By Marthe Van Der Wolf
Hailemariam Desalegn has been sworn in as prime minister of Ethiopia. The new Ethiopian leader has pledged to continue the policies of his predecessor.
Ethiopia’s parliament approved the appointment of Mr. Hailemariam during an extraordinary session on Friday, several days after ruling coalition EPRDF elected him as its chairman. Hailemariam had been acting prime minister since the death of Meles Zenawi last month.
The president of Ethiopia’s Supreme Court administered the oath of office to Hailemariam Friday.
The new prime minister then gave an acceptance speech in parliament, in which he said that he will continue the legacy and vision of late Prime Minister Meles.
He said it will be the responsibility of us all to work, on the basis of collective leadership, to ensure the continued implementation of existing policies and strategies; to further enhance the far reaching results we have already achieved in the areas of economic development and democratization; and to successfully carry out the aims and ambitions of a great and notable leader.
Also Friday, Minister of Education Demeke Mekonen was sworn in as deputy prime minister.
Ashebir Woldegiorgis is the only independent member of parliament, which is overwhelmingly controlled by the EPRDF.
He says the collective leadership Hailemariam is referring to does not necessarily imply a change for Ethiopia.
“I think collective leadership in a sense, according to the constitution and according to the rules of the ruling party, is that part of the decisions can be taken by the parties and by the government in general and particularly by the prime minister. It will proceed like late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi,” he says.
Hailemariam will face several challenges leading the East African country. Although Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, the majority of people remain poor, and the country has had a hard time controlling inflation.
The Horn of Africa is also an unstable region with Islamist rebels fighting in Somalia and a there is a fragile peace deal between Sudan and South Sudan.
Hailemariam had served as minister of foreign affairs and deputy prime minister since 2010. His appointment introduces a new era for EPRDF in which a younger generation is coming to power that was not part of the armed struggle against the military junta of Hailemariam Mengistu.
The new prime minister is 47 years old and is part of the minority Wolayta ethnic group from southern Ethiopia.