Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced 15 February 2018 that he had submitted his letter of resignation as prime minister and chairman of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party. The government had released thousands of opposition supporters from jail, but the protests have continued. The country had witnessed repeated violent clashes since 2015, with protesters calling for political and economic reform and an end to state corruption. Some of Ethiopia's powerful elites had come to see the prime minister as weak and lacking in direction. The resignation followed a reshuffle in ruling party that began in November 2017 and sidelined a number of senior members, including the widow of former prime minister Meles Zenawi.
Lemma Megersa, the charismatic new leader of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation, was the clear favourite among Oromos to lead the EPRDF coalition. Others propose that Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen should take the helm, at least until national elections in 2020. Workneh Gebeyehu, the foreign minister who is an Oromo, was mentioned as a candidate for Prime Minister. This might placate some of the Oromo who believed Ethiopia should to be led an Oromo. But many Oromos saw him as too close to the TPLF, and the security services.
Hailemariam said that he decided to resign from both posts so as to contribute to the ongoing efforts towards bringing solution to the current situation in the country. The Premier noted in his speech that people have been displaced and injured, as well as investment and properties are damaged due to the recent unrest. Hailemariam believed that his resignation was important to carry out reforms that lead to sustainable peace and democracy. Hailemariam was the titular head of the party and government, but real power was in the hands of Tigrean subordinates in the political, military, and intelligence services.
Hailemariam's position was described by analysts as that of a figurehead. The announcement was not entirely unexpected, as rumors that Hailemariam would step down after the ruling party congress in March 2018 were widespread. But the resignation came sooner than most had expected. Figures within the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) had been at odds, and mass protests in the country's restive Oromia region and elsewhere, calling for greater freedoms, had increased pressure on Hailemariam's government. Hailemariam is said to have tried to resign more than once over the previous year, though colleagues persuaded him to stay until the 2018 party congress,
After serving as deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, Hailemariam Desalegn was appointed prime minister of Ethiopia on 20 August 2012. Hailemariam Desalegn was the first Ethiopian prime minister to belong to his country’s neo-Protestant minority. It is worthy to note that, in a country dominated by major ethnic groups, Hailemariam Desalegn hails from the minority Wolaita people in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region.
Hailemariam Desalegn was born on July 19th, 1965, in Boloso Sore in southern Ethiopia. He took a BA in Civil Engineering at Addis Ababa University, an MSc in Engineering at Tampere University of Technology, Finland, and MA in Organizational Leadership at Azusa Pacific University, California. Ato Hailemariam taught for 12 years at the Arbaminch Water Technology Institute where he held the positions of Registrar, Vice-Dean, and of Dean (1996-2000), and at Arbaminch University. He also attended courses on Training Approaches for Environmental Management in Industry (University of Mauritius) and Higher Education Management (University of Warwick, UK).
Ato Hailemariam served as President of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional States (2001-2006) and as Vice-President 2000-2001, and was a member of the SNNPR House of Representatives’ Council between 1995 and 2008. He was Chairman of the Southern Ethiopian Peoples Democratic Movement and Deputy Chairman and member of the Executive Council of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front. Ato Hailemariam served as a Member of the House of Federation (1995-2008) and as Member of the House of Peoples’ Representatives since 2008.
He became Public Organization and Participation Advisor to the Prime Minister in October 2005. In early 2006 as ethnic tensions in southern Oromiya and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region (SNNPR) began to erupt, the Sidamo people -- numbering roughly seven million -- began expressing frustration within the SEPDM and EPRDF about not having adequate representation in government. To placate the Sidamo, the federal government orchestrated the removal -- officially a resignation -- of ethnic Welayta SEPDM Chairman Hailemariam Desalegn as SNNPR Regional President in March 2006, allowing ethnic Sidamo SEPDM Politbureau member Shiferaw Shikute (alternate spelling "Shigute") to take over the post.
Hailemariam moved into the national political scene in 2006 and as adviser to Meles Zenawi, was appointed as the Government's Chief Whip in the House of Representatives. While Hailemariam's move to an Advisor position, with the rank of Minister, within the Prime Minister's Office in April 2006 and as EPRDF Chief Whip in Parliament in November 2008, maintained him in prominent positions, many Welayta allegedly still felt aggrieved by the TPLF for his 2006 removal from the regional presidency.
Hailemariam Desalegn, then chairman of the Southern Ethiopia People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM), argued in 2008 that due to poor education and illiteracy the Ethiopian public is too underdeveloped to make a well reasoned, informed decision, and so Revolutionary Democracy is the political bridge by which the "enlightened leaders" can lead the people to democracy.
He was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in 2010.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn sustained economic progress in Ethiopia after the sudden death of his predecessor in 2012. Acting Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the Government was ready to realize the dreams of the late Prime Minister Meles. He said the policies that helped the country contribute to peace in neighboring countries will continue to be strengthened. "Meles was a leader that established a strong developmental state”; and “he devoted his life to the peace and security of African continent especially the Horn of Africa," he said.
Prime Minister Hailemariam played a role in bolstering the peace process in old and new Sudan since he came to power in 2012. He visited both Sudan and South Sudan in in 2013, as part of the efforts to co-ordinate and facilitate face-to-face entente between the presidents of the two countries" and to encourage the two countries "to complete consultations on outstanding issues. He emphasized Ethiopia's strategic importance in ensuring the stability of the Horn of Africa with its soldiers remaining integral to the ongoing fight against Al-Shabaab in Somalia. Ethiopia joined AMISOM in January 2014 and AMISOM's presence in Somalia is playing a major role in the fight against Al-Shabaab and in helping the country to create an effective federal state as part of Somalia's Vision 2016.
Prime Minister Hailemariam's administration moved Ethiopia ahead in other sectors apart from regional security and international diplomacy. The bilateral and internal projects that are helping position Ethiopia as a major target for direct foreign investment in Africa. The Prime Minister led Ethiopia to partner Kenya in the ambitious 24.5 billion dollar Lamu Port Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor project, a project that includes a railway, highways, and an oil pipeline. This will provide the landlocked countries of Ethiopia and South Sudan with a new export pathway and reduce Kenya's dependence on the heavily congested port of Mombasa. Ethiopia was also partnering with Djibouti to sign an agreement for a $1.55 billion fuel pipeline. The framework agreements were signed in September 2015 for construction of the 550-kilometer (340-mile) line to transport diesel, gasoline and jet fuel from port access in Djibouti to central Ethiopia, a joint project construction scheduled for completion in two years.
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