Following the death of Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi on Monday, the country's Council of Ministers named Hailemariam Desalegne as acting prime minister.
In a move meant to groom him for the higher office, Hailemariam Desalegne, chairman of the Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM), replaced Addisu Legesse as vice-chairman of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in September, 2010.
Before his appointment, Desalegne was President of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region (SNNPR) from November 2001 to March 2006.
He is from the politically dominant Wolaita ethnic group within the Southern Nation and Nationalities Peoples regional state, home to more than 50 nations and nationalities.
He studied and spent most of his youth in Wolaita. Often regarded as a minority group, his appointment made him the first Ethiopian leader from that region. Like his predecessor, Hailemariam was named deputy prime minister and minister of Foreign Affairs in Meles' new government in September 2010.
With a background in academics, he had taken over the chairmanship of the SEPDM in 2005 and was Meles's adviser on social affairs before becoming chief whip in Parliament in 2008.
As acting Prime Minister, he becomes the first non-Tigray and non-Amhara head of Ethiopia's EPRDF government since the party took power in 1991.
Desalegne, the first Protestant Christian head of government in the history of Ethiopia, was put in a strong position to lobby for the chairmanship following Meles' anticipated retirement in 2015 after his appointment.
As a southerner, his ascendancy was expected to help in avoiding tensions between the Tigrayans who occupy many positions of power, the Amharas, who see themselves as the traditional ruling elite, and the Oromos, one of the biggest ethnic groups.
Educational and Political Background
V/President of the SNNPR (2000–2002)
President of the SNNPR (2002–2005)
Member of the House of People's Representatives (2005–present)
Social Affairs Special Advisor to the PM, then Public Mobilisation & Participation Special Advisor to the Prime Minister (2005–2008)
Government Chief Whip, with a ministerial portfolio (2008–2010).
Member of the Executive Committee of the EPRDF and the SEPDM (2000–present);
Chairman of the SEPDM (2002–present);
Deputy. Chairman of the EPRDF (since Sept 2010).
Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering from the Addis Ababa University in 1988.
Graduate Assistant in the Arba Minch Water Technology Institute (now Arba Minch University)
After two years of working in this capacity, he won a scholarship to Tampere University of Technology in Finland and obtained a Masters Degree in Sanitation Engineering. Upon his return to Ethiopia he served in different academic and administrative capacities, including as dean of the Water Technology Institute, for 13 years. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he became seriously involved in politics as member of the EPRDF (Ethiopia's ruling party) and became the deputy president of the SNNPR.