By Rana DiOrio, CEO and Founder of Little Pickle Press
As I prepare for my trip to Ethiopia with my fellow ONE Moms, I have been doing my best to research not only the country’s culture but also its current events. As you may be aware, Ethiopia is experiencing a political transition with the passing of its respected Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, last month and the inauguration of Hailemariam Desalegn last Sunday.
The death of Meles Zenawi was a true loss to the people of Ethiopia. After the fall of the Dergue regime in 1991, Mr. Meles became President of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia, where he played a strong role in reforms that led to the introduction of the multi-party system. In 1995, under the leadership of Zenawi, Ethiopia adopted a constitution, “which ended the period of transition and created a democratic federal structure for the government”. The country became the “Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia”, and redrew the existing provinces into ethnicity-based regions. Also in that year and following his four-year presidency, Mr. Meles became Prime Minister of Ethiopia. He continued in this role until he passed away on August 20th of this year after 21 years in power.
Mr. Meles was an influential leader. In addition to introducing a multi-party system to Ethiopia, his government is known for reducing child mortality rates. His administration is also credited with reforms to protect freedom of religion, expand education (in the last decade, more than 30 new private colleges and universities were created), establish a proactive position on climate change, and advocate women’s rights.
Although Mr. Meles also received criticism and faced controversy for aspects of his leadership, and particularly for his human rights record, there is no question that he played a strong role in making Ethiopia what it is today. His death cast a shadow of uncertainty on the people of Ethiopia. As Ethiopia has endured tumultuous political transitions in its past, its people were understandably concerned that Mr. Meles’ death would lead to a struggle for power.
The successful inauguration of Prime Minister Hailermariam Desalegne marks the first peaceful political transition of leadership in Ethiopia. Addressing parliament at his swearing-in ceremony, Mr. Hailemariam extolled the achievements of Mr. Meles and promised that he would “dedicate himself to strengthen this achievement” and that Ethiopia would remain “a stable and democratic nation”.
In his remarks, Mr. Hailemariam also underscored the vital role that the youth will play in the future development of the nation. “Demographics clearly show that Ethiopia has a very substantial youth population. This can play an unrivalled role in the nation's efforts to ensure economic growth. We need to expand the education and training regimen to which they have been exposed. Efforts will be made to hone their entrepreneurial skills, to harmonize the support they get from government and from family,” he said. He stressed the importance of education, especially in the areas of mathematics, science, and technology.
Mr. Hailemariam acknowledged the needs that plague the majority of Ethiopia––creating and supporting low-income housing, improving transportation, controlling inflation, curbing corruption, and revamping the criminal justice system, to name a few. He emphasized the importance of preserving democracy and safeguarding human rights and religious freedoms.
It is an interesting time for the ONE Moms to be traveling to Ethiopia, and I look forward to what I know will be a life-changing experience. To follow along as we connect with the people of Ethiopia, please refer to the special portal that ONE has established for our journey: http://one.org/us/actnow/moms/.
The ONE Campaign is s a non-partisan advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Backed by more than 3 million members, we work with government leaders to support proven, cost-effective solutions to save lives and help build sustainable futures. I will be in Ethiopia as an expense-paid guest of ONE. We will be there to report back to you how lives have been improved or saved by American-supported programs. ONE doesn’t ask for your money, just your voice. To become a ONE Mom, please sign up here:
Image credit: ethiovision.com