Ethiopia: Issues Surrounding Meles’ Succession – Interview


The succession to Meles Zenawi may have been planned along a longstanding agreement said Salomon Dersso, researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Addis Ababa. Dersso also told MISNA that the ruling coalition’s convention in the next few weeks does not represent a contest for the vote.

The voices of uncertainties and disagreements within the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (ERPDF), therefore, are likely more the result of the opaque policies of the Ethiopian government than real unknowns. The interim Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, by 2010 was already at the helm of Foreign Affairs and the number two in the government, would appear to be destined to remain in power until the elections due in three years.


Dr. Dersso, Desalegn has been an interim premier for the past few weeks. On his appointment as successor to Zenawi are there conflicts in the ruling coalition?

“As for the alleged power struggle, much has been said and written about. Some see the fact that Desalegn has not yet been confirmed prime minister as proof of the struggle. Such notions are certainly encouraged by the lack of transparency of the policy in Ethiopia. But I do not think there is a power struggle for the time being. On Thursday, he met the Executive Committee, not the ERPDF Congress. At that meeting, it was emphasized that the president and vice-president of the coalition are to be elected by the Congress, a body larger and more representative of the committee as established by the coalition’s statute. The conference was convened this week. In order for the decision over the prime minister to be announced, therefore, we will have to wait a few days. As you know, the president of the EPRDF will become almost automatically the Prime Minister, because the coalition has total control of parliament.”

In short, the successor to Zenawi will be Desalegn …

“I have not seen any indication that would differ in any way. I do not think there is a branch against him. Instead, there is uncertainty about the other two important figures: the vice-president of the coalition, destined to become the number two in the government, and the foreign affairs minister. ”

Desalegn is native to the South; he is not Tigrinya as Zenawi was. Will the balance of power between ethnic communities and regions of Ethiopia change?

“The choice could address an attempt to give weight to all the members of the coalition, redressing the balance between the powers of Tigrinya Front for the Liberation of peoples, the Amhara National Democratic Movement, the Organization of the peoples Democratic Front and the Oromo Peoples South Ethiopia. The representation of all components in the government is essential. Historically, the Tigrayans were dominant, because they were the ones to launch the guerrilla warfare that, between 1989 and 1991, led to the collapse of the regime of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. Anyway, I do not think that the election of Desalegn automatically reduces the hegemony of Tigrinya. ”

There was a very strong participation of the people at Zenawi’s funeral?

“The EPRDF has exercised all possible pressure in order to fill the streets. But it is equally true that the Ethiopians have been affected deeply by the death of Zenawi. He was a controversial leader, often called a tyrant or on the contrary a visionary. He has been rightly criticized for the brutality of the repression to any form of pluralism. It says a lot that in a country of 75 million people, with many different political orientations, in parliament his coalition had 99% of the seats. On the other hand it is true that Ethiopia has had a growth of 10% for almost ten years in a row, perhaps the highest among the non-oil producing African countries. Above all, while it remains a central issue, poverty has been reduced.”

Since 2010, Desalegn has been Foreign Minister. In Ethiopia’s international relations will anything change?

“The strategic importance of Ethiopia, due to geographical, political and economic factors, will remain unchanged. Its contribution to peace and stability in the Horn of Africa and in sub-Saharan Africa in general will also remain. Ethiopia will continue to be a leading country, if not the leading country, as indicated by its contributions in Somalia or Sudan. In the first case, it supported the transitional institutions in Mogadishu and the soldiers of the African Union in the fight against Al Shabaab rebels. In the second, in the disputed region of Abyei, it has become the sole participant in UN peacekeeping mission made up of soldiers from only one country. The changes in the foreign policy of Ethiopia could address the ways in which the objectives are pursued. However, as for the objectives and guidelines, there will not be any big changes.”


MISNA, or the Missionary International Service News Agency, provides daily news ‘from, about and for’ the 'world’s Souths', not just in the geographical sense, since December 1997.

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