Hailemariam Desalegn (Ethiopia)

Reference work entry


Hailemariam Desalegn became prime minister, initially in an acting capacity after Meles Zenawi died of an undisclosed illness, in Aug. 2012. He had previously served as deputy prime minister under Meles and was minister of foreign affairs from 2010–12. He was the first premier from the Ethiopian Apostolic denomination.

Early Life

Hailemariam was born on 19 July 1965 in what is now the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) in the south of Ethiopia. At school, he joined a political youth group attached to the communist military junta of Mengistu Haile Mariam.

In 1988 Hailemariam graduated in civil engineering from Addis Ababa University, before taking up a post as a graduate assistant in the Arba Minch Water Technology Institute. In 1990 he won a scholarship to Tampere University of Technology in Finland to study for a masters’ degree in sanitation engineering. Returning to Ethiopia, he worked in various academic and administrative positions for over a decade, during which time he earned a master’s in organizational leadership from Azusa Pacific University in California.

Hailemariam served in senior management positions at the Hawassa and Wolayta Soddo Universities, the Addis Ababa Water Supply and Sewerage Authority, the Construction Design Share Company, the Ethiopian Maritime and Transit Service Enterprise, the Privatization and Public Enterprise Supervising Agency, and the Walta Information and Public Relations Center.

From the late 1990s he was increasingly involved in politics, joining Ethiopia’s ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). A member of the SNNPR council between 1995 and 2008, he served as its vice-president from 2000–01 and as its president from 2001–06. He is also chairman of the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement and deputy chairman of the executive council of the EPRDF.

From 2006–08 Hailemariam was special adviser (with the rank of minister) to the prime minister on social affairs, civic organizations and partnership. From 2008–10 he was the government’s chief whip in the House of People’s Representatives. In Sept. 2010 Hailemariam was appointed deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs under the premiership of Meles Zenawi.

Career Peak

After Meles died in Aug. 2012, Hailemariam succeeded him as prime minister, serving in an interim capacity for a month. On 15 Sept. 2012 he was elected chairman of the EPRDF before being sworn in as the fully-mandated prime minister a week later. Increasingly repressive measures against journalists and opposition opinion were adopted by his government ahead of the general election in May 2015, in which the ruling party claimed a landslide victory. Despite impressive economic growth in 2015,there was increasing protest in 2016 against the authoritarianism of the EPRDF, prompting the government in Oct. that year to declare a state of emergency (although it was lifted by parliament in Aug. 2017). Additionally, there have been rising ethnic tensions and violence in 2017, particularly between Oromos and Somalis. In early 2018 anti-government demonstrations spread. Despite his attempts to quell the situation, Hailemariam resigned on 15 Feb. 2018 under pressure from opposition groups. However, he remained in office until Abiy Ahmed succeeded him as prime minister on 2 April 2018 after being elected by the parliament.

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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

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