10 June 2018

Ethiopia: The Series of Changes in the Corridor of Power...

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To describe the series of changes in the corridor of power as significant is an understatement. In less than three months, Ethiopia has seen changes of The guard in its most powerful institutions, beginning with the ruling EPRDF chairmanship and the Premiership. No less has been the shift in power with the cabinet, the many federal agencies, and most importantly with the police, the intelligence and the defence agencies.

The headhunt to fill the remaining federal agencies has continued, the most high profile being the central bank where Teklewold Atnafu holds the record as the longest serving Governor since the establishment of the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE), in 1963. It is evident that the central bank will not be left behind as an island of incumbency, notably, when the nation's balance of payments is in a dire situation, threatening the economy with bankruptcy, gossip says.

Names are flying around as prospective candidates, although some of these individuals privately claim they have not been approached by officials of the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), claims gossip.

Among the bankers whose names were reportedly to top the list was Abie Sanu, current president of the Oromia International Bank, according to gossip. A former President of the state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), Abie appears to have declined the offer, claims gossip.

The most prominent personality to have been offered the job is was Abebe Aemrosellasie, current director of Africa for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), that bastion of monetary liberalism, gossip disclosed.

The Prime Minister met Abebe twice in an attempt to persuade him to take the offer, leaving IMF for a couple of years, gossip revealed. Had he not declined the offer, it would not have been his first to serve under an Ethiopian leader, says gossip.

An economist graduate of the City of London Polytechnic and London School of Economics, he had served under the late Meles Zenawi in the early 1990s as a principal economist. Why he has declined the offer varies depending on the accounts of different people. Some say it was due to family reasons while others claim because he was not comfortable with the casualness of the way the Prime Minister carry himself, claims gossip.

The names that still pop-up include Gabriel Negatu, current director of the African Development Bank for East Africa; Hilawe Tadesse, a former staffer of the IMF; and Wondimagegnehu Negera, president of Oromia Cooperative Bank, according to gossip.

Gossip also sees there is something uncanny about the casualness of events that have unfolded over the past few months. It is not the tradition of the Revolutionary Democrats to have a meeting of their Executive Committee wrap-up in just a day. Reportedly called under the pressure of the TPLFites, the meeting was concluded after the Executive Committee passed resolutions on stalemates with Eritrea and partial and complete privatisations of state-owned enterprises.

Among the enterprises slated for privatisation is the sale of shares of the Ethiopian Airlines, which turned out to be very controversial among the public. No less resistance is brewing over the decision in accepting the Algers Agreement and the Border Commission's ruling "with no precondition and in immediate effect." Although many are unhappy with the new administration over these issues, these were two of the four agenda items Hailemariam Desalegn had tabled for the Executive Committee a year ago, gossip recalled. They were dropped due to fierce resistance from some of the members then, such as Azeb Mesfin and Fetleworq Gebreegziabher, a.k.a Monjorino, claims gossip.

What was different last week was that the Executive Committee has agreed to privatise some of the state owned companies and increasing the number of shares for sale up from the originally planned 30pc to 49pc now, gossip revealed. And the decision on both agendas was made in unanimity, in the absence of both ladies, gossip says. While Azeb is no longer with the Executive Committee, Fetleworq was in Dubai, attending to family matters, gossip disclosed.

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