Ethiopia’s Hailemariam Desalegn Elected as African Union Chairman (Video)


Photo: Hailemariam Desalegn, PM of Ethiopia

Jan. 27, 2013

By William Daviso

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was elected by African heads of state as chairman of the African Union today, replacing Benin’s President Yayi Boni.

The 47-year-old Hailemariam, who became leader of Ethiopia after the death from illness of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in August, will serve a one-year term as head of the African Union, or AU.

The 54-member continental bloc’s assembly is meeting in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The AU faces several security challenges on the continent, including rebellions in Mali, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, and continuing tension between South Sudan and Sudan which have failed to implement agreements on borders.

“We should do everything possible to help restore constitutional order in Mali and safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country,” Hailemariam said.

The Addis Ababa-based AU Commission is headed by South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was elected for a four-year term in July and is the first woman to head the organization’s secretariat.

Hailemariam, a former foreign minister and deputy prime minister, is from the minority Wolayta ethnicity that has historically been excluded from power in Ethiopia by more populous groups. He is also a Protestant in a nation dominated by Orthodox Christians and Muslims.

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Ethiopia’s PM Expected to be New AU Chair

By Marthe Van Der Wolf
January 20, 2013
VOA News

ADDIS ABABA — African heads of state will choose a new chairperson for the African Union next Sunday. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is expected to be elected. Hailemariam has only been in office since September, after long-time leader Meles Zenawi died in August.

Institute for Security Studies senior researcher Solomon Dersso says the Ethiopian leader has shown he is involved in African affairs.

“During that period the major African engagements that we have seen was basically his trip to Somalia, where he attended the inaugurational ceremony of the new president, and his recent trip to Sudan, South Sudan, and also the facilitation that he provided for the signing of the 27 September agreements between Sudan and South Sudan,” he said.

Hailemariam, who is an engineer by training and was a dean of the Arba Minch University, joined one of the four parties that make up ruling coalition Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front in the mid-nineties.

He was the vice administrator and later also administrator of the southern regions before moving on to become special adviser to the late prime minister for social affairs. He became Ethiopia’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister in 2010.

Getachew Redda worked closely with Hailemariam at the Foreign Ministry, but says it is difficult to point out what legacy he left behind.

“I am not sure if two years is long enough for someone to leave a larger visible imprint. But one thing I know is Hailemariam’s presence here in the foreign ministry for the last two years has had very significant influence on how things are done,” said Getachew Redda. “For one thing, he is not the kind of person who wants to create a cult around himself, he is much engaging with everybody. It is not just about people who are supposedly close to him.”

There are some noticeable changes in Ethiopian politics since Prime Minister Hailemariam assumed office. A collective leadership has been put in place, including the appointment of three deputy prime ministers, instead of one.

A long-time friend of the prime minister and colleague at the university, Seleshi Bekele, says team building has always been part of the Hailemariam leadership style.

“The way I see it, also what they have done, having a few more deputy prime ministers, is really to bring about broad-based type of leadership. His leadership style is really transformational and at the same time also trusts on team building and team leadership,” said Seleshi Bekele.

There have been few developments domestically that can be attributed to the vision and leadership of the new prime minister. Political scientist at the Addis Ababa University, Demeke Achiso, says Hailemariam just is not that powerful.

“I can not say that he is not exercising any power, of course he is enjoying power, prime ministerial power, but very much reduced as compared to Meles Zenawi. Before holding any kind of meeting, discussion, or diplomacy, he has to strongly work with the party and then he has to ventilate the voice of the party,” said Demeke Achiso.

The African heads of state are expected to elect Hailemariam on January 27, the first day of the African Union summit. President Yayi Boni of Benin currently holds the position. The chair rotates between the five regions of the continent and is elected every year.

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Ethiopia says to take over as AU chair
Ethiopia: Prime Minister HMD to take over as AU chair – report
Source: AFP

Addis Ababa – Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is slated to take over as the chairperson of the African Union this month, replacing Benin president Boni Yayi as the head of the pan-African bloc, officials said on Wednesday.

“Ethiopia is going to pick up the chairmanship of the African Union,” Ethiopian Foreign Affairs spokesman Dina Mufti told AFP.

Hailemariam must be officially voted in by member states at the opening of this month’s African Union heads of state summit, which runs from 27 January to 28 January.


Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn giving his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly as Ethiopia’s leader. Photo UN September 28, 2012 New York, NY

A new chairperson is elected every January at the annual summit and is awarded on a regional basis.

Before current chairperson Boni Yayi took on the role, the chairmanship has been successively occupied by northern, southern and central Africa.

The last time East Africa chaired the AU was in 2008 when Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete served as head of the bloc.

Dina said the appointment is especially important for Ethiopia, which hosts the headquarters of the AU and is a founding member nation of the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation for African Unity (OAU).

Strengthening of the organisation

“Taking over chairmanship of the African Union will give an opportunity for Ethiopia to work hard for the strengthening of the organisation,” he said.

It is the first time the country has occupied the seat since the founding of the AU in 2003, though previous Ethiopian leaders, including late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, served as chair of the OAU.

Hailemariam – Ethiopia’s former foreign minister – took over as Prime Minister in August following the sudden death of Zenawi, who ruled the country for 21 years.

The AU summit kicks off this month at the towering Chinese-built AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital. It is the first summit since the election of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as chairperson of the AU Commission – the body’s executive arm – last July.

The war against al-Qaeda-linked fighters occupying northern Mali is expected to top the agenda but crises between rivals Sudan and South Sudan and in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo will also be discussed.

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Acceptance Statement By H.E. Mr. Hailemariam Dessalegn Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and Incoming Chairperson of the African Union At The 20th ordinary session of the Assembly of African Heads of State and Government

27 January 2013
Addis Ababa

Excellencies Heads of State and Government, Excellencies Members of the African Union Commission,

Invited Guests, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to warmly welcome you all to Addis Ababa for the 20th ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union. We are ready as always to make your brief stay in Addis Ababa as comfortable as possible. It is also my sincere desire that your stay will be productive and enjoyable.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed with a great sense of honor and humility that I accept the Chairpersonship of our Union. I wish to express my heartfelt thanks for the opportunity to serve this half a century old organization for the next one year. I would like to affirm my determination to do my utmost in discharging the heavy responsibilities bestowed upon me as Chairperson of the Union. I am committed to working in close consultation and coordination with member States as well as the Commission and other Organs to advance the objectives of our Union.

Let me express my profound appreciation to H.E. Dr. Boni Yayi, President of the Republic of Benin and outgoing Chairperson of the African Union, for all the good work that he has done over the last one year. Particularly, I wish to commend my dear brother for all his efforts in addressing issues of peace and security in our continent and for his constructive contribution relating to the election of members of the Commission.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I assumed the leadership of my country upon the untimely passing away of our esteemed leader, H.E. Mr. Meles Zenawi. The late Prime Minister was a man of vision who inspired many and devoted his life for the cause of peace, democracy, development and prosperity of his country, our region and Africa as a whole. The late Prime Minister was also an ardent pan-Africanist who earned well deserved acclaim for his prominent role in advocating for Africa’s common interests on the world stage.

On behalf of the people and government of Ethiopia and that of my own, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to this august Assembly for paying tribute to this illustrious son of Africa. I also wish to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) for endorsing the proposal made by the NEPAD Agency to establish Meles Zenawi Centre for Sustainable Development to be located within its structures in recognition of the immense contribution of the late Prime Minister in championing the NEPAD programmes and giving strategic guidance to their implementation.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

There are a number of priority issues, which deserve our attention this year. We will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity, the precursor of the African Union. The theme of our Summit entitled “Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance” is, therefore, fitting as we mark the Golden Jubilee of our premier continental organization. It affords us the opportunity to take stoke of our achievements and challenges over the last 50 years and chart out a way forward to realize our vision of creating a peaceful, democratic, prosperous and united Africa taking its rightful place in the world.

Our founding fathers, in their wisdom and foresight, laid a solid foundation for the unity and solidarity of Africa when they met here in Addis Ababa 50 year ago and decided to establish the Organization of African Unity (OAU). As we celebrate the Golden Jubilee of our organization, we pay special tribute to the generations of Pan-Africanists and the Founding Fathers of the OAU who strived to promote unity, solidarity, cohesion and cooperation among the peoples of Africa and African States. In this regard, I believe it is appropriate to quote what Emperor Haile Selassie I had stated in his statement delivered at the Addis Ababa Conference on 25 May 1963.

I quote “What we require is a single African organization through which Africa’s single voice may be heard, within which Africa’s problems may be studied and resolved….Let us, at this Conference, create a single institution to which we will all belong, based on principles to which we all subscribe, confident that in its councils our voices will carry their proper weight, secure in the knowledge that the decision there will be dictated by Africans and only by Africans and that they will take full account of all vital African considerations” Unquote.

As we reflect on the last 50 years history of our organization, it gives us enormous satisfaction to note its achievements in successfully discharging its primary mandate of contributing in a significant way to the liberation of our continent from the shackles of colonialism and apartheid. It has also served as a common platform for Africa’s collective efforts in its interaction with the rest of the world. These are issues that need to be studied and the lessons passed on to generations to come. I very much hope that our scholars will discuss and debate these issues and highlight the various aspects of the history of this great organization which is the history of our struggle for maintaining our dignity. At the most fundamental level that has been and is the mission of our collective effort which remains yet to be completed. Indeed, we have just begun.

We in Ethiopia are indeed very proud to have hosted the Headquarters of the OAU and now the African Union for the last 50 years and we are grateful to all of you for bestowing this confidence on our country. On our part, we have done everything possible, and we pledge to continue in this same tradition, to create a conducive environment for the smooth functioning of our organization. It is in this same spirit that we have begun undertaking the necessary preparation to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the OAU/AU in close collaboration with the Commission in accordance with the decision of the 16th ordinary session of the Assembly. In fact, the Chairperson of the Commission and myself will officially launch the celebration sometime this morning.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the last decade, Africa has managed to register robust economic growth. In spite of the global economic crisis, African economies have also shown remarkable resilience. As a result, our continent has emerged as a new pole of global growth and has attracted a growing interest as a new frontier for business and investment. It is in recognition of this fact that many developed and emerging economies as well as regions have started to look at Africa as a continent of hope and opportunities.

In this connection, I wish to note that the 3rd Africa-South America Summit, the 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V), the 2nd Africa-Turkey Summit, the 3rd Afro-Arab Summit and the 4th Africa-EU Summit are expected to be held in the course of this year. Indeed, these meetings serve as an excellent platform to advance Africa’s development agenda and we should endevour to further strengthen these partnerships with a view to ensuring mutual benefit and win-win cooperation.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is no doubt that Africa needs to sustain the growth momentum that it has been able to achieve over the last decade. This can only be done if we manage to bring about structural transformation. We should, therefore, mobilize all our efforts to implement our flagship projects such as the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) and the Action Plan for the Acceleration of Industrial Development in Africa (AIDA) towards realizing the desired structural transformation.

I am also of the opinion that the fundamental objective of the strategic plan of our Union for the years 2014-2017, which is being elaborated by the Commission, should be to sustain Africa’s growth trajectory in the short and medium term with a view to achieving our vision of an integrated, prosperous, people-centred and peaceful continent.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The formulation of the Post-2015 development agenda marks an important milestone in the history of international development cooperation. The efforts by the international community over the last decade in implementing the MDGs have strengthened global partnership to attain a common objective of ending human misery. Though many countries in developing countries, including Africa, have made progress to achieve some of the targets of the MDGs, much still remains to be done. The formulation of new international development goals should thus be based on a thorough assessment of the MDGs, taking stock of achievements and gaps. This is vital because for Africa, implementation of MDGs is still unfinished business.

Particularly, I wish to emphasize that it is in terms of achieving the health related MDGs that many of our countries are off-track. In this connection, I believe “the One Million Community Health Workers Campaign” which was announced in Davos on 24 January 2013, during the recently held World Economic Forum, will certainly go a long way in helping us make progress towards achieving the health related MDGs. I wish to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to my good friend and Brother President Paul Kagame, Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez and Director of the Earth Institute Prof. Jeffery Sachs for launching this important initiative.

As we participate in the global efforts to chart the post-2015 development agenda, we should ensure that the progress achieved thus far is sustained and that Africa’s development priorities beyond 2015 are fully taken into account. I believe we should draw lessons from our successful experience at Climate Change negotiations and speak with one voice in advocating for the common African position on the post-2015 development agenda, which is being crafted with the participation of all the relevant stakeholders. In this regard, we should constitute a group of African Heads of State and Government under the Chairmanship of our dear sister President Elen Johnson Sirleaf, who will lead the effort in canvassing support for Africa’s development priorities in the context of the post-2015 development agenda.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We can only unleash Africa’s potential for the development and prosperity of our people in the prevalence of durable peace and stability in our continent. Over the last decade, we have certainly made significant headways in our collective resolve to find peaceful solutions to the different conflict situations plaguing our continent.

In this regard, for the first time since the last two decades, we are witnessing a glimmer of hope for peace and stability in Somalia. We should, therefore, consolidate the gains that have been made recently both in the political and security fronts and assist our Somali brothers and sisters in rebuilding their shattered nation.

Sudan and South Sudan have also made important progress in implementing the African Union Roadmap and United Nations Security Council resolution 2046 (2012) by signing a series of agreements on most of the outstanding issues of the post-independence period. The leaders of both countries have also agreed to address the problems encountered in the implementation of those agreements and make progress in their negotiations to resolve the remaining outstanding issues. We should continue to assist Sudan and South Sudan in achieving the objective of creating two viable states living side by side in peace and harmony.

On the other hand, we note with serious concern the emergence of new conflicts, which threaten peace and security in our continent. In this regard, we should do everything possible to help restore constitutional order in Mali, safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and address the humanitarian crisis in collaboration with ECOWAS, the United Nations and other international partners.

We are following the latest development in that country and we commend the assistance provided by France at the request of the Malian authorities and in the context of United Nations Security Council resolution 2085 (2012). We also appreciate member States of ECOWAS, which have started deploying their forces in Mali as part of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) and we hope others that have pledged to contribute their forces will do so as expeditiously as possible.

The situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo has also deteriorated recently. We note the efforts being made by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), under the leadership of President Yoweri Museveni, to de-escalate the situation. We should assist this regional initiative in order to address the complex security situation in the DRC.

Moreover, the situation in the Central African Republic has drastically worsened since last month undermining efforts so far made to consolidate peace in that country. We recognize the efforts that have been made by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) to bring an end to the fighting and resolve the situation through political dialogue between the government and the rebel groups. In this regard, we welcome the signing of the Political Agreement between the Central African Republic parties in Libreville, on 11 January 2013, and the appointment of the new Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity established in accordance with the commitments made in the Political Agreement. We hope the parties will fully implement their commitments under the agreement.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have all made a solemn commitment to promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance in the Constitutive Act of our Union. It is indeed gratifying to note the progress that we have made over the last decade in terms of nurturing democratic governance and popular participation in our continent.

Several African countries will hold Presidential and Parliamentary elections this year and the smooth conduct of these elections will certainly go a long way in terms of expanding the frontiers of democratic governance in Africa. We should consolidate the gains that we have made over the last decade and deepen the roots of democratic governance so as to create a propitious condition for our socio-economic endeavor. No doubt, recent developments have also made it abundantly clear that for our efforts to build democratic governance to succeed, there is no substitute for ensuring the building of institutions and nurturing them.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

To summarize, this year we have a lot of work to do to mark the Golden Jubilee of our organization, sustain Africa’s growth momentum, strengthen our partnership with the rest of the world, adopt the strategic plan of our Union for the periods 2014-2017, advocate for Africa’s development priorities in the framework of the ongoing discussions to chart the post-2015 global development agenda, intensify our efforts to resolve conflicts and consolidate peace and stability in our continent and promote democratic governance.

In order to achieve these lofty objectives, there is no doubt that we need to build the institutional capacity of our Commission and enhance its efficiency and effectiveness in fulfilling its mandate. I am confident that members of the new leadership will make notable improvement in the overall functioning of the Commission and I am indeed encouraged by some of the important steps taken in this direction.

Finally, I hope we will have a fruitful discussion on a range of issues, which are vital for Africa’s development. I will certainly count on your support in guiding the discussions and in successfully discharging my heavy responsibilities as Chairperson of the Union.

I thank you.

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Africa needs to increase budget for agriculture, infrastructure dev’t: PM Hailemariam Desalegn

Addis Ababa January 27 (WIC) – Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn stressed the need for African countries to increase the budget for agriculture and infrastructure development in a bid to ending the continent’s economic dependency on foreign aid.
Speaking at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) meeting held here on Saturday, PM Hailemariam said African countries need to develop their economy using their own resources.

He said priority should be given to these sectors with a view to sustaining the economic growth registered over the past ten years in the continent.

African countries need to boost agricultural productivity in order to make poverty history through ensuring food security, PM Hailemariam said.

The Premier emphasized the need for the implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) by African countries.
According to him, countries that are desirous to implement the CAADP will receive the necessary technical assistance.

Established as part of NEPAD, CAADP was endorsed by the African Union Assembly in July 2003 with the aim of improving food security, nutrition and income in Africa’s largely agrarian economy.

HSGOC is an organ made up of 20 African leaders, who provide policy guidance and monitor progress on the implementation of NEPAD. (ENA)