NewsEast & Horn AfricaEthiopia plays chess at a leisurely pace


Posted on Friday, 05 February 2016 11:57

Ethiopia plays chess at a leisurely pace

By Jacey Fortin

All four parties in the ruling coalition had a post election shuffle in August but their leaders remain intact as Metekakat proves slow-moving.

Following a sweeping electoral victory for the ruling coalition in May, Ethiopia's new parliament will oversee the country's second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II), a five-year blueprint outlining development goals.

Like its predecessor, the GTP II sets out ambitious targets for infrastructure, energy generation and economic growth. But this round will have an even stronger focus on promoting industry, which makes up only 14.3 % of gross domestic product.

Despite a few cabinet shakeups, there is no sign the EPRDF is looking to change direction

With opposition parties in disarray following predictable losses in May's vote, politics in Africa's second-most- populous country are still dominated by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which is made up of four regional parties. Congresses were held in August to elect the parties' new executive committees, but all kept their chairmen and deputy chairs.

The Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organisation and the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) have been accused by some constituents of neglecting regional priorities, an issue the influential former communications minister Bereket Simon raised in a speech before losing his seat on the ANDM's executive committee.

The Southern Ethiopian Peoples' Democratic Movement, a less cohesive alliance of various ethnic groups, saw its chairman Hailemariam Desalegn continue as prime minister by a unanimous parliamentary vote.

In a blow to Metekakat (a long-term plan to retire veteran politicians in favour of fresh talent) the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) awarded several retired veterans two years of renewed influence in the form of party voting rights.

They included Sebhat Nega, a founding TPLF member; Arkebe Oqubay (1), a popular former mayor of Addis Ababa who now leads Ethiopia's industrialisation drive; and Seyoum Mesfin, a former ambassador to China who now leads regional efforts to end the conflict in neighbouring South Sudan.

Tigray split

Though Abay Woldu retained his seat as TPLF party chairman, his poor showing in preliminary votes was a clear sign of his waning popularity. The TPLF is now dealing with a split between two groups, with Abay and his allies based in Mekelle, Tigray's capital city, complaining about the national focus of Addis-based party members like Arkebe, Sebhat and Debretsion Gebremichael, who remains as TPLF deputy chair, one of three deputy prime ministers and minister of communication and information technology.

Security service head Getachew Assefa, a man rarely seen by party outsiders, made an impassioned speech harking back to the TPLF's revolutionary roots. For the first time, the influential spy chief was elected to the party's – and therefore the ruling coalition's – executive committee. His brother Daniel Assefa was appointed mayor of Mekelle.

Getachew will, however, face some extra oversight from now on. Intelligence and defence institutions will be held accountable to a new standing committee, which will focus on budgetary and administrative issues. The move suggests that Prime Minister Hailemariam, once seen as a placeholder following the death of his iconic predecessor Meles Zenawi, is making moves to assert his leadership.

Though constrained by a balancing act requiring him to keep his cabinet ethnically diverse, the prime minister has made some notable appointments. Abdulaziz Mohammed (2), widely seen as a consensus seeker, replaced the veteran Sufian Ahmed as finance minister.

Kebede Chane, who as trade minister failed to meet export targets, lost his position to his deputy Yacob Yala. Newly elected Tigray MP Getachew Reda (3) has taken over Redwan Hussien's position as communications affairs minister.

But despite a few cabinet and party congress shake-ups, there is no sign that the EPRDF is looking to change ideological direction. Ethiopia has made great strides in reducing poverty and claimed 10.2% economic growth in the last fiscal year, a strong performance even if the International Monetary Fund privately believes it is several percentage points lower. ●


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