How TPLF brought PM Hailemariam Desalegn to tears

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (Georges Gobet/AFP)


How the EPRDF humiliated the Prime Minister

By AfricanIntelligence

The critical evaluation session (gimgema) on 11 May was so violent that Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn came out of it with tears in his eyes! The Indian Ocean Newsletter has learnt from sources close to the government, that the PM was subjected to the fire of criticism for 15 hours from members of the EPRDF political bureau, barely two weeks before the general election on 24 May. While the ruling coalition was sure of a landslide victory with no surprises, it feared that the rise of discontent among the population could derail its plans for national development. Hailemariam Desalegn’s gimgema was particularly humiliating. To the point of casting doubt on his political future. The EPRDF political bureau is an opaque body – its members are not known precisely – but is all-powerful. Its members consist mainly of Tigrayans in the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), whereas the President is from the minority Wolayta ethnic group.

 A contested record

During the 11 May gimgema the first salvo was fired by TPLF caciques: one of the founders of the movement, Sebhat Nega; the former mayor of Addis Ababa, Arkebe Equbay; and the MP Asmelash Woldeselassie. They particularly questioned the lack of leadership of the successor to the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. They thus accused him of exercising power collegially. Unlike Meles Zenawi, a Tigrinya who headed the country like an autocrat, the current Prime Minister takes his decisions after consultation with the three Deputy Prime Ministers, two of whom are not Tigrinya. The Tigrinya clan considers, in fact, that its dominance on the State apparatus has been eroding since it left the post of prime minister to a politician from another ethnic group.

 Meanwhile, the TPLF spokesman, Redwan Hussein, lashed out at Hailemaram Desalegn’s lack of involvement. However, the most unexpected attack came from Muferiyat Kamil, an official in his own party, Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM). Kamil went so far as to complain that Desalegn ate and slept too much - seven hours a night, compared four in the case of his predecessor. 

According to the evaluators, all these shortcomings detract from the successful completion of the Ethiopian Developmental State projects. They also felt that the head of government was guilty of delays in preparing the second phase of the Growth and Transformation Plan since its architect is his own economic advisor, Neway Gebreab.

An uncertain future  

With just a short time to go to the general election, the EPRDF political bureau (and that of the TPLF too) has sent a clear message: Hailemariam Desalegn’s future at the head of the country is by no means certain beyond the 24 May election. Particularly as the man, whose authority has always been in question, has shown his psychological limits to his detractors. Not only is he challenged politically, he also has few supporters in the security forces and is at odds with the head of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Getachew Assefa.

 According to our sources, TPLF officials are contemplating placing the current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education, Shiferaw Shigutie Wolassa, an Amhara, to replace Hailemariam Desalegn. However, this does not stop them from playing on ethnic rivalry. They regularly suggest to the Oromos within the coalition that they have as much legitimacy to lead the government as the Amharas. It is not only the future of the Prime Minister that is at stake, it is also that of ethnic federalism, a pillar of the unity of the Ethiopian regime.
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