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2018 - PM Hailemariam Resigned

Ethiopias prime minister announced 15 February 2018 he will resign, though he will remain in office until parliament confirms his resignation. The resignation was said to be based on agreement by the four constituent members of the EPRDF, namely EPDM, OPDO, TPLF and SEDPM. According to sources, the top leadership of the EPRDF came to the conclusion that the outgoing prime minister has not been as effective and hence change was needed. According to reports, he was strongly criticized for poor performance during the SEDPM's recently concluded party evaluation.

Both the OPDO (representing Oromia region) and the EPDM (representing Amhara region) are likely to compete for the post, as they did a few years ago. The next TPLF Party Congress has been postponed [again] to May or August 2018. The state of emergency order would be sent to Ethiopia's parliament within 15 days for ratification.

The Council of Ministers declared a six-month state of emergency, with the military in charge until parliament, currently in recess, returned and approves Hailemariam's resignation. State broadcaster EBC reported 16 February 2018 that the Ethiopian Council of Ministers declared a State of Emergency [SOE]. Restrictions in the past included arbitrary arrests without court orders; enables government to censor and block radio and television; and dawn-to-dusk prohibitions on unauthorised movements around infrastructure facilities and factories. It will give law enforcement officers the power to detain anyone suspected of violating "the constitutional order" and the ability to search houses, cars and individuals, all without a court warrant. Displaying signs "which could stir up violence" is also prohibited,

This was the second time the country had declared a state of emergency in two years. The first one was imposed on October 2017 and lasted till August of that year, following months of often violent anti-government protests in both Oromia and Amhara regions.

Ethiopias prime minister announced 15 February 2018 he will resign, in what he says is an effort to advance reforms aimed at easing the countrys political unrest. Prime Minister Desalegn was forced to resign due to his radical posture on political reforms. Desalegn had pushed for the release of more political detainees despite thousands having been freed. The Prime Minister wanted more prisoners released he wanted to empty the jails of all political prisoners. He also ordered the closure of the notorious prison, Maekelawi (central in Amharic), in Addis. The PM who wanted some major changes but didnt get all that he wanted.

In November 2017, the EPRDF-controlled House of Peoples Representatives barely reached a quorum. This was part of a growing tremor that was ripping apart the ruling Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition (EPRDF). It came after months of deadly clashes between Oromia and Somali regional states. On 22 December 2017, MPs from Amhara and Oromia regions, who together represent more than 60 percent of the countrys population, announced a boycott of the regular sessions of parliament. They demanded Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to stand before them and explain the reasons behind ongoing deadly violence across the country.

The one-time unquestioned supremacy of the dominant Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) faced growing threats from the resurgent Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization (OPDO), a junior partner in the ethnic-based EPRDF coalition, and the latters growing alliance with the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM). EPRDF might have intended to install a Oromo prime minister at its upcoming congress, slated for March 2018, or have one with strong Oromo endorsement.

In January 2018, PM Hailemariam announced that his government would release detainees and so far 7,000 people either saw their charges dropped or were pardoned. Since January 2018, the government had speeded up reforms, releasing more than 6,000 of political prisoners. Most of the released prisoners, which included high level opposition figures and journalists, were detained for alleged involvement in the mass protests. Prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn had pushed for even more prisoner releases.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn suddenly resigned on 15 February 2018 in what he described as a bid to smooth reforms, following years of violent unrest that threatened the ruling party's hold on Africa's second most populous nation. Hailemariam's decision to quit underscores the depth of division within the ruling coalition over how fast to pursue political openness. "Unrest and a political crisis have led to the loss of lives and displacement of many," Hailemariam said in a televised speech. "I see my resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy."

Hailemariam's resignation followed a reshuffle in ruling party that began in November 2017 and sidelined a number of senior members, including the widow of the former prime minister. He had previously served as deputy prime minister and foreign minister under former Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi. In 2013, he was elected chairman of the African Union. When Zenawi passed away in 2012, he assumed the prime minister position.

It was not clear who would replace Hailemariam, who also resigned as chairman of the ruling coalition that contains four parties representing Ethiopia's ethnic groups and has governed the country since it defeated a military regime in 1991. The resignation was a sign that the hard-liners had won. But they would probably continue on the path of reform, albeit not to the scale and speed that people want. Protests and planned strikes turned into widespread celebrations in the Oromia region as political prisoners are unconditionally released by the Ethiopian government. Some of those that have been freed included opposition leader Bekele Gerba and top blogger Eskinder Nega.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu was considered to be a leading candidate for the position. Many people in Oromia hoped Lema Megersa, president of the regional government, may take on the duties of prime minister. Others suggested that Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, who also serves as president of the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), could be considered for the position. But by July 2017, Demeke Mekonnen, deputy prime minister and vice president of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), had become increasingly isolated.

State collapse is an unlikely scenario, as the conflicting parties are internal actors within the system and have a vested interest in its survival. A more likely scenario is a long-term vicious cycle of political conflict and economic stagnation that cripples state and society. Important reform measures would include devolving more power to the regional states [in accordance with the Constitution] and de-ethnicising elite competition at the federal level.

In the TPLF's collective mind-set, any alternative to its top-down approach of "democracy" threatens the existence and future of the Ethiopian state. The opposition presents even more of a threat to the state -- in the TPLF/EPRDF's eyes -- in light of their view of the opposition as being infiltrated with Eritrean government hacks, bent on all-or-nothing politics, or (in a most generous interpretation) simply committed to a populous-driven bottom up view of democracy.

A functioning state must differentiate between its ruling party, the government, and the state. Still, there is no historical basis in Ethiopia or understanding in the public (or ruling party leaders') psyche of such a separation of roles in Ethiopia. Without such a distinction, ruling party elites appear genuinely to view threats to the ruling party -- such as those posed by otherwise legitimate political opposition groups -- as being threats to the state.

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Page last modified: 17-02-2018 15:08:18 ZULU