Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) steps ahead towards walking his talk forming his new administration after the parliament had approved his nomination mid last week. In his cabinet, Abiy brought 10 new faces to the helm, switched six ministers to another post while keeping close to half of the ministers in office.
The new administration has 25 ministries and four director generals with ministerial ranks. Abiy’s new cabinet eliminated one ministry after merging the ministries of Agriculture & Natural Resources and Livestock & Fisheries Development. The two ministers had split three years ago. He considered the merger with a rationale that the two ministries share common visions and goals, address financial and human resource constraints and bringing better efficiency. Abiy’s motion was not approved by Parliament unanimously, whose members are becoming assertive in recent days.
Three MPs – Usman Ali (MP-ESPDP), Mohammed Bolko and Moyele Ali (both MPs-ANDP) – voted against the bill, while Birhanu Mekuye (MP-ANDM) abstained.
Hoping the new cabinet will aid in restoring public confidence in the government, last week Abiy appeared before parliament, attended by 415 MPs, to nominate his administration members. He assumed the chairmanship of the ruling coalition and the Prime Minister’s position amidst the massive violence and political unrest across the country for the past three years.
“Before making the reshuffle, we had detailed evaluation based on four reports made on the ministries,” Abiy told the parliament.
Most members of the new cabinet are from OPDO, ANDM and SEPDM while one of the parties in the governing coalition, TPLF, get three portfolios of the 29 cabinets. A new addition from the TPLF is Yalem Tsegaye, minister of Women & Children Affairs.
During his nomination speech to the parliament, Abiy cautions the new administration members not to cross two major red lines – corruption and service to the public.
Parliamentarians appear to be pleased with the changes they see unfolding before their eyes. The attempt to make changes to same old approaches seems changed this time, according to Alima Badegeba, an MP from the SEPDM.
“The new administration tried to pursue new ways such as hearing the complaint of the people,” she told Fortune.
A day before of the cabinet reshuffle at the Federal government, the Oromia Regional State took two ministers from the former cabinet and assigned them to run bureaus in the regional state. Girma Amente (PhD), minister of Public Enterprises, was assigned to be head of the Oromia Urban Development & Housing Bureau while Negeri Lencho (PhD), minister of Government Communications Affairs Office, was moved as head of Oromia Communications Affairs Office, replacing Addisu Arega.
Shiferaw Shigute, minister of Agriculture & Livestock Resources; Teshome Toga, minister of State Enterprise; Umer Hussein, director general of the Ethiopian Revenue & Customs Authority; Janterar Abay, minister of Urban Development & Housing; Melaku Alebel, minister of Trade; and Meles Alemu, minister of Mines, Petroleum & Natural Gases are among the new faces brought into the new administration .
Hirut Woldemariam (PhD), minister Labor & Social Affairs; Ahmed Shide, head of Government Communications Affairs Office; Siraj Fegessa, minister of Transport; Motuma Mekassa; minister of Defence; and Ambachew Mekonnen, minister of Industry were the ministers who have changed portfolios in the new cabinet.
The parliament has also elected a new Speaker, accepting the resignation of the former Speaker Abadula Gemeda. Mufriyat Kemil (MP-SEPDM), deputy head of the EPRDF Secretariate, has replaced him as the new Speaker.
Though new faces were included in the cabinet, technocratic representation was not the defining character of this cabinet, unlike its predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn, dubbed by pundits the “Senate Cabinet”.
Asnake Kefale (PhD), a lecturer at the Addis Abeba University (AAU) and an expert on policies and institutions in Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa region, has observed in some of the institutions which require technocrats the Prime Minister assigned political operators.
This has come due to a pressure the Prime Minister may have felt in moving fast to deliver to an expectant public, according to political observers. Although it is good to form a cabinet as fast as possible, it would have been great if Abiy had taken time to have consultations in picking the right people, according to Daniel Brehane, a blogger and founder of the website Horn Affairs.
“It shows that the nomination was made in a rush,” Daniel said.
However, Girma Seifu, who was the lone MP and chairperson of parliament’s Budget & Finance Committee for one term, believes the new cabinet would bring nothing unless the ruling party makes major changes.
“Opening the political space, and broadening it to the media and civil societies are what we wish to see,” Girma told Fortune.
The business community such as Ahmed Kellow (PhD), an aviation expert and general manager of First Consult, seems pleased with the new administration, but he forwards a recommendation for a better result.
“The new ministers should have to get chances to recruit their staffs and subordinates, unlike what is currently seen,” he said. “This will ensure check and balance system.”
Even though most of the grievances from the public were on the system, part of the issue was on the administration, according to Asnake. The new cabinet has to work on this, Asnake remarks.
The demand to see reforms in policies is reflected in the public view. Unlike the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from the public to Abiy’s inaugural speech a few weeks ago, the support in forming his cabinet has warned. Almost 28.4pc of the people Fortune polled late last week vote indifferent.
Fortune has carried out a public opinion poll via random phone calls made to residents in almost all regions of the country after the cabinet was announced. Close to 66pc of the 244 people polled approved Abiy’s cabinet, while six percent disproved and the remaining were indifferent.
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