Anticipation, as the ruling party selects the next Prime Minister of Ethiopia

(Hafsa Mohamed)

Hailemariam Desalegn, the outgoing Prime Minister of Ethiopia, unexpectedly resigned last month amid civil unrest in the country — implying the decision to stepdown a significant step towards effectual political reform and sustainable peace.

Following the announcement of Desalegn’s resignation, the various existing political parties (some members of the ruling coalition and some allied) initiated imperative dialogues on who the next Prime Minister be, what reforms are desired by popular factions within the [federal] government and those demanded by the people [or specific groups] and the fundamental and indubitable role regional states and administration play in this transition.

Multilevel institutes evaluate and conduct accountability sessions not only in the capital city of Addis Ababa but throughout the nation; municipalities, villages, districts, states and communities are preparing for progressive modifications as well as the efficient continuation of strategic development strategies (e.g. Growth and Transformational Plan II).

As for the Ethiopian – whether Diaspora member or a national – anticipation takes a grip, and the many scenarios of how this political uncertainty might play out are flagrantly debated.

Civil Unrest

Since 2015, Ethiopia has experienced persistent protests and ethnic violence, resulting in over a million internally displaced persons, unyielding internet blackouts, state of emergencies, detectible public fear and unsettling uncertainty.

The unrest has been felt throughout the nation, in almost every space (both decisive and ‘marginal’), from educational establishments to small clan collectives in rural areas. Although a few bias narratives covering Ethiopia’s internal strife conspicuously dominant most information-based platforms, there is one fact that no longer remains a downplayed newsflash, the unrest subsists and an enduring [re]solution is, however, yet to be discovered.

The Constitution and Regional States

Centralized perspectives and matters are prevalent and effortlessly comprehensible; only but a handful, it seems, are aware of the correlation and applicability between regional structures and the federal government. The present-day national volatility demonstrably affects each region inversely. For example, albeit all nine regional states of Ethiopia are closely watching the federal political discourse, regions such as that of the Oromo indicate that a lot is on the line – as both their internal and external issues necessitate serious undertaking/transposing.

Whereas, in the contrary, majority of the Somali Region and its people, express plausible confidence and content for their regional administration – so, although preferences of who should lead the country are chatted, Ethiopian-Somalis are predominantly supportive of their regional government.

In the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, ‘regional states are structured on the basis of settlement patterns, language, identity and the consent of the people’ (Article 46). Keywords: consent and people. As well, “Powers of the Federal Government shall be respected by the States and powers of the States shall be respected by the Federal Government” (Article 50). Keyword: respect(ed).

As the federal angle and leadership contest virtually supersedes regional performances or stances, it is tremendously appropriate and rudimentary to note the Powers and Duties of States. Did you know that some of Ethiopia’s more complex and superlative proclamations and achievements are often fulfilled outside the vibrant city of Addis Ababa? The country and its current ruling political party will be choosing a new Prime Minister shortly but how this selection will impact regional states have, nonetheless, rests unexplored. Perhaps listing the main legal functions and influences of regional states will be valuable.

Regional states of Ethiopia, according to Article 52 of the country’s constitution:

* Prepare and implement their own social development policies, plans and strategies

* Enact and implement state constitution and other laws

* Administer land and natural resources in accordance with laws enacted by the Federal Government

* Establish state administration aimed at self-administration; establish a democratic order where rule of law reigns. Safeguard and defend the constitution

* Levy taxes and duties on those sources of revenue reserved for the States; prepare and implement its own budget

* Enact and implement laws regulating administration and working conditions of civil servants of the State. It shall, however, have the responsibility to ensure that standards of education, trainings and experience for a given job category are comparable to the general standards adopted in the country

* Organize and direct the police force of the state; ensure law and order within the state

Nevertheless, whoever becomes the next Prime Minister or whatever transpires on federal grounds, all Ethiopians will be somehow impacted. Regional states, especially those who are not official members of the leading political party, have an immense responsibility to continue rigorously prioritizing the improvement, empowerment and security of their people and structures. The consensus and consent cultivated within a regional community cannot be challenged or overturned.

Ethiopians, at home and abroad, anticipate

Ethiopia is home to more than one hundred million people, over eighty ethnic groups and languages, diverse belief systems and practices. Ethiopians are scattered all over Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East – where they dynamically participate in contributing to advancing Ethiopia or mobilizing for imperative causes while also being active citizens in their country of residence.

Ethiopians, African countries, commercial stakeholders, foreign governments (i.e. China and the United States of America), and ultimately, the world observe the limited reliable updates and trendy rumours regarding national incidents. Although current affairs of Ethiopia undoubtedly concern numerous entities and structures, Ethiopians [c]overtly anticipate in diverse expressions of optimism and scepticism.

Some of their critical, mutual, noteworthy and unrequited questions are:

Who will be the next Prime Minister?

What will happen next in Ethiopia?

When will Ethiopia reach a level of political readiness and elect a Prime Minister from the Afar or Somali Region?

Where will upcoming political changes be experienced most extensively, positively and/or negatively?

Why is the internet blocked in every region and town besides Addis Ababa?

How can Ethiopians collectively resolve their internal issues, ethnic tensions and unrest?

The Way Forward

Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front’s (EPRDF) pending, pivotal leadership pick and their long-awaited announcement may result in national reform, reconciliation and resolution efforts taking full effect or it may also result in the predictable (Ethiopian politics will remain unaltered). Whatever the outcome is, the people of Ethiopia call for a change. The yet-to-be unpacked and intricate notion is: change has a distinctive meaning for each group, person and establishment.

Regardless of the events and explanations that will follow the revelation of Ethiopia’s next leader, the prime way forward is nationally marshalling combined actions to, once and for all, end the ongoing unrest in Ethiopia – and assuring every state, political party, nominated community representative/group and all relevant personnel equally partake.


* The author, Hafsa Mohamed, is an Ethiopian-American Diaspora member working in the development sector in Ethiopia.

Hafsa Mohamed is Executive Director of Maandeeq Women's Organisation (MWO). She is Ethiopian-American diaspora, currently working in the civil society and development sector in Ethiopia and occasionally blogs at HornAffairs.

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