The premier’s move throws the ruling
coalition into disarray.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn
resigned on February 15th after long-
running political turmoil, in an unprece-
dented move in the vast East African
The decision by Hailemariam, in power
since 2012, comes after months of esca-
lating anti-government protests and
signs of growing splits within the ruling
Hailemariam said he had worked hard
to solve Ethiopia’s problems, but that he
believed his resignation was also part of
“We know that we are in the process of
achieving these reforms,” he told the
Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation.
“I myself want to become part of the
The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolu-
tionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and
government “will make history again by
conducting a peaceful power transition
in our country,” he added.
Hailemariam will remain in ofﬁce until
parliament and the EPRDF coalition
conﬁrm his resignation. He also resigned
as EPRDF chairman. It remains unclear
who will take over.
The streets of the capital Addis Ababa
were calm following the surprise
Ushered into ofﬁce after the death of
former prime minister Meles Zenawi,a
one-time Marxist who had led the rebel-
lion that overthrew the Communist Derg
regime, Hailemariam transformed from
a relatively little-known politician into a
technocrat and inﬂuential leader.
While Ethiopia is one of Africa’s poorest
countries, Hailemariam continued a
streak of rapid economic growth.
Unlike many in the ruling elite, Haile-
mariam was not part of the rebel move-
ment which toppled the Derg. Instead he
was studying civil engineering in Addis
Ababa and completing a master’s degree
at Finland’s Tampere University when
the dictator fell.
Political analyst Hallelujah Lulie said
the seeds of Hailemariam’s departure
were sown in 2015, when anti-govern-
ment protests erupted that led to hun-
dreds of deaths and prompted the
government to impose a 10-month state
of emergency in October 2016.
While the decree halted the unrest,
protests still erupted occasionally and
the upheaval exposed divisions within
the four ethnically based parties that
under the EPRDF umbrella have ruled
Ethiopia since 1991.
“There’s a general consensus that the
way he handled the crises was not all
that good,” Hallelujah said.
Recent developments have caused the
elite in the military and intelligence
services to lose conﬁdence in Haile-
mariam, Hallelujah said, while the
regional governments at the centre of
the protests – Oromia and Amhara –
have increasingly shrugged off federal
“He is unable to control the party and he
is unable to control the government, and
I think it is the right decision that he
resigned,” Hallelujah said.
In a country long dominated by its
major ethnic groups – most recently the
Tigray, the ethnic group to which Meles
belonged – Hailemariam comes from the
minority Wolayta people in the South-
ern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples
(EBC TV, Addis Ababa; © AFP 15/
BBC Monitoring explains that Ethiopia’s
ethnic-based federal constitution vests
supreme executive power in the hands of
the prime minister, rather than those of
the head of state. Ethiopian President
Mulatu Teshome has a largely ceremo-
The Council of Ministers reportedly held
an emergency meeting following Haile-
mariam’s announcement, amid media
speculation that a declaration of a state
of emergency was imminent.
The EPRDF will elect a new chairman
to succeed Hailemariam from the top
leadership of the four constituent par-
ties. The election will take place during a
congress originally expected in March or
However, the TPLF is the only con-
stituent party that has provisionally
selected its leaders for the congress.
The Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organ-
isation (OPDO), Amhara National
Democratic Movement (ANDM) and
Southern Ethiopian People’s Demo-
cratic Movement (SEPDM) must elect
their leaders during individual party
congresses as a prelude to the EPRDF
The new chairman will be presented to
MPs for endorsement – a formality, as
the EPRDF holds all 547 seats in par-
Likely successors are deputy Prime Min-
ister Demeke Mekonen, who is the
chairman of the ANDM. He is widely
seen as the front runner to succeed
Hailemariam by default. The elevation
of Demeke, an ethnic Amhara, could
help pacify the ongoing protests in his
Dr Debretsion Gebremikael is the new
chairman of the TPLF and ICT minister.
A Tigrayan hardliner, Debretsion is
unapologetic about his ethnic group’s
dominance of Ethiopian affairs. His
election as prime minister would be a
controversial move that would deepen
divisions within the coalition and
inﬂame the unrest.
Lema Megersa is the OPDO chairman
and is popular with his ethnic Oromo
community. However, his reformist
image means the TPLF is unlikely to
support his candidacy.
Dr Workneh Gebeyehu is the OPDO
deputy chairman and federal foreign
Desi Dalke is the SEPDM’s deputy
chairman and governor of the Southern
Ethiopia Regional State.
ing 16/2) See p. 21761
The changes are mostly technical as
ministers swap posts.
The Gabonese cabinet was reshufﬂed by
Prime Minister Emmanuel Issoze Ngon-
det on February 20th two months ahead
of the legislative elections. Around 10
ministers swapped portfolios.
Two new ministers were announced and
the Minister of Agriculture, Yves Fer-
nand Manfoumbi, was dismissed. The
move was linked to a visit he made to his
electoral stronghold on February 18th
where he danced inappropriately at a
rally. Pictures of him rolling on the
ground were roundly condemned on the
Francis Nkea Dzigue, previously Minis-
ter of Justice, remains in the cabinet even
though his colleagues had called for his
resignation following a strike that paral-
ysed the justice system in December. He
has been transferred to the Ministry of
Housing. He is replaced by Edgard
Anicet Mboumbou Miyakou.
The government is now as follows:
President: Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba
Prime Minister: Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet
Deputy Prime Minister: Bruno Ben Mou-
Ministers of State
Paul Biyoghe Mba
Guy Bertrand Mapangou
Denise Mekamne (f)
Bruno Ben Moubamba
Francis Nkea Ndzigue
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
21748 – Africa Research Bulletin Internal Developments