Ethiopia’s Prime Minister appointed twelve Minsters this week. It is the biggest cabinet reshuffle since Hailemariam took oath as Prime Minister, bar the appointments last November.
The reshuffle encompassed about ten Ministries including cabinet level executive organs. Though the Ministries affected by the reshuffle are those I rank as second level and third level powerful in the cabinet, a few of the appointees are ruling party heavy-weights.
[Pledging to provide my ranking and related data and analyses of the cabinet posts in the coming weeks, here is a highlight of the reshuffle].
Shiferaw Shigute has been given the Ministry of Education – a position held by Demeke Mekonen since 2008 until now, though he ascended to Dep. Prime Minister post last September.
The new Minister of Education Shiferaw Shigute was serving as President of the Southern region (SNNPR) since 2005. Shiferaw is deupty chair of the southern wing of EPRDF. It is noteworthy that Sheferaw is the first non- Amhara Minister of Education in the last two decades.
Sheferaw’s shuffle could be related to the controversial eviction of citizens in a couple of districts parts of the Southern region in the past few years – a thorny issue from which the party is distancing itself. Ruling party heavy-weights kept quite in the EPRDF Congress last March, when Sheferaw labored to defend the the matter when participants raised the issue.
Insiders claim that Dep. PM Demeke Mekonen, who doubles as Dep. Chair of EPRDF, relinquished the Education Ministry to focus on “political works” including overseeing the ruling party, EPRDF, headquarters. If true, it would indicate the party’s focus on strengthening its internal structure that boasts about six million members.
The EPRDF Secretariat is headed by Redwan Hussein, who doubles as Adviser of Public Mobilization & Participation Adviser of the Prime Minister with the rank of Minister, since 2010. There is no official report that he relinquished the two posts to date, though that would be the case given his new appointment.
Redwan Husien is now appointed as Head of Office for Government Communications Affairs with the rank of Minister, replacing Bereket Simon – the long serving media czar. Besides official and unofficial responsibilities in the ruling party and the Cabinet, Bereket have served as Minister of Culture and Information (2002-2005); Minister of Information (2005-2008); and Head of Government Communications Office with a Ministerial portfolio (2008-2010).
Bereket is now appointed as Advisor of the Prime Minister on Policy and Research matters – a new post with undisclosed job description. It is likely that Bereket could be eyeing a partial retirement after almost four decades of public service, since the days of the armed struggle, that will give him more time for writing books and attend personal matters.
However, at-least in the short-term, it seems the new appointment would increase his duties. Bereket is expected to play an active role in helping PM Hailemariam in the process of revising/updating policies and plans as well as build consensus on them. That is taking in consideration Bereket’s status as ruling party heavy-weight and power-broker, coupled with his intimacy with the policy-making processes of the late PM Meles Zenawi.
Bereket is unlikely to expected to fully abandon his (formal and informal) passionate engagement in the media, which he allegedly micro-manages at times. Coupled with the likelihood that Bereket’s continued role will be welcomed by Redwan Hussein, since the two are perceived as allies.
At the same time, Bereket is expected to be overseeing the newly established National Planning Commission, for which a non-EPRDF technocrat Mekonen Manyazewal, was appointed as part of the cabinet reshuffle.
Ahmed Abetew has been given the Ministry of Industry replacing Mekonnen Manyazewal, who held the post since 2010. Ahmed Abtew was serving as V/President and Head of Industry and Urban Development Bureau of Amhara region until the date of his appointment. He was promoted to the executive committee of the ruling party last March.
Workneh Gebeyehu has been given the Ministry of Transport replacing Diriba Kuma. Workeneh served as Commissioner General of the Federal Police Commission for about a decade. He is member of the federal House of Representatives from west Arsi, Oromiya. The new Federal Police Commissioner is not yet disclosed.
Workeneh’s new post is widely perceived as less prominent by observers. However, some officials argue that the Ministry’s regulatory mandates are far-reaching, provided an an effecting leadership. Workeneh’s track-record in the modernization of the Federal Police would be an asset to the Transport sector which suffers from chronic lack of oversight and coordination – a matter that is fueling public discontent as the ruling party approaches the 2015 general elections which may not be as easy as 2010.
It seems plausible, however, that Workeneh’s new position could at-least be taken as a stepping stone to the Federal cabinet rather than a demotion, since he ascended to the executive committee of the ruling party last March.
The out-going Minister of Transport, Diriba Kuma, is expected to become Mayor of Addis Ababa when the newly-elected city council commences work. Diriba would be replacing Mayor Kuma Demeksa, who is appointed as the Policy and Research Adviser to the Prime Minister with the rank of Minister, in the cabinet reshuffle.
Demitu Hambessa, Speaker of Oromia Regional State Council, replaced Dessie Dalke as Minister of Technology and Science. Dessie Dalke, who is not given a cabinet post in the reshuffle, is rumored to become President of the Southern region (SNNPR) replacing Sheferaw Shegute. Dessie’s membership in the Regional State Council, a pre-requisite to be elected President, adds credibility to the rumor.
Roman Gebreselassie is appointed as Chief government whip at the house of people’s representative. Roman Gebreselassie, from TPLF/EPRDF, has been Aster’s deputy – Government Whip with the rank of State Minister – since 2010.
The post was held by Aster Mamo, who doubles as head of OPDO/EPRDF secretariat. Aster reportedly abdicated the post months ago as per the decision by OPDO/EPRDF leadership that she has “too many responsibilities” and should focus on the later. Aster’s ascendance to the top league of the party last March, however, had fueled speculations that she might retain remain as the Chief whip position.
Getachew Ambaye has been given the Ministry of Justice, a post held by Berhan Hailu. Getachew Ambaye was public relations adviser to the outgoing Mayor of Addis Ababa with the rank of Deputy Mayor. Berhan Hailu was dismissed last month, apparently due to poor performance in the justice sector.
Bekir Shale has been appointed as Director General of Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority (ERCA) with the rank of Minister. The post was held by Meleaku Fenta who is in detention facing corruption charges as of last June. Beker Shale’s fast ascendance is raising eye-brows among pundits. He was State Minister as the Government Communication Affairs about eleven months ago when he was appointed Mayor of Adama – a post he relinquished now to join the Cabinet.
A little known technocrat, Belete Tafere, Chief Natural Resource Technical Adviser with GIZ Sustainable Land Utilization Project Office in Tigray State, is now appointed as minister of the newly established environmental protection and forestry.