Ever since taking up residence, nine months ago…

Ever since taking up residence, nine months ago, at the State House in Arat Kilo, Hailemariam Desalegn and his political allies have been plotting their path to rearranging the government inherited from Meles Zenawi, gossip noticed. Yet, what was once a highly concentrated powerbase, with the Napoleonic Prime Minister, is now being challenged by those across the street, in the legislative house, gossip observed.

Last week, MPs, almost all from the rank and file of the Revolutionary Democratics, rejected the motion to revoke the immunity of an MP, who allegedly annulled the title deeds of a businessman in favour of another.  This certainly seems to usher in the dawn of an era where the executive is no longer able to bully their way in, as they used to, claims gossip. These are the sort of subtle changes a foreign observer ofEthiopia’s politics recently described as “imperceptible to those who don’t track development very closely,” says gossip.

No doubt, Hailemariam and his allies have been trying to assert their position, in the aftermath of the sudden passing of Meles. The first few months were a period of uncertainty, as to whether or not he would add a new lease of life as the second chairman of the party, since its founding back in the late 1980s, claims gossip. Once he warranted his place as chieftain of the EPRDFites, back in March this year, he began to plot the rearrangement of his cabinet, for both deliverables and intra-party political purposes, gossip argued.

What better way to start this than shooting at a soft target? Quipped gossip. In April, he made his first move by pushing the president of Gambella Regional State, Umod Ubong, out of his domain. He then brought him to Addis Abeba, as the state minister for Federal Affairs, recalled gossip. He was rumoured to have acted in a similar fashion to the chief of the Afar Regional State, Ismael Ali Sero, whose region has been besieged by interrupted trade with Eritrea and a loss of grazing and water source.  This has largely been as the result of a massive dam for irrigation, which was constructed on the Awash River, claims gossip.

Politicians in the region feel that they deserve a more dynamic leadership than they currently have and recently voted to oust their president. Four of the 30 in the executive committee of the ruling party in the region voted in favour of Ismael’s departure, gossip disclosed. Ironically, they were all subsequently kicked out, including the vice president of the regional state, gossip revealed.

Another regional state chief, Shiferaw Shigute, of the southern regional state, has been pulled in to serve in the federal government.  He is most likely to be replaced in Hawassa by Desse Dalke, the current minister of Science & Technology (MoST).

What followed the little noticed developments in the peripheries was the rather unanticipated crackdown on federal government officials allegedly involved in acts of corruption, claims gossip. This move has raised so much confusion that many at the city’s gossip corridors were hard pressed to make sense of it all. There is some debate whether it has been motivated by party infighting or an administration sincerely striving to combat the vices of corruption, gossip observed.

The climax of all of this was the appointment, last week, of 10 or 11 individuals to assume new and old positions in Hailemariam’s cabinet.  This came along with the reorganisation of some of the federal agencies in his administration. Hailemariam appears to be keen on surrounding himself with party wise men, with solid a ideological bent – such as Bereket Simon. This is in a bid to reassert power within the rather disoriented rank and file, claims gossip. That appears to be why they decided to relieve Demeke Mekonnen off his cabinet duty, and thus commit his entire time to galvanising the rank and file, which appears to have lost a certain sense of clarity, claims gossip.

Watch out then for the possible come back of people like Abay Tsehaye, now head of the Sugar Corporation, and Kassu Illala, ambassador to the EU, based inBrussels, to the inner circle of his administration, claims gossip. This can be taken as political, in a way, for it signals that those who still have some claim to the previous order of things up in Arat Kilo may raise their voices in protest to the rearrangement or, rather, choose to remain quiet, gossip sees. If there are to be any signs of a power struggle within the ruling party, since Meles’ untimely departure, now seems to be the time to come out to the public, claims gossip.

Indeed it will, if there has indeed been one, according to gossip. Regardless of whether Hailemariam steers clear of his latest move, there is no doubt that last week marks a milestone in his and his allies move to consolidate their powerbase, claims gossip.

Published on July 07, 2013 [ Vol 14 ,No 688]



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