Fine Line: Political leaders in Ethiopia

Political leaders in Ethiopia rarely have issues that spill over and involve personalities from the wider region, gossip claims. This appears to have changed, however, when it comes to a former TPLF veteran fighter, gossip disclosed.

Mulugeta G. Hiwot, aka Chaltu, is a tall and charismatic man, whose intelligence and reputation for getting things done is admired by those who knew him during his time in the field, and ever since, gossip observed. His last involvement with the government and the TPLF was with the Commission for the Reintegration of Ex-Servicemen, Veterans & War-Disabled Persons, which was in effect designed for the demobilisation of 300,000 former soldiers, gossip recalls.

Serving in this capacity for eight years, he resigned in 2002, following the political crises and splits within the TPLF, recalls gossip. However, he was in the league of Tsadikan G. Tensay (Lt. Gen), Yemane Kidane, aka Jamaica, and Abebe T. Haimanot (Maj. Gen.), aka Jebie – all whom left the government without becoming part of the splinter group back in the early 2000s, according to gossip.

Like some of his comrades, Mulugeta went back to college and did his post graduate studies in public administration at Harvard Kennedy School and an MBA at the Open University of London, gossip disclosed. He was hired first by Salim A. Salim and joined IGAD before he was hired by the Addis Abeba University, under the presidency of Andreas Eshetie (PhD), to serve as director of its newly established Institute for Peace & Security Studies (IPSS), according to gossip.

Yet, the IPSS proved to be the most high profile of the units under the University, financed solely by the European Union with close to eight million euros, gossip disclosed. Paying the Director 2,000 dollars a month – an amount which sounds a lot by local standards, but not compared to what the UN pays its staff – IPSS has a nine-member advisory board chaired by Olusengun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria, and includes other former heads of state, such as Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Pierre Buyoya of Burundi, gossip disclosed.

The Institute has a flagship annual event – the “Tana High Level Forum” – a platform that helps heads of state, particularly from the region, congregate in Bahir Dar to discuss various elements affecting peace and security on the continent, gossip disclosed. With the strong links Mulugeta has established with the African Union (AU) since 2010, the last such Forum was conducted in April 2013, in the presence of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, as well as presidents Omar Hassen Al-Bashir of Sudan, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia.

In the run up to its third forum, scheduled for the last week of April this year, the University’s President, Admasu Tsegaye (PhD), decided to shift gears, replacing Mulugeta with a much younger person, lacking in experience, gossip disclosed. Many at the gossip corridors smell politics in the removal of Mulugeta from an institute he helped to establish, claims gossip.

First he received a call from Admasu, advising him of the decision to advertise the position and advising him to apply, claims gossip. Mulugeta turned the invitation down, but the incident created grumblings among influential members within the TPLF constituency, gossip disclosed. Neither was there anyone who has applied for the position, gossip disclosed. Nonetheless, no one could have stopped his eventual removal, as it is clear there are powerful interests behind his sudden removal, claims gossip.

The field of studies on peace and security is a rather competitive sphere, as donors are generous in their support, gossip observed. There is the continent’s highly regarded Peace and Security Studies – based in South Africa, but with an office in Addis; and the Ethiopian International Institute for Peace & Development, under the directorship of Sebhat Nega, which has been around the corner for several years, gossip observed. An addition to the game is a new organisation established by Seyoum Mesfin, Ethiopia’s ambassador to China, whose outfit is generously supported by eight countries, including Norway and the very country that hosts him, China, gossip disclosed.

Among those displeased with Admasu’s decision are Obasango and Mbeki, for they were not advised of the change of guard in an institute where they have attached their reputation, gossip disclosed. While Obasango voiced his disappointment to Hailemariam, the government is sure to hear again from the former heads of state, and soon, claims gossip.


Published on March 30,2014 [ Vol 14 ,No 726]



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