by Yared Ayicheh, September 9, 2012
The Meles era is gone. EPRDF was addicted to Meles’ lies and delusions for 21 years, and now, as an organization it is going through withdrawal symptoms. The bewilderment its members and supporters feel is like that of a drug addict who is faced with life without drugs. EPRDF has no choice but to go through a process of adjustment and adaptation of a new organizational culture without Meles at the helm.
That is where Hailemariam Desalegn comes in. The delay in confirming Hailemariam as a Prime Minister has fueled many conspiracies. Here I would like to frame the possible scenarios with or without Hailemariam as a Prime Minister.
Hailemariam is a new blood in the EPRDF. His background as a post armed struggle member of EPRDF’s leadership by itself gives him a whole different new mentality. It is a well known psychological fact that those who participate in a lengthy armed conflict will be impacted by the experience of violence. Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD) is one that is common among those who go through traumatic experiences such as armed conflict. Hailemariam is free from PTSD, Meles was not.
Another positive dimension of Hailemariam is his spiritual life. Hailemariam is a protestant Christian and Ethiopian Protestants are by large very committed to biblical fundamentals. Hailemariam, however, does separate religion and politics. In an interview he did with an Ethiopian Protestant magazine, he clearly asserted that his religious views will not hold him back from implementing his politics.
Even though it is a wishful thinking to expect Hailemariam to be the political opposite of Meles, it is reasonable to expect Hailemariam to be less toxic and more reconciliatory in his political tone. But this is all assuming Hailemariam will be elected to be the chairman of the EPRDF and there by clinching the Prime Minister’s position. If Hailemariam is, for what ever reasons, undermined and does not to get the PM position that will be the beginning of a major crisis in the EPRDF coalition.
EPRDF, with a marginalized Hailemariam, will politically get into uncharted territories. Hailemariam party, Southern Ethiopia People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM), holds 122 seats in the Ethiopian Parliament. Having Hailemariam ‘demoted’ from the perceived Prime Ministers’ position that he is expected to get is a political blow to the 122 SEPDM members in the Parliament. That is an opportunity Ginbot 7, OLF and others will undoubtedly see as a great political opportunity due to the Southern State’s geographic location and large population.
17 Million Protestants for Hailemariam?
Another dimension to a ‘demoted’ Hailemariam is the religious factor. Ethiopia’s politics is already at a tipping point of turning from ethnic politics to religious politics. The EPRDF has touched the nerves of Orthodox Christians in 1991 by removing the Orthodox Pope, even though the Church’s rule clearly says the Pope can not be replaced while he is alive. In addition to that the excursion of the Meles’ administration in to the Waldiba Monastery’s territory for the production of sugarcane has ignited an Orthodox anger at the EPRDF.
The Ethiopian Muslim have recently been protesting in the streets of Addis Ababa, in tens of thousands or more, demanding the Government stop interfering in their internal affairs, specifically in the Governments attempt to change the leaders of the Ethiopian Muslim association, by placing leaders with a doctrine from an imported Islamic teaching called Ahabisim. Scores of Muslims were killed in Aresi and Addis Ababa. More than 15 Muslim religious leaders are arrested from various parts of Ethiopia. Ethiopian Muslims have expressed their firm stand that the Government must get its hands out of the affairs of Ethiopian Muslims, and that they will not back down from their demand, whatever it will cost them.
According to Ethiopia’s Census 2007 Ethiopia’s Protestants are more than 17 million. If EPRDF undermines Hailemariam and that is perceived by Protestants as an attack on Hailemariam’ faith, the ERPDF will be facing a coalition of political Orthodox-Muslim-Protestants which will be easily exploited by the opposition, specifically the Diaspora opposition, which is willing to use any political tactic to unseat the EPRDF.
Hailemariam Joins the Opposition
If Hailemariam is either ‘demoted’ from the Prime Minister’s position, or he does not officially get to exercise fully the Prime Ministers’ constitutional powers, there by being manipulated and controlled in the background by senior EPRDF heavyweights, one possibility is Hailemariam may defect or resign from the Prime Minister’s position. And if that happens, again, the Diaspora opposition will welcome Hailemariam with open arms touting his defection or resignation as the demise of the EPRDF, there by pushing EPRDF into an implosion.
Hailemariam is the best thing for the EPRDF and the Opposition, but mostly for Ethiopians who seek a moderate and positive leader, unlike the fascist Mengistu or the politically toxic Meles.