Debretsion Gebremichael (Tigrinya: ደብረጽዮን ገብረሚካኤል) is an Ethiopian politician who currently serves as Chairman of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the deputy and acting President of Tigray Region.
Debretsion was born and raised in Shire Inda Selassie, Tigray Province, Ethiopia. He was described by some as being one of the best students in the province and received a perfect score on his entrance examinations. He was admitted into Addis Ababa University, however, he forwent his studies to join the TPLF and fight the military Derg junta.
He was sent to Italy by the TPLF and received training in communications technology. He led the team that launched the Dimtsi Woyane Tigray (The Voice of Tigray’s Liberation) radio station in 1980. Debretsion, along with “General Santim”, were famous hackers during the Ethiopian Civil War. They routinely hijacked, jammed and sabotaged the Derg’s radio, TV and military communication systems.
After the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front’s 1991 victory, he joined Addis Ababa university while working full-time as the second man to Kinfe Gebremedhin. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Addis Ababa University. He received a PhD in information technology from Capella University in 2011.
- In 2005, Debretsion was appointed Director of the Ethiopian Information and Communication Development Agency (EICDA). As Director, Debretsion worked to improve the public service activity by launching the Public Service Capacity Building Program (PSCAP).
- In 2007, Debretsion launched $1.5 billion infrastructure project with ZTE which expanded the network capacity to 30 million (from 6.5 million in 2007 and 1.35 million in 2001), constructed 10,000 km of fibre cable.
- By 2012 Ethiopia had constructed 16,000 km of fibre cables and had voice cellular coverage at 64% of the country. In 2012, Debretsion was appointed as the Minister of Communications and Information Technology.
- In 2012, Debretstion announced that a $1.6 billion deal had been reached with Huawei, Ericsson and ZTE to significantly expand the capacity of the communication infrastructure.
- As of September 2016 project has been progressing on schedule. 4G cellular service is now available in Addis Ababa. The ultimate goal of the project is to increase cellular coverage to 100% and to increase the capacity to 50 million.
- Debretsion was appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister for Finance and Economic Cluster in 2012.
- In 2015, Debretsion helped to launch a free trade zone with Sudan.
- In 2015, he laid inaugurated the construction of the ICT park in Bole Lemi Industrial Park in Addis Ababa.
- In 2017, he laid the cornerstone for the ICT park and stated that he wants to build more ICT parks in the regional states.
- Debretsion is the Board Chair of Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation. In his role in the state owned electricity company, he oversaw the construction of billions of dollars of hydropower dams and electrical infrastructure, as well as service as the Board Chairman of the National Council for the Coordination of Public Participation for the Construction of GERD.
- In November 2017, Debretsion was elected to be the chairman of the TPLF.
- In January 2018, he was also elected to become the Deputy President of Tigray Region. As Debretsion is not member of the Tigray Regional parliament, he could not become President. Nonetheless, as the post of the President became vacant, the Deputy President will be the President of Tigray Region in an acting capacity.