Hailemariam took oath as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister about ten days ago, succeeding the late PM Meles Zenawi who passed away last month.
According to the news report on a number of Ethiopian diaspora media, the rallies were held at 47 Street and 2nd Avenue at UN after 3 pm on Friday (US – Eastern Time).
The protesters denounced The protesters shouted saying: Hailemariam Desalegn is a living Meles Zenawi. Hailemariam is another ‘Woyane’ from South. ‘Woyane’ is a word the opposition use as an insult against the ruling party EPRDF and its members, though it simply means ‘revolutionary’.
Slogans shouted by the protesters and put on placards read: “Stop terrorizing the people of Ethiopia !!!” “Shame on you Obama for supporting dictatorship in Ethiopia.” “Shame on You USA for selecting Ethiopian dictators behind the scene.”
Apparently, the protesters took seriously the claim made by some extreme opposition media that the new Prime Minister was imposed by the United States, though the ruling party wished to choose some other unnamed person. While the rumor is far-fetched, the protesters complaint is not clear as they would not have approved whomever the party chose without the alleged ‘interference’ by the US.
The news reports didn’t indicate the size of the protesters, but it was probably attended by less than 100 people.
Opposition protests in Washington and New York area hardly attracted about 200 people, though the population of Ethiopian migrants in the area is estimated between 200,000 and 300,000.
The protesters claimed the rally was triggered by PM Hailemariam’s interview with the VOA(Voice of America), a day earlier, where he explained the case of some detained opposition activists saying:
"Our national security interest cannot be compromised by somebody having two hats. We have to tell them they can have only one hat which is legal and the legal way of doing things, be it in journalism or opposition discourse, but if they opt to have two mixed functions, we are clear to differentiate the two".
Hailemariam’s statement apparently dashed the opposition’s illusion that the new PM will dismantle the political and economic system which he served as different levels for about two decades, Hailemariam was Dep. Prime Minister and Foreign Minister since 2010 until his inauguration as Prime Minister.
At the time the protesters were shouting on the street, Hailemariam was addressing the United Nations General Assembly. Though he was probably unaware of the protests, his speech contained some lines, which could be deemed a response. He said:
The reason why I am here at this podium, to make my maiden speech to the General Assembly as the leader of the new Ethiopia, is because we lost our leader only a little more than a month ago. The passing of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is a huge loss for Ethiopia; and undoubtedly for Africa, as well. He was a man of prodigious intellect who was uncompromising in his insistence that Ethiopians and Africans should own and protect their development strategies and their approaches to governance and democratization. The late Ethiopian Prime Minister, and the party he led, have facilitated the emergence of the new Ethiopia, which has rekindled the hope of Ethiopians in the future and strengthened their confidence to overcome adversities.
Ethiopians proved their mettle, and what they are made of, when unexpectedly they were told about the tragedy the nation faced. It is an honour and a blessing to be a leader of a people who are generous in paying tribute to those, like Prime Minister Meles, who served them selflessly; a people who had the maturity and wisdom to see, and even lucidly articulate, who did what for the nation and for the people of Ethiopia. Naturally, this would make any normal human being, with the opportunity to lead the country, to ask himself what more one can do for his people, not in words but in deeds, as our late Prime Minister often emphasized. There were indeed, as should be expected, doomsday scenarios bandied around about Ethiopia’s future. But the people of Ethiopia- from north to south, from east to west, across the length and breadth of the country – were categorical in stating in unison how much they embrace the unity of the country, unity that celebrates their diversity and built on the bedrock of their federal constitution.
Check the Hailemariam Desalegne archive for previous and forthcoming posts.