Kenya teachers strike to enter its fourth week Monday.Business Daily
“For Ethiopia’s new premier, a tightrope act” Africa Review.
Hailemariam, Meles Zenawi’s deputy, was last week finally elected chairman of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) after a furious behind-the-scenes battle for control of the powerful ruling party.
He was consequently due to be sworn in on September 21 as prime minister in what is the first peaceful and constitutional power transition in Ethiopia’s recent history.
The new premier would be in place until the next general election set for 2015, a tenure probably too short to consolidate any meaningful political base and influence, suggesting an authoritarian Meles-like approach to matters of government would leave him vulnerable.
His appointment is also a major milestone in Ethiopian politics as it marks the first time a minority ethnic group has ascended to power in the country’s modern history.
All Ethiopian leaders have tended to emerge from the north, particularly the Amhara and Tigray ethnic groups. Hailemariam is from the marginalised Wolyta ethnic group of the South. He is also a Pentecostal Protestant adherent, unlike his predecessors who have all been Coptic (Orthodox ) Christians.
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Hailemariam would be less impressive on the international stage such as the G8 or UN climate summits where his predecessor excelled as he spoke on behalf of the continent, but western allies mainly the US have reaffirmed their cooperation with Ethiopia.
President Barack Obama spoke with Hailemariam early this month.
But at home, the new man at the helm faces an uneasy two years ahead, with ruling party confrontations and government power squabbles, already simmering under the surface, prone to erupting into the public domain.
Political and economic competition between the old guard and the new leadership could deepen existing fault lines, and for many Ethiopia watchers, it is only a matter of time.
Any divisions in the authoritarian ruling party tends to greatly affect Ethiopia’s political sphere, and Hailemariam will need to be adept at putting together smart compromises, unlike Meles who is remembered for running a one-man show, and with an iron fist.