Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s widow and a high-profile member of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is said to be facing an uncertain future after her party forced her out of her executive and central Committee membership roles, implicating her in a corruption scandal. TPLF’s dramatic judgement, coming amidst a tense political climate, brings an abrupt end to Azeb’s four years in both roles. Whether she remains as chief executive of the Endowment Fund For Rehabilitation of Tigray, a party investment vehicle remains to be seen but according to an insider that is unlikely, because the corruption accusation is mostly connected with the endowment fund.
Azeb’s ally, Abay Woldu, chairman of the TPLF whom she praised in the meeting for being the only member of the party as the torchbearer of her husband’s vision was also has also been removed from his post. Abay who assumed the party’s chairmanship in October 2014, replacing the late Prime Minister is also demoted from executive committee to central committee membership. Debretsion Gebremikael, the rising star who is increasingly wielding considerable power thanks to longstanding relationships with head of the intelligence service, Getachew Assefa, is set to seize the chairmanship of the party that is trying maintain its dominanc in the ruling EPRDF’s coaltion. Stung by last years’ massive protest and resistance from the people of Oromo and Amhara region, and the increasingly defiance of the habitually friendly, even servile parties, Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO) and the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the minority TPLF is in desperate struggle to stay at the top of the game.
Some are describing the latest development as climax of major divisions emerging within the factions of the TPLF central committee, the Samora-Abay Woldu group losing to Getachew Assefa-Debretsion group. Getachew Assefa is said to be at odds with General Mohamed Nur Yunus, Samora, both reportedly gathering allies and supporters around them.
Debtretsion, who is currently the Minister of Communication and Information Technology, himself once served a senior official in the intelligence service, second to the late Kinfe Gebremedhin, 1991-2000 and was a director of the Information Communications Technology Development Agency from 2005-2010. His careful ascent to the top of the ruling party after the demise of the towering figure, Meles Zenawi is no accident. Meles reportedly saw Debretsion as an overly ambitious man and sent him to England 2001 to do his studies to neutralize his efficacy, hoping he would remain there. But Debretsion did come back, prompting Meles to send him to Tigray region, as the trade and industry bureau head and as a zonal administrator, a demotion for someone who was a high official as security man. Debretsion would take the position graciously and served there for four years until he came back to Addis Ababa on 2005 to take new post, information technology post. But even then, Meles would not allow him to join the party’s executive membership, a dream only realized after Melel’s death.