Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is wholly different from the old guard EPRDFs except one thing i.e. he is one EPRDF himself. He comes from the academia not the bush; he is so mannered and highly cultivated. He brings a new breed of technocrats with little politico-ethnic dilute. He is stands alone in an ethnically netted regime. There are many who hope and expect changes from him; there are also many who say he is just a “Medvedv among many Putins”.
But Can Hailemariam Dessalgne be our General Abdulsalami Alhaji Abubakar?
General Sani Abacha was the president of Nigeria from November 17, 1993 to June 1998. He recorded some economic gains and was denounced for “human rights violations”. Abacha suddenly died in June 1998 at his presidential villa in Abuja, some say he was “poisoned”. He was succeeded by Maj. Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, Nigeria’s defense chief of staff, who was sworn in as the country’s Head of State. Many feared that this new President is the same military Joe and is going to continue the junta. However, the next day, June 9, 1998, he promised the following:
- Called for a national reconciliation and peac
- A new constitution will be adopted
- All inclusive, free and fair elections will be held in one year time
- All political prisoners will be released including Moshood Abiola, who by most accounts was the winner of Nigeria’s last presidential election in 1993
- Solemnly invited all Nigerian opposition in the Diaspora/exiled
- Changes in economy- freeing up markets
- Establish an Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
To the disbelief of his own military, cynics and his family, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar kept his word, fulfilled all his promises and transferred power to president-elect Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 1999. He just led one transitionary year and he did reconcile and pacify Nigeria, adopted a new constitution, held an all inclusive multi party election, freed all political prisoners, allowed back banned Diaspora, freed up the economy and put the nation in a civilian rule. Abubakar received multiple honors, including the Rainbow/Push Coalition Peace Prize, the Economic Community of West African States International Gold Medal, and the Star Award of Ghana and also played role in African peace processes.
Hailemariam is capable of doing what his Nigerian nick had done but perhaps two reasons:
Military: Hailemariam did not come from the military and had no direct control and experience of military administration. Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar was at an advantage because he has been Chief of Staff for long and had direct relationship and control over the military for a long time. Importantly too, the Ethiopian security sector is dominated by a one ethnic army making Hailemariam an elephant in the middle of lions. These two points put Hailemariam at a disadvantage. However, once he is sworn in as Prime Minister, he will be the Commander In Chief of the armed forces giving him full leverage and power over the military.
Assertiveness: for all his positive CV of humbleness, religious devotion, hard ‘workingness’, educational excellence, wisdom and leadership skills with a positive track record, he is also critiqued for being so sensitive and less assertive. He is feared to be a “yes sir” guy for a bunch of old guards who would advise and cajole him saying “no you are young, this is the way it is done kid” and so on. In fact, assertiveness and resolve evolve through time. The corruption, pressure and repression that he sees, may fuel him to be courageous and a change maker. We have not observed Hailemariam enjoying full authority so far, we may have to wait a bit in deed.
Constitution: Despite all the disadvantages we mentioned above, Hailemariam is protected and legally empowered by the Constitution. An Ethiopian Prime Minister is like a “Supreme leader” according to the current Ethiopian constitution. Let us read what the Constitution says regarding the “powers and functions of the Prime Minister”,
Powers and Functions of the Prime Minister
1. The Prime Minister is the Chief Executive, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, and the Commander-in-Chief of the national armed forces.
2. The Prime Minister shall submit for approval to the House of Peoples’ Representatives nominees for ministerial posts from among members of the two Houses or from among persons who are not members of either House and possess the required qualifications.
3. He shall follow up and ensure the implementation of laws, policies, directives and other decisions adopted by the House of Peoples’ Representatives.
4. He leads the Council of Ministers, coordinates its activities and acts as its representative.
5. He exercises overall supervision over the implementation of policies, regulations, directives and decisions adopted by the Council of Ministers.
6. He exercises overall supervision over the implementation of the country’s foreign policy.
7. He selects and submits for approval to the House of Peoples’ Representatives nominations for posts of Commissioners, the President and Vice-President of the Federal Supreme Court and the Auditor General.
8. He supervises the conduct and efficiency of the Federal administration and takes such corrective measures as are necessary.
9. He appoints high civilian officials of the Federal Government other than those referred to in sub-Articles 2 and 3 of this Article.
10. In accordance with law enacted or decision adopted by the House of Peoples’ Representatives, he recommends to the President nominees for the award of medals, prizes and gifts.
11. He shall submit to the House of Peoples’ Representatives periodic reports on work accomplished by the Executive as well as on its plans and proposals.
12. He shall discharge all responsibilities entrusted to him by this Constitution and other laws.
13. He shall obey and enforce the Constitution.
Dissolution of the House
1. With the consent of the House, the Prime Minister may cause the dissolution of the House before the expiry of its term in order to hold new elections.
This article and the 13 sub sections of the Constitution unless amended in the coming few days give Hailemariam a wide competitive edge. He just needs to employ these powers and do the Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar thingy. Haile could reshuffle the army leadership and dissolve the parliament to call for a new all inclusive dialogue and election.
The West: The second most important advantage and opportunity that Hailemariam has is support from the West. The US has repeatedly echoed that it would continue to work with Hailemariam and the Constitution would be respected in the process of leadership change. Hailemariam has also built a good relationship and track record with many countries during his tenure as Foreign Minister. By combining the support he has from the West and his Constitutional rights, Hailemraiam can (may) make history.
Subsequently: If Hailemariam himself does not read this, I am sure one of his loved ones would and will show/tell him. Thus we say, for the sake of our nation’s and region’s peace, your legacy and ‘your’ own visions not others, attempt what Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar succeeded and live a peacefully comfortable life to earn the titles “Father of democracy, patriot and brother of the people”. This shouldn’t be a charm offensive but real one for your heart!
One Nigerian medium described, that post Abacha Nigeria had needed “… a man of peace, a fence-mender, a wound-binder, a man whose ambition was not vaulting, one who would steer Nigeria away from the knife-edge of danger” that Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar was able to be so. Don’t we need the same Hailemariam?http://debirhan.net/?p=807