Hailemariam Desalegn moves to consolidate power

Boosted by a call from U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday, the acting prime minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn, is taking steps to assert his authority, according to Ethiopian Review sources in Addis Ababa.

The ruling TPLF junta is intending to make Hailemariam a figurehead prime minister. The real power still rests solidly in the hands of Seyoum Mesfin and the TPLF Politburo. However, Hailemariam is encouraged by the U.S and European governments, as well as his own supporters, to start exercising real authority even before the rubber-stamp parliament formally appoints him as prime minister.

Hailemariam’s real challenge to his authority as prime minister comes from none other than the wife of the late dictator Meles Zenawi.

According to Ethiopian Review sources, Azeb Mesfin is organizing discontented TPLF member against the acting prime minister, paving the way for herself to assume that position. It is Azeb who pushed the date when Hailemariam to be formally appointed as prime minister until after the burial of Meles Zenawi on September 2.

Concerned by growing opposition within the TPLF rank, Hailemariam has beefed up security around him, and the U.S. Gov’t has promised to provide him additional security. It is reported on Friday that U.S. security specialists on contract from the Africom have started to provide Hailemariam with intelligence and advise on how to protect against possible coup d’etat.

Hailemariam is also secretly reaching out to Ethiopian opposition groups. His communication with at least two opposition leaders was leaked to the VOA on Friday by a faction in the TPLF that opposes Hailemariam.