Engineer Hailemariam Desalegn Becomes the First Graduate Leader of Ethiopia

September 22, 2012

On Friday, September 21, 2012, Engineer Hailemariam Desalegn was sworn in as Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister. His appointment by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) comes one month after the death of the late Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, was announced on August 20, 2012. He was laid to rest on September 2, 2012.

Engineer Hailemariam Desalegn is expected to serve as the leader of Ethiopia for the transitional period until the next legislative elections in Ethiopia in 2015.

He will also be leading the EPRDF, a grouping of political entities expediently put together by the late Prime Minister’s organization, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), in the eve of the end of the Cord War.

Engineer Hailemariam inherits a politically charged country and a political grouping in turmoil, which may have made its late leader the causality. His government has a historical opportunity to dispel Ethiopia’s politically charged landscape and transition the country to a genuine multiparty democracy. It also has outstanding political challenges, including disputes between Ethiopia and its former province of Eritrea, which the late Meles Zenawi started and left unsettled.

His training and entire life among the civil society, unlike his predecessor who dropped out of a Medical college and was in a guerrilla movement for about seventeen years at his formative age, is likely to be in his favor to change this historical opportunity into a meaningful transition to realistic democracy.

Meles Zenawi's predecessor, Colonel Menghistu Hailemariam, who currently lives in exile in Zimbabwe, is not known to have an advanced formal training. Ethiopia's last Emperor, Haile Selassie I, who was deposed by Colonel Menghistu, has several honorary doctorate Degrees from the U.S. and Canada. However, his formal training appears to be limited. However, Engineer Hailemariam, who has Master of Science Degrees from Finland and the U.S., will be the first graduate from the first university in Ethiopia to become its leader. Formerly known as the Haile Selassie I University, Engineer Hailemariam's alma matter of Addis Ababa University was established by Emperor Haile Selassie I.

How Prime Minister Hailemariam's government will fare in the coming three years remains to be seen.

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