By Kirubel Tadesse, Capital
Tuesday, 04 December 2012
Three Deputy Prime Ministers New top diplomat Embattled and fired minister
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Thursday promoted two more ministers to double as Deputy Prime Ministers while swapping and firing others, a move that drastically reshaped the country's top executive branch.
Named both the ruling party chair and Prime Minister following the sudden death of Meles Zenawi in August, Hailemariam for months worked with the cabinet he inherited from his successor, until the reshuffle earlier this week. Three deputies, three sectors A first for the country, Thursday's parliamentery session approved the request of PM Hailemariam to have three Deputies.
In a move seen by analysts as made to give the cabinet an ethnic balance, Muktar Kedir from Oromia, and Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD) from Tigray are now both Deputy Prime Ministers. The two share the post with Education Minister Demeke Mekonnen, who was appointed back in September representing the ruling party's Amhara wing.
Some legal experts are questioning the constitutionality of having more than one deputy prime minister. The Constitution doesn't envision multiple Deputy Prime Ministers. Rather, the Constitution provides for a single, undivided, post of the Deputy Prime Minister in the same way it does in respect to the Prime Minister," says Alemayehu Fentaw, Horn of Africa specialist at the University of Texas. Alemayehu, who has taught law in Ethiopia, argues that the latest appointments have breached the Constitution.
PM Hailemariam, who did not face such critics during Thursday's session, said each of his three deputies will have distinct responsibilities, leading different sectors. He told lawmakers the move would improve leadership in the federal government. It also allows the Prime Minister to focus on development projects and defense, say senior ruling party officials. While some ministries would remain under the direct oversight of the Prime Minister's office, others will be grouped in clusters to be headed by the deputies.
Demeke is expected to spearhead the social sector and relevant ministries. Debretsion and Muktar are heading the finance and economic and good-governance reform clusters respectively. Debretsion will also remain as Minister of Communication and Information Technology, a position he has held since 2010.
Muktar was serving as head of the PM's Office and Cabinet Affairs Minister, a position expected to be filled in the coming weeks.
Embattled and now fired
The new Deputy Prime Minister Muktar Kedir also replaced the embattled Junedin Sado, as the Civil Service Minister. Junedin held a number of cabinet positions over the years, including Transport and Communication and Science and Technology ministerial posts. He has always been favored by Meles in the past for similar appointments and reshuffles. His apparent demotion comes amid terrorism charges against his wife. Federal prosecutors say the Minister's wife, Habiba Mohammed, has been coordinating finance for a group they say was trying to establish an Islamic State and undermine the country's secular constitution. Police said Habiba was 'caught red handed' leaving the Saudi Arabian embassy in Addis Ababa with 50,000 birr intended to fund the alleged plot. Habiba strongly denied the charges. Junedin, in a letter he sent to local papers, came to her defense, stating that the money was going to support a mosque their family is building. Police have rejected the Minister's claims and the case is currently before a federal high court. Junedin was similarly demoted from the party's top leadership before being removed from the cabinet. He has also been removed from chairing the board of directors of Addis Ababa University. Federation House Speaker Kassa Teklebirhan has replaced him as the AAU's new board chairperson.
A new top diplomat
In another reshuffle, Health Minister Tedros Adhanom (PhD), was moved from his post to become a Foreign Affairs Minister. The position has remained vacant since August when Hailemariam became PM.
While many expected State Minister Berhane Gebrekirstos to rise in the ranks and become a full Minister, Hailemaraim surprised pundits by appointing Tedros to lead the country's diplomacy. Over the past seven years when he served as Health Minister, Tedros was a celebrated public servant even among ruling party critics. He was hailed for boosting health care services across the country which significantly reduced HIV/AIDS and Malaria related deaths. His educational background is also in the health sector. He holds a doctorate in Community Health from the University of Nottingham as well as a Masters in Immunology of Infectious Diseases from the University of London. He completed his undergraduate studies in Biology at Asmara University in 1986.
The decision to remove him from his successful stint in the health sector not only came as a surprise but was not favored by many who saw it as a mere political deal among contesting ruling party elites.
Tedros' deputy Dr. Kesetebirhan Admassu has been promoted to become Health Minister.
Kebede Chane is officially the Trade Minister, a position he held for months without the approval of the house after his predecessor was fired by Meles.
All of the five appointees were sworn in by Tegene Getaneh, President of the Federal Supreme Court after the house voted in approval.
The PM's office, which needs a new head itself, is expected to appoint new state ministers for Trade and Health.