By Elyas Mulu
Following the unexpected death of Ethiopia’s PM Meles Zenawi, his deputy, Hailemariam Desalegn, is now a Prime Minister. That means Ethiopia now has a new First Family.
Often, behind every leader, there is a loving husband or a wife. And so Wzr. Roman Tesfaye is the newest First Lady of Ethiopia as the wife of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
Born in Wolaita, southern Ethiopia, Wzr. Roman holds master’s degrees in Economics and Leadership. Served as economic advisor of South Region’s administration and worked as high level official in Ethiopian Women’s Affairs Ministry and Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. Currently, she works for African Union (AU).
Both the Prime Minister and the First Lady follow a protestant denomination known as the Apostolic Church of Ethiopia—the first ever in the country’s long history.
Ethiopia’s previous leaders were associated with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (except communist ex-leader Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam who is an atheist, but raised as Orthodox Christian; ex-PM Meles Zenawi who was also an atheist though he identified himself as Orthodox Christian and publicly attended Orthodox Church events and was photographed kissing the Cross from the ex-Patriarch’s hands; Lij Iyasu who was more like a freethinker and became fond of Islam though he was also raised as Orthodox Christian—his detachment from his upbringing eventually cost him the throne; Emperor Susenyos who converted to Catholicism, but was immediately deposed through a mass uprising and was replaced with his son Emperor Fasilides who supported the public’s revolt and reinstated the indigenous Orthodox Church as the official religion; and, Queen Yodit, an Ethiopian Jew, who destroyed the Aksumite Empire and ruled for forty years until she too was overthrown).
It should be noted that PM Hailemariam Desalegn and First Lady Roman Tesfaye are also the first husband and wife to hail from the South Region as power couple. They have three children, all of them girls.