Controversy has emerged over the appointment of the newly-minted Press Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister, Bilenne Seyoum, whose current citizenship status bars her from taking a senior government position.
Bilenne, who has described herself as a Canadian citizen and an Ethiopian by birth in a book she authored in 2014; has now left the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) at an impasse, making it a topic of discussion. This comes as the Ethiopian government continues to build a strategy to lure the affluent Diaspora population to the nation.
Proclamation number 270/2002 of the Federal Negarit Gazeta states that the holder of the identification card of foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin, shall have no right to vote or be elected to any office at any level of Government and shall have no right to be employed on a regular basis in the National Defense, Security, Foreign Affairs and other similar political establishments.”
Several constitutional lawyers told The Reporter that unless the current law is revisited and tweaked, as-is, no citizen other than an Ethiopian citizen is to be allowed to work in such a position.
“The government needs to abide by its law and its intent, and the question of citizenship and loyalty should have never been overlooked,” a lawyer who wanted to stay anonymous told The Reporter. “If the individual who is appointed wants to undertake such a position, perhaps she has to decide on their citizenship and not hold two, as it might be in conflict with her position in the future”.
Bilenne was born in Addis Ababa and lived her formative years in Harare, Zimbabwe where her father was employed by Ethiopian Airlines as an Area Manager. She received her first degree at Commerce College and continued at British Columbia University and later in 2010, attended the University of Peace in Costa Rica.
While in Canada, she received a degree in International Relations and attained her citizenship. For almost two decades, she was known to have had a rich experience in peace building, human rights and development. She served as a board member of AWiB, a feminist organization.
Earlier this year, she was noted for co-authoring an open letter to PM Abiy calling for gender parity in the makeup of his cabinet.