Hailemariam Desalegn, who is cruising the delicate world of Ethiopia’s…

Hailemariam Desalegn, who is cruising the delicate world of Ethiopia’s intricate politics, is moving slowly but surely in asserting his executive power, gossip observed. Not even a year since his historic, but accidental ascendance to the summit of the powerful Ethiopian state, he is seen bringing his political allies closer to his orbit. Too, he is cunningly pulling his formidable foes much closer, claims gossip.

The recent reshuffling, the second in less than a year, is notable on the movement of three individuals in particular, claims gossip.

His nemesis in the politics of the southern regional state is Shiferaw Shigute – the now former president of the southern regional state and Hailemariam’s deputy in the national party, SPDM.  He has managed to find a position in his cabinet and an office at the Ministry of Education, less than a kilometre from Lorenzo Te’azaz Road, up in Arat Kilo, gossip noticed. Both served as chieftains of the regional state in the past – Hailemariam is the predecessor to Shiferaw. There is a lot, in relation to politics specific to their locality, where the two have difficulty seeing eye to eye, claims gossip.

If Hailemariam has any powerful ally in the Revolutionary Democratic camp, it surely is Bereket Simon. Bereket has an intellectual penchant not even his formidable opponents within the EPRDFites deny, claims gossip. Bereket stands tall and above the shoulder of any devotee among the disciples of their ideological vicar, Meles Zenawi, according to gossip. Little surprise was there when he made the transition from a government spokesperson, camped in an office off Africa Avenue(Bole Road), to the second floor of the Prime Minister’s Office onLorenzo Te’azaz Road, as a trusted advisor on strategic policy research issues. This is simply to mean that Bereket would take the mantle in keeping the movement – a word veteran EPRDFites liken their party to – to steer it clear from ideological confusions and revisions, claims gossip.

Then comes a rather different breed in their midst, gossip observed. It is rare for EPRDFites to trust individuals to senior positions in their government, if they are not within their proper orbit. It is exceptional for one to survive well over a decade without giving in to the spoils of membership of a resourceful ruling party or budge to the discreet pressure from the bigwigs.

Mekonnen Manyazewal, the soft spoken competent technocrat, passes with flying colours in this league, gossip observed. It is not that there have not been people of non-party membership in the height of executive power, particularly in the era of pre-2005 national elections. Kassahun Ayele, minister, and Biruk Debebe, his deputy at the Ministry of Trade in the 1990s; Haile Assegidie, former vice minister of Infrastructure; Fikru Desalegn, former state minister of Capacity Building – the latter three now run companies owned by Mohammed Ali Al-Amoudi (Sheikh), and Tekeda Alemu (PhD), a state minister for two decades now serving as Ethiopia’s ambassador to the UN, were all non-members, while serving the establishment of the EPRDFites.

However, Mekonnen not only claims a place as a lone non-EPRDFite in the current administration of Hailemariam, but he has also been promoted to lead a national planning commission with a ministerial portfolio. A historical coincidence is that Mekonnen started his career as a junior economic expert, at what was known during the era of the military government of Mengistu Hailemariam (Col), as the central planning commission, back in the early 1980s.

Serving for a long time as a second man at the Ministry of Finance, in its various forms, he came to the height of his professional career after authoring what is now a signature growth roadmap of the nation, the GTP, according to gossip. Despite his hopes to retire from public service at the end of 2010, after the election, the late Meles did not let him go.  Rather, he put him in charge of implementing the very roadmap he has developed, in order to transform the national economy from a subsistent agriculture to an export oriented industrial one, gossip disclosed.

His role as a minister of Industry for three years has shown him the limitations an able technocrat could have without the leverage of party machinery, claims gossip. Thus his transfer to where he is most functional. Dawn is a day when a mega federal agency is created that will soon become a household name among government bureaucrats and the state media with the same Czarist flair once enjoyed by Tefera Walwa’s Ministry of Capacity Building, gossip foresees.

Published on July 14, 2013 [ Vol 14 ,No 689]



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