecedented in the history of our country, because he was not part of the armed struggle. We were all surprised,"

The opposition had been concerned that the succession would undermine the country's constitution. Fortunately that did not happen. But, according to Wondemagegen, the appointment of a new secretary of state showed that the executive is still controlled by the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). "Therefore, we regret that there has been no change in policy since his appointment," the opposition politician added.

 According to Mosley, "The policies towards its neighbor Somalia, as well as the Nile water policy towards Sudan and Egypt have not changed."   He sees the recent cabinet reshuffle, which saw the appointment of three deputy prime ministers, as primarily due to the ethnic balance of power in the EPRDF multi-party coalition.
There is still a small question mark as to whether the policy towards northern neighbor Eritrea will ever change. "Continuity with the previous government is the need of the hour," Mosley noted. Read more from Deutsche Welle »

No comments:

Post a Comment