Monthly Archives: September 2012

Ethiopia’s House of People’s Representatives swears in the new Prime Minister

Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, previously Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, was sworn in as the new Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on Friday (September 21st). An extraordinary session of the House of People’s Representatives approved the nomination of Ato Hailemariam by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which had elected him as chairperson of the party last Saturday. Taking the oath of office, Prime Minister Hailemariam said: “With the decision of the EPRDF and the parliament, I am very happy to take the responsibility of being prime minister.” Education Minister, Ato Demeke Mekonnen, elected last week as deputy chairperson of the EPRDF, was elected Deputy Prime Minister, taking over the post from Ato Hailemariam.

Following the swearing in, Ato Hailemariam thanked Parliament for the honour they had done in asking him to serve as Prime Minister. He was, he said, taking office at a time when Ethiopia under the wise and farsighted leadership of the late Prime Minister Meles had “turned a corner to become one of three fastest economies in the world”. It was very different from the possibility of utter disintegration that it had faced 21 years earlier. “Thanks to the unreserved self sacrifice of our great leader as well as the immense efforts of the peoples of Ethiopia, despondency has finally given way to hope; and darkness to brightness.” Ato Hailemariam said his responsibility would be one of ensuring the continuity of the process that the party had put on a solid basis under Prime Mister Meles’ visionary leadership; to work on the basis of collective leadership to ensure the continued implementation of the policies and strategies laid down and further enhancing and strengthening of the results already achieved in economic development and democratization. Ato Hailemariam referred to the late Prime Minister as a brilliant generator of ideas, the embodiment of self-sacrifice, a true man of the people and a rare specimen of hard work and dedication who relentlessly championed the cause of the poor, leading his party in the successful fight against poverty and backwardness. So the first order of business and his responsibility as the new prime minister was ensuring the continuity of these policies and of honouring his legacy.

Ato Hailemariam noted agricultural development was the central element of the Growth and Transformation Plan and a significant driver of economic growth. The efforts made to modernize agricultural practices and improve productivity would be expanded with further work towards changes in attitude and developing skills through increased adult education processes and the introduction of more advanced agricultural practices. There would be intensive efforts to expand irrigation, and measures to enhance the role and the share of the private sector in the expansion of commercial agriculture. Government efforts to improve the status of pastoralists and agro-pastoralists would continue with encouragement of settlement in villages to allow for the provision of access to water and other amenities, the introduction of techniques of modern animal husbandry and the development of crop production. Ethiopia, of course, has the largest number of pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in Africa.

The new Prime Minister noted the importance of tapping the country’s large youth population and of improving their educational and entrepreneurial skills. The youth, he said, “will indeed be the solid basis on which our future prosperity and development will depend.” The important role of universities, research centers and professional associations in building a democratic culture was underlined. He also spoke of the need to increase the role of mathematics and science in educational curricula, and the importance of increasing the participation of women in development, emphasizing the need to expand mother and child health protection, and provision for people with special needs.

Ato Hailemariam stressed that the vision of the party and government was to become a middle income economy within a decade. Industrial and manufacturing growth would be pivotal in ensuring the necessary growth of a middle class to help achieve this. The government would continue to support foreign direct investment but also give special emphasis to nurturing domestic private sector involvement. It would hold public-private consultation forums to encourage the development of the private sector; it would also address the various bottlenecks that had stifled private sector participation. The government would make every effort to speed up development and expansion of micro and small-scale enterprises, and facilitate housing, railway and road construction projects to resolve urban housing and transport challenges. The new Prime Minister noted that the rate of inflation was falling but said more measures were needed to bring it down to “healthier levels”. He hoped the better rains of the past rainy season would contribute significantly to this. The Prime Minister said the expansion of the economic infrastructure was the key to ensuring growth of the productive sectors of the economy, and the government would redouble efforts to speed up the timely completion of the road, railway, hydropower, telecom and transport infrastructure projects laid down in the Growth and Transformation Plan. He said Prime Minister Meles had given maximum priority to the realization of the construction of the Renaissance Dam, and added: “we will do everything in our power to make sure the completion of the dam, if possible ahead of schedule.”

Ato Hailemariam spoke of the need to address the corrupt practices of the rent seeking political economy and of mobilizing the public to help deal with sources of corruption which he itemized as the “land and tax administration system, public procurement procedures and the inefficiency of our trading system.” He said the government would create an environment in which people could play an active role in meeting these challenges. The reform movement, already underway in public institutions, would be further strengthened to improve good governance and ensure civil servants had a real sense of public service. He spoke of the importance of the justice system to ensure the protection of basic freedoms and establish a competitive free market system. He said the police and courts will expand their ongoing reform programmes to meet expectations. Drastic legal measures would be taken to put a stop to corrupt practices, and the supervisory measures introduced by Parliament in recent years would be increased.

At the same time, the government would continue to provide support to strengthen human rights and democratic institutions to help develop a democratic culture, working with the Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, the National Electoral Board, legally functioning press and media institutions and opposition political groups. The Prime Minister noted the government was ready to work closely with independent civic organizations, professional associations and other mass organizations which had, he said, “an indispensable role to play in developing the nascent efforts to build a mature democratic order.” It would, however, take all necessary measures to deal with any forces that attempted to engage in political and terrorist activity under the guise of religion.

The Prime Minister said the government would continue to maintain the influential voice that the late Prime Minister Meles had developed in regional, continental and international fora. It would continue his efforts to provide for peace and stability in the Horn of Africa, working for a successful end to the negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan, and in Somalia. He noted the immense contribution the defense forces had made to peacekeeping. This would continue. He said the National Defence Forces were firmly committed to defend the constitutional order from any internal and external attacks and they deserved admiration for the way they discharged their missions so successfully. They and the people would continue to guard against all those trying to carry out acts of terror with either internal or external support. Ethiopia, he said, “will remain as a stable and democratic nation within the Horn of Africa.”

In conclusion, the new Prime Minister asked everybody to intensify their efforts to fully and successfully implement the aims and vision of their late great leader; he hoped that the new Ethiopian New Year (2005) would be a year of success and of exceptional progress.

Cooperation over the Nile remains Ethiopia’s firm policy

In recent weeks, a number of online media outlets have carried statements by unidentified Egyptian officials professing the hope that a new political leadership in Ethiopia might be inclined to compromise over the Nile. Polemics from anonymous functionaries quoted on obscure websites should not be taken too seriously. They cannot be seen as serious indication of what the Mursi administration’s stance on the Nile issue might be. However, when they are uttered by authoritative voices, and become possible portents of policy, they are cause for concern.

This is why the comments of a senior cabinet member of the new government, former General Reda Hafez, deserve to be looked at seriously. His outrageous claim that Prime Minister Meles was to blame for the confrontation between Ethiopia and Egypt over the Nile was totally uncalled for. Indeed, it is a complete misrepresentation of fact. Coming as it does from a senior military officer under Hosni Mubarak regime whose trademark saber-rattling was the linchpin of Egyptian diplomacy over the Nile Issue, it is bizarre. In fact, to the extent that there has been any thawing of relations between Egypt and Ethiopia, it was Prime Minister Meles’ farsighted leadership which was primarily responsible. As far as Ethiopia is concerned there has been no reason to change this.

Any Egyptian expectation that the appointment of the new Ethiopian Prime Minister might lead to some radical change in policy over the Nile is based on a flawed understanding of Ethiopia’s history, and is an egregious misreading of the government’s present disposition towards Cairo, and, by extension, suggests serious misconceptions about the future of Ethio-Egyptian relations.

General Hafez’ statements, providing they have been accurately reported, appear to rest on a serious misunderstanding of Ethiopian history. Ethiopian governments, irrespective of their ideology, have consistently striven to safeguard Ethiopia’s interests over the Nile.  The government of Emperor Haile Selassie, for instance, distributed in 1947 an aide-memoire to all embassies in Cairo, reaffirming Ethiopia’s right to use the Nile “for the benefit of present and future generations of its citizens” and “reassert[ing] and reserv[ing] now and for the future, the right to take all such measures in respect of its water resources.”  Ethiopia reiterated such a right at the 1971 UN Water Conference at Mar de Plata.  Even the Derg regime, at the opposite end of the political spectrum, did not differ from its predecessor, trying to solicit funding for Nile projects from its Soviet patron. There is no reason why any Ethiopian government, current or prospective, that respected the interest of its citizens would deviate from this approach.

The point is that considerations of equity, law, and economic development continue to animate Ethiopia’s desire to develop the Nile.  Today, as in years past, utilization of the Nile remains strikingly inequitable. Ethiopia, which contributes over 85% of the river’s flow, makes no use of it; Egypt which contributes nothing continues to argue in favor of its continued status as primary beneficiary. Egypt still justifies this lopsided allocation of use on the basis of obsolete colonial treaties that Ethiopia neither signed nor supported.  With all notions of fairness and law in its favor, it is no surprise that Ethiopian governments, past and present, have refused to accept the Egyptian position.

That any Egyptian official to expect a post-Meles government in Ethiopia would be more amenable to meeting Cairo’s demands displays a serious misunderstanding of Ethiopia’s past. It also highlights a total lack of appreciation of the non-confrontational tone of Ethiopia’s present government. In fact, the government of Ethiopia has gone above and beyond the call of duty in trying to assuage Egyptian concerns and reach consensus over a more equitable allocation of the Nile.

Examples of this conciliatory approach are numerous and obvious. Ethiopia, for instance, postponed by one year its ratification of the new Cooperative Framework Agreement for the Nile which it had signed along with other upper riparian states. This was in response to Egypt’s request for time to reconsider the agreement after the demise of the Mubarek government.  Despite Ethiopia’s good faith in acceding to this request, Cairo has yet to communicate the outcome of its review. Ethiopia exhibited a similarly positive spirit following the announcement of its intention to construct the Renaissance Dam on the Nile.  Though under no legal obligation to do so, the Ethiopian government proposed, on its own initiative, the establishment of a Tripartite Committee composed of equal numbers of Ethiopian, Egyptian and Sudanese experts, supplemented by international specialists, to assess the impact, if any, of the dam on Egypt and Sudan.

By contrast, there has been no single initiative taken by Egyptian authorities over decades to consult Ethiopian counterparts over projects along the Nile. Egypt certainly never solicited Ethiopia’s views during the construction of the Aswan dam, never consulted with it over the diversion of the Nile to Western and Eastern Sinai and never discussed the diversion of the Nile for irrigation in newly reclaimed western desert areas.

Addis Ababa’s numerous attempts at initiating consensus-driven negotiations have not occasioned any significant change in Egyptian policy. Indeed, the Ethiopian government’s outstretched hand has been met by nothing but a clenched fist. Internal political distractions may have temporarily caused Cairo to temper its previously fiery rhetoric and momentarily discontinue active support to insurgent groups which are anathema to Ethiopia. However, there have been no signs of any significant policy shifts. Cairo has still shown no indication of change in regard to substantive matters. It has not signed the Nile basin Cooperative Framework Agreement, nor has it explicitly disavowed the inequitable allocation of water enshrined in colonial treaties although we always made it clear that these treaties are not binding on Ethiopia.

These, not a change of government in Ethiopia, are the very points that need to be met if any compromise is to be reached. The government and the people of Ethiopia have been remarkably patient and for a very long time. Given Ethiopia’s developmental needs and her people’s attachment to the Nile, any expectation that some future Ethiopian government will make significant policy changes and accept Egypt’s claims is mere wishful thinking. If Egypt is really interested in peace and mutually beneficial development of the Nile basin, it should concentrate on reaching an agreement with Ethiopia’s present government. Ethiopia is certainly predisposed to any mutually beneficial developments for the river. As it has clearly detailed, its plans for the river will provide significant advantages to both Sudan and Egypt. Now, it is up to Egypt to reciprocate.

It is really regrettable that we are forced by irresponsible statements like that of General Hafez to go into some detail on the issue of the Nile especially at a time when Ethiopia/Egypt relations have turned over a new leaf since the change of regime in Egypt, and the successful visit of the late Prime Minister Meles some months ago. Needless to say, the Ethiopian government will not be deterred by vicious and counter-productive statements by people like General Hafez from pushing ahead on the path laid down by our late Prime Minister towards a new relationship between Ethiopia and Egypt.


EU keen to strengthen its partnership with Ethiopia


EU Ethiopia

EU Ethiopia

The Head of the European Union Delegation to Ethiopia, Ambassador Xavier Marchal, has said the European Union is keen to strengthen the EU-Ethiopia development partnership. Ambassador Marchal said the EU Commission, together with European countries which provide separate bilateral support, support Ethiopia collectively with a billion Euros every year. The EU-Ethiopia partnership focuses mainly on major pillars like politics, economy and trade, the ambassador said, adding that the EU Commission specifically cooperates in transport, rural development, trade, food security, infrastructure and the coffee industry. He said: “We are participating significantly in developing the national coffee industry and the road sector in Ethiopia,” mentioning that “the Addis Ababa–Jimma road was financed by the European Union Delegation.” The ambassador said the European Union Commission provides Ethiopia’s development and food security with some 200 million Euros a year. The EU Delegation has also been implementing a number of programs with NGOs in Ethiopia.



Happy New Year 2005








Acting Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn speaks to the nation


Acting Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegne

Acting Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegne addressing the Nation

Over the previous two weeks, the nation mourned Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s death in indescribable sadness and grief. The mourning, which ended on Sunday with the funeral of the late Prime Minister, was unprecedented. Ethiopians of all age groups and all social strata poured out their grief in all corners of the nation, showing reverence, respect and love for a great leader. The country was infused with melancholy and on the day of the funeral everywhere was deserted as people watched the television at home or in public places to pay their last respects to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

On Monday, Acting Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn addressed the nation, and recognizing this sincere and overwhelming grief, formally thanked Ethiopians of all walks of life for showing such enormous and immeasurable respect for their great leader. Ato Hailemariam said that the respectful, deep and widespread grief shown by all Ethiopians in bidding farewell to their beloved leader had stunned the world.  He noted that when the news of the Prime Minister’s illness was heard, “many Ethiopians of different faiths wished a speedy recovery to see him back in office through prayers and intercession.” The moment the premier‘s death was announced “Ethiopians in all corners of the nation mourned in a manner that astonished the world.” On the day of the funeral – an historic first for Ethiopians to bid farewell to a leader in peace, love and respect – they paid homage “with great respect, civility and in order, all drenched in tears.” Ato Hailemariam underlined the fact that “the Ethiopian peoples have proven to the world that they are a great people who in their reasoned judgment give due credit to a leader who toiled all his life for their betterment”. And in response to this he added: “ I stand today before you to salute you on behalf of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and of the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia”.

The Acting Prime Minister said it was very clear that the message conveyed by the actions of the public over the previous two weeks had not been confined to merely mourning the untimely death of Prime Minister Meles. It included the expression of determination to implement with real vigor the vision of a great leader. “To that end”, he said, “you have renewed your covenant to realize his aims and ambitions”. He said the leadership of EPRDF at all levels “will stand steadfast imbued with our leader’s spirit of struggle to realize the goals set in our policies and strategies”.

Acting Premier Hailemariam emphasized the inheritance from the late Prime Minister Meles and stressed that the new leadership would take up the baton to achieve the grand plans outlined in the Growth and Transformation Plan. Ato Hailemariam said “the late Prime Minister while in office did his best to ensure that the new leadership is versed with nuanced understanding of policies and strategies and has acquired the wisdom of leadership”. He noted that younger leaders had already learnt from Meles’ example. They understood the importance of having the tenacity to live for others, of demonstrating endurance and sacrifice to the cause of the people, of facing challenges and of searching for a way out that staunchly defends the interest of the public, of showing patience, forgivingness and humbleness.

The Acting Prime Minister said “I have no doubt that the new leadership in coordination with the old leadership will continue successfully on the path we started” to achieve our goals. He said that “using the political line we now inherit from our great leader and rallying the support of our people, we can make a miracle”. “The Ethiopian people are the carpenters, masons and engineers of our future.” “We have full confidence in what our peasants and pastoralists, urban people engaged in development activities, scholars and technocrats can achieve.” In these circumstances, the Acting Prime Minister said “it was possible to speak with certainty about the continuity of development endeavors.” And to that end, “the leadership is more than ready to coordinate and mobilize the visible enthusiasm and motivation for change shown by the public.”

Ato Hailemariam said that the vision that Prime Minister Meles shared is that “we can attain a middle income country status in the next 8-10 years.” In recent years “we have reached half-way up the hill, registering more than 10% economic growth for eight years.” Now, “I call on you all to strive together with government with real vigor… [and] fighting tooth and nail, we shall strive to climb up to the top of the hill. We are not permitted to stop before reaching the top and realizing the vision and aims of our great leader.”




Thousands of Ethiopians attend Meles Zenawi burial

Thousands greeted the coffin's arrival on Meskel Square

Thousands of people have been attending the state funeral in Addis Ababa of Ethiopia’s long-serving Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who died last month.

Mr. Meles’ flag-draped coffin was carried from his palace to the city’s Meskel Square for a ceremony, and then buried at the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Dozens of foreign leaders and dignitaries, including at least 20 African presidents, were present.

Mr. Meles died at the age of 57 in Brussels, following a long illness.

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