The Tigrayans still sew up the key posts

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1188 08/07/2006
Fifteen years after they came to power following a long guerrilla struggle, the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) still make up the hard core of the Ethiopian regime. In spite of cautious openings to their allies from other ethnic groups, they have the lion’s share of the key posts in the government, the army and the security organs. Meanwhile, cameo role Tigrayans (from the north of the country) act as political commissioners to non Tigrayan ambassadors on post abroad and whose allegiance to Addis Ababa is considered inadequate. Tigrayan nationalism is so strong that a fear of the opposition (including a number of Amhara leaders) wining in the Parliamentary elections has pushed many Tigrayan members of the Diaspora, including opponents, to move closer to the TPLF.
Key posts. The Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is surrounded by several advisors with the rank of minister, who are Tigrayans like he and members of the TPLF executive: Abay Tsehaye is in charge of federal affairs; Mulugeta Alemseged heads the police and the security machinery in his capacity of National Security Advisor; Newaye-Kristos Gebreab, from Adwa village like Meles Zenawi, is his economic advisor. General Birhane Negas, head of security of the Prime Ministerial Palace, is Meles Zenawi’s daughter’s godfather. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Seyoum Mesfin, who has held this key post for 15 years, is another of these influential Tigrayans. The Ethiopian army chief of staff, Samora Yunis, is also from Tigray, as are a dozen superior officers promoted general last year, compared to only two Amharas and one Oromo. The chiefs of police and of security, Getachew Assefa and Esayas Weldegiorgis, are Tigrayans, as are many of the officials in these administrations.
Family networks. As well as their ethnic and political affinities, several TPLF leaders have close family ties to each other. Sebhat Nega and his familly are very typical of this concentration of power: he is a member of the political bureau of the TPLF, an advisor to the Prime Minister and a big wheel in the Endowment Fund For Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), a consortium of companies which over time have taken on a nation-wide dimension, through the favours of the regime. His sister, Kidusan Nega, is a member of the central committee of the TPLF, mayor of Mekelle and wife of Tsegaye Berhe, who is one of the nine members of the TPLF political bureau and President of Tigray Regional State. Another of his sisters, Aberash Nega, stood as a candidate in the municipal elections in Addis Ababa in May 2005, together with two cousins, but was not elected. According to the Ethiopian opposition, Sebhat Nega even has a half sister who is the wife of the Eritrean Minister of Defence Sebhat Ephrem. For her part, Nigist Gebre Kristos, the wife of another member of the TPLF political bureau Arkebe Oqubay Mitiku, is none other than the sister of Berhane Gebre Kristos the Ethiopian Ambassador to Belgium, whereas Oqubay’s sister is the wife of Adis Alem Balema, a member of the TPLF central committee. Another member of the TPLF political bureau, Abay Woldu, is married to Turufat Kidane Mariam, who is in charge of justice and security for Meles Zenawi.
Economic hold. In addition to the Tigrayan ministers who chair the boards of State companies, like Seyoum Mesfin who has been at the head of Ethiopian Airlines (EAL) for many years, several TPLF leaders have gone to executive positions in the EFFORT consortium. This is so for Sebhat Nega, Tewodros Hagos (in charge of mining activity), Arkebe Oqubay and Abadi Zemu (who was the head of the Relief Society of Tigray from 1978 to 1991). Zemu, currently the Vice President of Tigray Regional State, was recently replaced as director general of EFFORT by the former Minister of Revenue, Getachew Belay Wendimu, who is also a member of the TPLF central committee. The wife of Prime Minister Azeb Mesfin has for a long time held a responsible post at the head of a company close to the regime, Mega Corporation, which earned her the nickname “Queen Mega”. This company has now been liquidated and Azeb Mesfin got herself elected to Parliament last year in the constituency of Humera. Since then she has been the Chair of the Social Affairs Standing Committee of the Ethiopian Federal Assembly.

posted by Ethiounited Moderator at5:59 PM

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