Fine Line : In the absence of a revolutionary change ….

In the absence of a revolutionary change in government, or a political shift due to the electoral defeat of an incumbent, successive leaders often prefer policy continuity. This is true of the current leaders of the Revolutionary Democrats, who swear by their commitment to pursue the policies of their predecessor. Indeed, none among them appear ready to face criticism over allegations of “revisionism” from the policy manuals of their “great leader”, gossip observed.

This is not to mean, however, that individual leaders do not differ on their leadership style and preferences, claims gossip. Look no further than Hailemariam Desalegn, whose leadership style is very different to Meles Zenawi’s, who was a Napoleonic Prime Minister, gossip observed. Hailemariam appears to prefer to lead through consensus, as in a cabinet administration, whilst paying little attention to symbolic gestures which project power, according to gossip.

Although there are several ways to exercise such symbolism, one is to have large numbers of cabinet ministers line up at Bole International Airport to see off the leader to other countries and present in his honour whenever he arrives from overseas travels, claims gossip. Unlike his two predecessors, Hailemariam is not seen indulging himself in this culture. He has put a stop to having any of his ministers at the airport to see him leave or arrive back, gossip disclosed.

The cabinet ministers’ failure to appear before the presence of the Prime Minister is not limited to the airport, however. Gossip observed a change of culture following the change of guard in the power corridor when it comes to the Prime Minister addressing international conferences, gossip observed.

Unlike the days of Meles, whereby several ministers and high profile officials pack and decorate the front row seats of conference halls, competing to attract his attention, very few ministers are seen around when Hailemariam graces such venues, gossip observed. Take for instance last week, where 600 delegates come from across the world to attend an international conference on food resilience and the Prime Minister made opening remarks. Very few ministers were present. There was just Tefera Deribew, minister of Agriculture, and Neway Gebreab, senior macroeconomic advisor to the Prime Minister, who were both enlisted as panellists to the conference, gossip observed.

Nonetheless, gossip has not been able to confirm whether there has been an order from the unassuming Prime Minister not to let his ministers, whose presence is not justified by an event, to be visible at such venues. But he has some advisors under a ministerial portfolio he happens to see more frequently, gossip learnt.

For instance, the intensity and frequency of his meetings with Bereket Simon, his advisor on strategic policy issues, has increased lately, gossip disclosed. This trend is also seen with Abay Tsehaye, who is also an advisor on strategic policy matters, and whose influence on the Prime Minister is seen increasing, claims gossip.

Yet, gossip observes that Hailemariam is getting much closer and becoming hugely dependent on Arkebe Oqubay (PhD) in his desire to see things get done and his administration delivers on its pledges to effect development. A celebrated former mayor of Addis Abeba – a city which owes much of its public infrastructure goings of today to his tenure – Arkebe recently returned from his doctoral studies in industrial economics, at the University of London.

A veteran of the armed struggle against the military government, not even his ardent critics would deny his competence to deliver on his assignment, gossip observed. Little surprise then that he is a rising star in the administration of Hailemariam Desalegn, which is very performance-focused and sees its mission as delivering on the policies of its predecessor, claims gossip.

Published on May 18, 2014 [ Vol 14 ,No 733]



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