Analysts: New Leadership Slow to Bring Change to Ethiopia

July 29th, 2013 Print Print Email Email

It has been almost one year since Hailemariam Desalegn came to power in Ethiopia, following the death of his predecessor Meles Zenawi. Despite recent demonstrations and a cabinet shuffle, little seems to have changed in the East African country.

After weeks of speculation, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s death was announced last year, on the morning of August 21st. The passing of the longtime ruler made way for his deputy Hailemariam Desalegn, to lead the second most populous nation on the African continent.

Ethiopia witnessed several anti-government demonstrations in recent months, a rare sight. And the new prime minister also replaced most of the cabinet.

But a spokesperson for the prime minister, Getachew Redda, said these developments are not part of any fundamental change within the government.

“What Hailemariam is doing at this point is implementing the policies that have been adopted by the ruling party,” Redda explained. “If there were people who were expecting any kind of change in terms of directions and fundamental policies then they will definitely be disappointed because there was neither the intention nor the tendency to bring about any change whatsoever in this regard.”

Collective leadership

Hailemariam, an engineer by training, was the minister of foreign affairs and deputy prime minister until last August. With the appointment of Hailemariam, a collective leadership was put in place. Although government officials said that a collective leadership was always part of the ruling party’s policy.

Solomon Dersso, a political analyst for the Institute for Security Studies, said that political power is no longer centered in the position of the prime minister. But he doubts whether it will change Ethiopia’s political scene.

“The only thing that it would change is how decision making is negotiated within the ruling party between the different power centers,” Dersso said. “So you have regional governments becoming quite important, you have the members of the coalition, and of course the security apparatus. So on various aspects of the management of the affairs of the country obviously these different centers of power negotiations need to be undertaken.”

Girma Seifu, the only opposition member of parliament in Ethiopia for UDJ (Unity for Democracy and Justice), one of the parties that organized demonstrations in recent weeks, said that Prime Minister Hailemariam behaves differently in parliament from his predecessor. “In the previous, the prime minister is everything. So he is the law of the country,” Seifu noted. “So at that time the parliament was irrelevant.”

Human Rights

Despite those differences in character, Seifu feels the Ethiopian government has not changed its position on allowing more freedom for people who hold different opinions.

“They must do something visible to change the human rights situation in this country. They must take this thing seriously and they have to take action to improve these things. Only economic development issues, infrastructure issues will not substitute human rights issue,” Seifu said.

Ethiopia has been ruled by a coalition of four parties, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, since 1991 with Meles Zenawi as its leader until his death. Current Prime Minister Hailemariam is expected to run for office during the 2015 elections. He hasn’t been very visible in his first year, but spokesperson Getachew said that this will change during his second year in office. “What you can expect from his leadership is a much closer engagement with the public, much more progressive attitude towards the development of the democratic process,” he remarked. “And a much more economic growth.”

Ethiopian statistics claim the country has had double-digit growth for the last few years, although the World Bank and IMF estimate the growth is around eight percent. The country is halfway through implementing its ambitious five-year Growth and Transformation Plan that is aimed at turning Ethiopia into a middle-income country by 2025.

  1. Anonymous
    | #1

    Hailemariam is a powerless TPLF puppet.

  2. Sam
    | #2

    Girma Seifu, the only opposition member of parliament said “Hailemariam behaves differently in parliament from his predecessor. In the previous [Meles] is everything. So he is the law of the country.” It is a very wise observation. The TPLF collective leadership was buried when Meles forced out Seye and others from the TPLF leadership. Since then it was a one man show, with a little help from the Amhara branch of EPDRF. Any Ethiopian who watched Ethiopian politics from home or abroad should know the EPDRF ethnic politics is there to stay. Not a single prime minister challenge that doctrine. A politician with EPDRF stripe who could be suspected of a change of heart on the validity of ethnic politics might have a zero chance to become a prime minister to begin with. Those who cry oh, no Hailemariam did not change the politics of EPDRF are those political illetrates who have a hard time knowing that they are. Hailemariam could play a role in changing the dictatorial behavior of EPDRF. For that having a collective leadership, rather than a one man show, might not be a bad idea.

  3. Kato
    | #3

    “what you can expect is a much closer engagement with the public”
    How does this engagement look like?

    Is it to let the public know that the regime is hell bent to change for the better? The regime to be a Goverment for the people? Enable, motivate, integrate and provide a platform to the public so they become participants instead of side line spectators in the development process? Is it to let the public know that their grivances and predicaments are going to be tackled and to encourage the public to take part in the democratic process as outlined in the Ethiopian constitution and, that the goverment shall support and protect those who exercise their democratical rights in accordance with the rule of law are going to be protected at all times? Is the planned engagement to let the public know that no entity is above the LAW, neither the GOVERNMENT nor the GOVERNED! and that all are equal under the law and that all, GOVERMENT and the GOVERNED SHALL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE the moment one entity operates outside the rule of law? Is it to let the public vehemently know that coercion is done away with and that the justice system shall receive the independence it deserves run by professionals that have no political affiliation with anyone political group, able to operate without fear of repurcussions? Is it to let the public know that LAW and those that are assigned to enforce it understand the countrie’s constitution and the LAW prior to handing out to them the clubs and the lethal weapons? Is it ultimately to let the public and the world know that there is only one ETHIOPIA and it belongs to all childrens of ETHIOPIA and that your leadership is going to assert that the WORD that has been neglected and trampled upon is going to be reinstated ie. UNITY, FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY?
    If your leadership is going in that direction you can rest assured that all Ethiopians shall back and support you.
    2) “much more progressive attitude towards the development of the democratic process”
    That is a noble idea. In that context, is the leadership going to devise a plan and let the public know that the justice system now on its death bed needs to be revitalized free from corruption, manipulation and despotism? Is your leadership going to underline the fact that those who have been thrown in jail for no other reason other than practicing their constitutional rights are going to be released or to say the least in that progressive context that they receive a fair trial void of despotism where facts are on the table and analyzed void of coercion etc. If that is what is meant by progressive attitude, your leadership will show the public and the world without any ambiguity how great your leadership style is. If that is the progressive attitude towards the development of democracy, who in his right mind is going to argue with you, and those shall be the signs of reconcilliation and healing process and all Ethiopians will stand behind you.

    May God grant you the WISDOM and courage to persuade your fellow comrades that the above stated is the only way that guarantees freedom, peace, prosperity, unity and equality.


  4. Anonymous
    | #4

    There is no doubt that Hailemariam got rewarded for being a strong supporter and a darling close confidant of Meles and TPLF and his hate towards Amharas. It’s disheartening to know that the fake prime minister claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ and yet, he has turned his eyes and ears away from the victims deafening cries and screams for help. HMD has ignored the victims and has chosen to dine and wine with the very people that are responsible for committing shocking dreadful crimes against lawful patriotic Ethiopians and the same people that are robbing the country. He is indeed disappointing and a great shame to all believers of the the loving and the Merciful God/Allah and to all followers of Jesus Christ. The fake PM has ZERO conscience and a disgrace to Christianity.

  5. aha!
    | #5

    “New leadership slow to change”, a commentary by analysts, do not have a clue, what the term change constitutes with regards to TPLF/eprdf regime composed of ex-liberation fronts, where eprdf coalition /teletafi parties are only a cover for TPLF Politbuero, and supporters of the constitution of ethnic federalism, secessionism, totalitarianism and/or state capitalism ideologies built into the constitution left in tact into the constitution an antithesis to unity, territorial integrity, sovereignty of Ethiopia and Ethiopians to say the least about the reinstatement of the flag, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration. Neither the TPLF/eprdf nor the Mederk party do not embrace the national agenda for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopia and Ethiopians, where the last item refers to individual freedom, liberty and equality have precedence over over ethnic and secessionist rights. With Medrek party and TPLF/eprdf holding on ethnic agenda rather than national agenda, and party alignments along ethnic lines forming a coalition not a merger national agenda, what is the change the analysts are anticipating from the new Prime Minister, even if his authority has not been circumvented and driven form the back bench of TPLF. Even if Mederk won a sizeable seats, rather than a nominal seat of one, they would had been circumvented from making laws, and yet constituting a bicameral chamber of the parliament under the same ethnic agenda and the constitution, “merses yalebet higue mengist”, with no independent branches of government of ethnic dictatorship of either minority or majority ethnic rule, unless the individual freedom, liberty and equality, having precedence takes center stage in the constitution.

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