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Published On  Nov 20,  2011
   
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THE FINE LINE
 

 

Leaving the Ethiopian ruling party is no less a delicate affair than breaking up a marriage, some say. Particularly for the veterans, it can get very emotional and personal, for they leave behind a movement to which they have committed their lives and once were ready to pay for with their lives.

Such could be the case of Hailekiros Gessese, who joined the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) while a student in the United States, back in the 1970s. The 59-year-old veteran politician and father of three, was born in Mekele, the capital of Tigray Regional State. He has had a long and distinguished career in diplomacy, no less than his comrades during the armed struggle, such as Seyoum Mesfin, Brehane G. Kristos (both still serve the foreign office), and Yemane (Jamaica) Kidane, who all were foreign relations operatives of the TPLF back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Hailekiros began his debut in diplomacy when he was appointed as the TPLF’s representative in North America in 1977, after being an ordinary member the preceding three years. For the six years up until 1990, he served as the organisation’s representative in Europe, stationed in London. In the post-Dergue era, he served as a member of the Transitional Council and was the head of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front’s (EPRDF) foreign relations bureau for over a decade since the early 1990s.

As an MP for the ruling EPRDF, Hailekiros served as the head of different standing committees for administration as well as foreign relations, defence, and security. That was before he was appointed by the Prime Minister as his special envoy to China and an ambassador to Singapore, while residing in Beijing. Following the sweeping reshuffling of the cabinet in November 2010, which saw the departure of Seyoum as a special envoy to China, Hailekiros was transferred to Khartoum, where he lived as a TPLF representative back in 1990.

He has not been very pleased since his days in Beijing, thus the contemplation to resign from public service, gossip claims. Whether or not that would amount to leaving the party is not clear to gossip. Yet, experience shows that almost all those who willingly resigned from their government positions were no longer allowed to continue with party membership, hence the various positions they held as party assignments.

Hailekiros, who gossip heard wanted to join the private sector as a businessman, has been replaced by Abadi Zemu, another veteran of the TPLF. He now serves as a political bureau member of the TPLF and executive committee member of the EPRDF, both positions in the inner circle of the governing party. Interestingly, it is perhaps the first time for the Prime Minister to appoint a political bureau member to a foreign post, gossip observed.

Abadi leaves a crucial office vacant.

The chairmanship of the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT) was once held by powerful politicians such as Seyee Abraha, Seyoum Mesfin, and Sebhat Nega, in order of appointment. First established in the mid-1990s with 25 founding members, 16 of whom were central committee members of the TPLF at the time, EFFORT and its subsidiaries command 2.7 billion Br in capital and six billion Birr in assets, according to a 2010 audit, gossip disclosed.

The chairman of the board of directors and its nine to 12 members elected for three years are answerable to a governing council of 55 to 75 people where veterans such as Hailekiros were once members. It normally meets annually between September and December of the calendar year, gossip learnt. Gossip observed that the organisation is pretty faithful in conducting such meetings.

Now that Abadi has been assigned overseas, electing the next chairman is an issue for the council when it meets next month, gossip disclosed. Gossip is now abuzz with prospective names flying around, from Berhane K. Mariam of Walta Information Center to Tekleweini Assefa of the Relief Society of Tigray (REST).

Nonetheless, if history provides any insight, chairpersons of EFFORT have always been those who were placed in the political bureau of the TPLF. No one but Azeb Mesfin, one of the four deputy directors of EFFORT and the Prime Minister’s wife, is largely speculated to be well positioned to claim the mantra of an endowment with 21 subsidiaries that paid the government over 1.5 billion Br in various taxes in 2009/10, gossip claims.

If such be the case, gossip foresees an unprecedented raise to power, influence and prominence of the spouse of a serving head of government, unequalled in history since the time of Emperor Menelik and Empress Taitu.

 
 
 
 
 
 
   
 
 
 

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