Who is Hailemariam Desalegn?

By Meron Tekleberhan


hailemariam DesalegneAddis Ababa, August 27, 2012 ( – With the passing of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi the mantel of leading Ethiopia is expected to fall to Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, according to the announcement from the council of Ministers.


Hailemariam will serve as Prime Minister until the next election expected to be held in 2007 unless the next EPRDF general assembly makes a change in the party leadership.


Hailemariam has served in the number two position for the last two years following the policy of replacing the old guard in the EPRDF with a new breed of leaders. His time in power has not been long enough for the Ethiopian people to get to know Hailemariam Desalegn who was in many ways overshadowed by the charismatic Prime Minister. 


Hailemariam Desalegn was born in Bolosa Sore, Wolitta zone in the Southern Regional State. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from Addis Ababa University. He served as a lecturer at Arba Minch Universtiy, then Arba Minch Water Technology College, before winning a scholarship for further education in Finland where he acquired a Masters Degree in Sanitation Engineering. He served in different positions within the academic setting including serving as the Dean of Arba Minch Water Technology College for 13 years. 


Hailemariam has been politically active since the early nineties in different capacities within the Southern People’s Democratic Front climbing to the position of vice president of the party and later on serving in the top position as the president of the Southern Nations and Nationalities Regional State.


Following his impressive record as the president of the Southern Regional State, Hailemariam was appointed as the special advisor to the Prime Minister on Social Affairs and he was then appointed as special advisor for Public organization and Participation while simultaneously serving as executive president of the Southern People’s Democratic Front.


Hailemariam’s selection to serve as both Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister was unique in that he was the first EPRDF appointee to serve in these positions simultaneously as well as being the first of the new breed of leaders who climbed up the ranks of the party in the post war era.


Unlike any other in history, Hailemariam’s succession to Prime Minister will mark a new era in Ethiopian politics, one that will be distinguished by a constitutional transfer of power. The strength and durability of the democratic institutions built by the EPRDF regime over the past two decades will be put to test by the success of this transfer of power and the ability of the new prime minister to sustain a new administration.


The successful transfer of power in the coming days will forever lay to rest fears being expressed by pundits on the stability of the Ethiopian state at this time. 



Meron Tekleberhan


Meron Tekleberhan is Addis Ababa based reporter for She can be reached by sending email through this form.


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