Fine Line: Hailemariam Desalegn is evolving into a prime minister

Hailemariam Desalegn is evolving into a prime minister at ease with himself when dealing with regional issues and military affairs, gossip noticed. It could perhaps be because, within a turbulent sub-region where the country he leads happens to be an oasis of stability, he is required to spend more time with his generals, intelligence officers and foreign policy hawks, claims gossip.

Yet, a fair number of those in these communities would argue that Hailemariam let an opportunity pass him by when South Sudan imploded last December. Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, whose countrymen and his family are rumoured to have invested close to 200 million dollars there, was quick to doll his hands in the internal affairs of that country. If it was not for Ugandan troops’ intervention, the government of Salva Kier (Gen.) in South Sudan would have been history by now, claims gossip. Museveni’s adventure was not, however, seen in a positive light by any of the regional leaders, according to gossip. At the beginning, regional leaders in their exclusive club, IGAD, danced to his tune, left with little leverage, gossip observed.

After all, weren’t IGAD leaders who decided to preserve “the legitimate government of Salva Kier” in power, while carrying out shuttle diplomacy to broker the cessation of hostilities between the warring parties?

With the passing of time, however, even Kier has grown wary of Museveni’s intent, and thus began politicking to find ways to ensure an exit for Ugandan troops from South Sudan, gossip disclosed. Ironically, Museveni’s Uganda has a reputation of meddling in the affairs of its neighbours and allowing itself to become bogged down in the crises of the Great Lakes, gossip recalled.

Hailemariam’s worst nightmare now is a repeat of the Democratic Republic of Congo (CAR) in the Horn of Africa, claims gossip. South Sudan is no longer a place where Salva Kier and his arch foe, Reik Machar (PhD), are left to scrap alone, according to gossip. Regional powers are creeping in, contesting the presence of Ugandan troops there, gossip disclosed. Hussein Al Bashir’s Sudan is flexing its muscles with the intent of getting involved; so too is Eritrea’s Issayas Afeworqi, providing covert support to Machar, gossip disclosed.

Hailemariam, who has a large segment of the Nuer population living in Ethiopia, would not possibly allow his country’s archenemy, Issayas, to meddle there in any shape or form, claims gossip. His challenge is to keep these regional forces on the verge of intervention at bay; but, he first needs to ensure Ugandan troops on the ground in South Sudan are out as soon as possible, gossip claims.

As Ugandan troops went to Juba invited by a government IGAD members consider legitimate, Hailemariam ought to convince Kier to formally request Museveni to leave, gossip claims. Hence, a visit to Juba by Tedros Adhanom (PhD), the minister of Foreign Affairs, two weeks ago.

Museveni appears to have little hang-up in staying in Juba, claims gossip. Where the fault lines appear between him and Hailemariam is over the issue of the source of the forces to replace the Ugandans once they have gone, gossip disclosed. Museveni wants a coalition of forces from IGAD member countries to be dispatched to South Sudan. This would mean that it would inevitably comprise of an element of Ugandan boots, according to gossip. Hailemariam’s strong desire is to see a military regiment comprising of troops from Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi to help stabilise South Sudan, gossip disclosed.

But first, Hailemariam needs to demonstrate that Ethiopia has a lot to lose from a potential region-wide conflict. Thus, displaying the stamina to stay the course once involved in the theatre to ensure its national security in a place that is as good as an outpost to it, gossip claims.


Published on March 9,2014 [ Vol 14 ,No 723]



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