Andreas Eshete (Prof), president of Addis Abeba University (AAU), resigned from his position last week.It will be officially announced this week, reliable sources told Fortune.The reason for his resignation remains unconfirmed, but people close to him said that he resigned out of his free will.
Ever since he suffered a stroke three years ago, his retirement has been a subject of speculation in academic circles. Andreas was president of the university for more than nine years, after Eshetu Wencheko (Prof). He was a prominent figure during the student movement against the Derg regime and is known to be a close friend of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
Andreas was one of the youngest students in the US to graduate with a PhD in the 1960s. He returned to Ethiopia in the 1970s where he joined the philosophy department of what was then called Haile Selassie I University. The University College of Addis Abeba was established by Emperor Haile Selassie, in 1950 and renamed Haile Selassie I University, in 1962, before it became AAU, in 1975.
After the coup d’etat, in 1974, Andreas returned to the US where he taught and became involved in the opposition to Mengistu Hailemariam (Col) as one of the few members forming the intellectual base for the opposition.
He returned to Ethiopia, in 1991, after Mengistu’s removal from power. At the time, he was involved in the process of drafting the Constitution, where he advocated the inclusion of a constitutional court, creating a sharp difference between him and Meles. Reported Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) atrocities in the region had been exaggerated, he remarked after the expulsion of the fighters from Ethiopia. This made him very unpopular at the time.
In the early 1990s, he was a member of Inter Africa Group, a think tank, and in the early 2000s he joined the philosophy department at AAU. After several years as a successful faculty member, he was appointed president, in 2002.
During his tenure, he was credited with making the university’s senate accountable to the president, and shielding the university from political interference, allowing it to be managed independently.
However, recently, anonymous writings against him started appearing on the Internet, accusing him of nepotism, favouritism, and delegating authority without accountability. Over the years he has actively participated in the national effort to reclaim important artefacts removed from the country by the British and the Italians during the 19th and 20th centuries.
“The departure of Andreas will create a void in the institution as a high standard has been established by him through his work,” an employee at AAU told Fortune. “He developed good international communications, and the institution receives large amounts of aid because of his work. If the successor does not have the same qualities, there will be a large gap.”
Andreas is also chairman of the National Committee for the Commemoration of the Battle of Adwa, where he marked the occasion last week.
“Our society has developed a culture of depending on certain individuals and thinking that everything will go wrong when they are gone,” another instructor at the AAU told Fortune. “The reform process of the university, including its strategic plan, is complete, and his replacement will know what to do. AAU is bigger than one individual’s resignation.”