The late Ethiopia prime minister Meles Zenawi (file photo).
By Fekede Brook
Expectations were low when the current prime minister of Ethiopia was installed into office. After the era of leadership of the late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, came to an abrupt end, the current leader was introduced into a nightmarish job of filling in the footsteps of the former premier, who succeeded in leading an economic revolution for Ethiopia. And leading to that point, the country only knew a single beacon of change and assurance at its political helm.
Handpicked and groomed to take an overwhelming title and responsibility, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, tried to be the agent-of-progress that was the late Premier Meles Zenawi – the face of the armed struggle that liberated Ethiopia. On top of a monumental task of sustaining the double figure economic growth of the country, he has tried to put his own signature and voice to a duty of stewardship closely run by a narrative that the current chief labors under the shadow of his predecessor.
The current head of state has been grappling with maneuvering the delicate situation his prime ministerial position necessitated. He has been overseeing mega projects, such as the mega dam project, as his influence in the horn region appears to be on the wane. His tenuous position hasn’t been helped with the country’s recent troubles and the effects of the unrest that have been exposing old wounds.
An academic for most of his professional life, it has been widely noted that he was solely earmarked by his forerunner for extending and consolidating his legacy. That legacy has been an effective leadership that brought an age of unparalleled growth in infrastructure and capital formation to the country. In stark contrast to that legacy, Hailemariam is seldom seen experimenting with the ideology of revolutionary democracy, arguably, only ostensibly grasped by EPRDF’s party members themselves.
In the watershed of the rent seeking politico-economic climate of the country, Hailemariam flattered to deceive, given his proven ability of taking the sting out of cultural, religious and ethnic normative practices. These were facets of national leadership that characteristically hindered effective regional governance and state-level administration.
Haunted by his inability to deliver on his promise of weeding corruptive practices out of his government, he has been caught unprepared for several swells of ethnic clashes. These have threatened to overthrow peace and stability in regional government branches. In addition, he has been lamenting the inroads by ‘extremists’ and ‘populists’ on freethinking, made solely possible via digital platform social media afford. Based on reports via local and international social media, Ethiopian nationals in many parts of the world, worked hard in circulating their messages of ‘hate’ and ‘bigotry’ and pushing their agenda of destabilizing the nation.
With his country languishing in an emergency state issued under his watch, for a second time in EPRDF’s ruling history, he has yet again proved he can punch above his weight by masterminding a notable government coup. Just a few weeks back, the premier returned to parliament to announce a ‘cabinet shakeup’, delivering on the ruling party’s promise of taking ‘deep reforms’. This was precipitated by what has been transpiring in the country since September of this year.
The composition of the new cabinet smacks of a belief, on the premier’s part that subscribes to the sentiment of the great French general and statesman Charles de Gaulle and I quote: “I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians. Of the newly appointed cabinet of thirty members, twelve are PHD holders and some are professors. A large portion of the public arguably appreciated the gesture and made the inference that a higher degree of scholarship for its ministers mean a government would be better served in forming more progressive policies.
These stellar qualifications, though, will not necessarily mean their holders will not be exceptional ministers nor will they come up with quick-fix solutions to the country’s multifaceted problems. It also does not mean they will have a salutary effect on the state machinery, putting much needed break on the government’s hemorrhaging arising from illicit financial trickling. Furthermore the government postulating that the new appointees would be less inclined to pursue personal enrichment opportunities appears to be blatant wishful thinking. Placing this country’s future in the hands of academic leaders, instead of entrusting it to those with sound common sense and a sense of compassion, has been, for a long time, debated in the context of recent Ethiopian politics.
This is the first time the party deviated from its core principle of appointing officials imbued with EPRDF’s party values. It could be early days to fully appreciate the large positives to be taken from the premier’s statesmanship just four years into his reign. But whether or not the premier has his unique leadership identity stamped on this government, it is commendable that the ruling party decided to become more than ready to accommodate the premier’s progressive ideas – as highlighted by their resignation to the idea of appointing officials based on merit. One can only admire the mutual compromise that has been struck between the premier and the ruling elite in bringing the best out of each others awkward situations and in ultimately helping the country’s situation.
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