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The race to Arat Kilo

The race to Arat Kilo

After a tumultuous couple of weeks which had taken the country on a rollercoaster ride, the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), will convene to elect the chairman of the party who will subsequently assume the premiership, writes Neamin Ashenafi.


The race to Arat Kilo


All eyes are on the council meeting of the ruling party, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The council of the party, which is composed of 180 members (45 from each party forming the coalition, is expected to elect a new chairman of the party, which according to the unwritten laws of the party will assume the premiership of the country.

After Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn submitted his resignation letter both to the coalition and his party, the Southern Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Movement (SEPDM), he left the position of the premiership vacant. In that regard, the council is also tasked with the selection of a new Prime Minister.

According to the tradition of the EPRDF, prior to the Front’s organizational congress, which takes place every two and a half years, the four parties that make-up the EPRDF elect their respective chairmen and are entitled to nominate their chairman for the race to assume the premiership. Though the upcoming congress, which has reported been postponed, has been highly expected since rumors indicated that there is division within the party.

However, according to many commentators who follow the matter closely, this year’s council meeting is witnessing a very competitive race to assume the position of the premiership unlike the previous ones.

According to the bylaws of the party, each sister parties that make up the coalition – the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), Southern Ethiopia Peoples’ Democratic Movement (SEPDM), and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – are entitled to present their nominees to the premiership.

The four parties in the coalition are expected to propose their respective chairs to the position. In this regard, ANDM will propose its chairman, Demeke Mekonnen. However, some argue that during the marathon meeting of the executive committee of the coalition, the higher body of the party, the top leadership of the party was highly criticized for its failure to provide strategic leadership to the multifaceted problems in the country; since Demeke is part of the higher leadership of the party and since he is also Deputy PM, he took a fair share of the blame. For this reason, many commentators that follow the matter closely argued that the total failure in the higher leadership of the party might cost him from assuming the position.

After joining the ruling party in the early years of 1990s, Demeke has been a Deputy PM since 2012. He joined Addis Ababa University and studied Biology and received his BA in 1988. His services as a government official includes; Commissioner of the Amhara Region Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Head of the Amhara Region Administrative and Security Affairs Bureau and Amhara Region Cabinet member, Vice President and Head of Capacity Building Bureau of the Amhara Region (2005–2008) and Minister of Education (2008 – 2012).

Similarly, SEPDM is expected to present their chair, Shiferaw Shigute to the position. However, Shiferaw was sacked from his ministerial position at the Ministry of Education in a very short period of time, mainly due to the problems related to the leaked matriculation exam that caused delays in the scheduled exam date in the country.

Shiferaw, who is currently head of the EPRDF secretariat, has previously served as President of the Southern Regional State from 2006-2013. Prior to that position he has served in the regional government of the Southern Region as department head in different sectors such as; the Regional State Audit Bureau, the Capacity Building Coordination Bureau and as Deputy-President of the region's government. Shiferaw obtained a BA in Accounting from Addis Ababa University and received his master's degree in Organizational Leadership from the Azusa Pacific University, in the US.

Furthermore, OPDO is expected to endorse their new chairman, Abiy Ahmed (PhD), who assumed the position recently replacing, Lemma Megersa, president of the region. Abiy is currently a member of the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR), and a member of the executive committee of EPRDF. Until 2018, he served as the head of OPDO Secretariat and Oromia Housing and Urban Development Office with the title of Deputy President of the region.

Abiy received his first degree in Computer Engineering from Microlink Information Technology College in Addis Ababa in 2001. In 2005, he received a postgraduate advanced diploma in Cryptology, Mashihe Dynamics Cipher-ED from Pretoria South Africa. He also holds an MA, in Transformational Leadership and Change with Merit from Greenwich University, London, in collaboration with the International Leadership Institute of Addis Ababa in 2011.  He also completed his PhD in 2017, from the Institute for Peace and Security Studies at Addis Ababa University.

Though there were rumors that TPLF did not propose any one to the position of the premiership, sources confirmed to The Reporter that TPLF is also nominating Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD) to the position.

Debretsion is the current Minister of Communication and Information Technology. He joined Addis Ababa University and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in Electrical Engineering. Furthermore, he has received his PhD in Information Technology from Capella University headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2011. In 2005, he was appointed as Director of the Ethiopian Information and Communication Development Agency.

In 2012, he was appointed as the Minister of Communications and Information Technology. It is to be recalled that he was also appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister for Finance and Economic Cluster in 2012. In October 2017, he was elected as the chairman of the TPLF replacing Abay Weldu.

Though each party in the coalition proposed their respective chairs to the position and the council was expected to convene on March 1st 2018.

It is not yet disclosed why the meeting was postponed and when it is going to take place. However, sources revealed that in the coming week the 180 council members of the ruling party are expected to meet in Addis Ababa.

The meeting of the 180 members of the council is expected to evaluate the party’s six-month performance report, approve the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn and then vote on the election of a new chairman.


According to the by-laws of the ruling party, its organizational congress has to assemble every two and a half years. The first congress was held on January 1991, second on December 1995, third on December 1998, fourth on August 2001, fifth on September 2004, 6th on September 2006, 7th on September 2008, 8th on September 2010, 9th on 23–26 March 2013 and the 10th one on 2015.

Initially, the organizational congress was planned to be held in September 2017 but was postponed to March 2018. However, many argued that there is no such vibrant preparation being done as it was done previously for the congress that is considered as a crucial event for the ruling front that set its policy and strategy besides electing executive committee, chair and deputy chair.