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His Excellency Demeke Mekonnen Hassen, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, and Deputy Chairman of the ruling Prosperity Party, has announced his retirement from office after more than 30 years of public service. His Excellency Demeke Mekonnen is a prominent leading figure in Ethiopia. He served his country at both regional and federal levels and made substantial contributions to the development, peace, and security of our country.
Under his able leadership, Ethiopia has achieved significant diplomatic victories, including the signing of the Pretoria Peace Agreement and the four rounds of filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Our country was also able to withstand and overcome the unprecedented pressure that followed the northern Ethiopia conflict. Constructive diplomatic engagements were made possible. This resulted in the launch of re-engagement strategies and strengthened diplomatic ties with our international partners. Committing to the determination of our forefathers, Ethiopia’s diplomacy over the last three years has defended our country’s sovereignty, and our national interests were dutifully protected and promoted.
Three decades ago he started his service in the Amhara National Regional State, which commenced with him progressively holding higher positions of Government. The long years of service in government and his experience of working with Ethiopians, neighbouring countries, countries around the world, and international organizations have contributed to him becoming a leading diplomat and an important figure in Ethiopia’s political history.
Education is one of the foundational pillars upon which effective leadership is built. His Excellency Demeke Mekonnen graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Addis Ababa University. Consequently, from the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom, he graduated with a Master of Arts in Political Science and an Honorary Doctorate in Education from the same institution. His educational background and rich experience have allowed him to navigate complex national, regional, and global challenges and make informed political and diplomatic decisions.
Looking back over the past three decades in Ethiopia, and given the turbulent nature of Ethiopian politics over the last 50 years, His Excellency Demeke Mekonnen has calmly surfed the tides and left his indelible mark on several projects that have laid the groundwork for Ethiopia’s brighter future. This writing attempts to pay homage to a great leader who has dedicated his life to the peace, security, and development of Ethiopia. Our country owes him a debt of gratitude for his service.
Many Ethiopians are aware that the country has experienced both successes and setbacks in its quest to utilize the Nile River. Being a member of this generation and chairing the facilitation of public contributions for the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) Project must have been one of Demeke Mekonnen’s most rewarding aspects of his long public service career. Ethiopians recall with gratitude Demeke Mekonnen’s unwavering diplomatic efforts as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in successfully protecting Ethiopia’s interests. His decisions were critical in the trilateral negotiations between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan over the construction and administration of the country’s flagship project, the GERD. He rejoiced with Ethiopians as the GERD reservoir was filled and the dam’s first two turbines began to generate electricity. His efforts to work with all Nile River riparian states and raise global awareness of the GERD issue, while fighting external interventions alongside Ethiopian diplomats, were commendable. Adding to his legacy, Ethiopians will undoubtedly complete this project and achieve their intergenerational goals.
The Pretoria Peace Agreement
During the northern Ethiopia conflict, His Excellency Demeke Mekonnen led the charge in defending his country’s interests. He engaged in shuttle diplomacy, informing Ethiopia’s partners of the Government of Ethiopia’s commitment to peace and stability of the country and region. He had a leading role in the negotiation and subsequent signing of the Pretoria Peace Agreement that ended two years of fighting. As leader of the Peace Committee during the negotiations with the TPLF, he held several discussions with many partners from around the world to ensure that his country was ready to make peace while offering relief to those who had suffered as a result of the war. He has supported the work of the Ministry of Justice in the process of formulation of the Transitional Justice Policy framework. He truly believes in and advanced the maxim “African Solutions to African Problems”.
Protecting the National Interest of Ethiopia
One aspect of his legacy was our diplomacy’s capacity at the time to unite all Ethiopians, people of Ethiopian origin, and friends of Ethiopia worldwide to defend Ethiopia’s national interests.
This was especially evident when Ethiopia was repeatedly and unfairly hauled before the Security Council and other multilateral forums over the GERD issues and the war with the TPLF. All Ethiopians recall that the involvement of Ethiopians living abroad in their country’s affairs peaked during Demeke Mekonnen’s tenure as Ethiopia’s foreign minister. In addition, he played a key role in transforming the Ministry’s communication strategies by encouraging journalists, social media influencers, business owners, and people from all walks of life to serve as ambassadors for their country. This new and dynamic approach to communication has also reverberated in the Ministry’s preparatory work whenever Ethiopia hosts African Union ministerial meetings and summits.
Thousands of Ethiopians who were suffering in various countries were repatriated under His Excellency Demeke Mekonnen’s leadership. The Ethiopian Diplomatic Week launched by the Foreign Ministry, included an ongoing Diplomatic Exhibition showcasing Ethiopia’s 116 years of diplomatic history, publications of a diplomatic journal, and a chronicle of Ethiopian diplomatic history published for the first time by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, among the achievements of his visionary leadership.
On a personal level, people who have had the privilege of working with and for His Excellency Demeke Mekonen attest to him being a humble, approachable, and tireless civil servant.
Excellency Demeke Mekonnen understood the Ethiopian people’s desire to work and live with dignity while being treated equally. He was a key figure in establishing the new administration. Since then, the country has undergone numerous positive developments. However, many concur that Ethiopia has a long way to go to fully meet the people’s expectations. “We are expected to keep the positive aspects of our past while learning from our mistakes,” he said in his farewell message. He expressed his confidence that Ethiopians will eventually embrace this understanding, paving the way for a more peaceful and prosperous Ethiopia for future generations.
Aside from his current position as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Demeke has held a variety of positions. He served as Deputy Head of the Amhara Regional State, Minister of Education, Deputy Chairman of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Party, and Deputy Chairman of the Prosperity Party, among others. Although his voluntary retirement from all public service and political positions was unexpected, it was not surprising in Ethiopian government circles, as he had repeatedly requested to leave his political career over the last five years. Ethiopians who recognize Demeke Mekonnen’s value as a seasoned politician and public servant hope that his retirement from active politics does not result in a complete withdrawal from other non-political public services. Ethiopia relies on his extensive experience to continue to benefit the country and its people in a variety of ways. Ethiopians thank him for his excellent service and wish him well in his future endeavours.