Abiy Ahmed keeps finance minister and taps opposition politicians for new cabinet
Ethiopian leader urges parliament to work together as new cabinet reflects effort to build unity
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday renominated his finance and foreign affairs to remain in his new cabinet, but shuffled other positions to include leaders from small opposition parties.
Abiy's government won June elections in a landslide, and will face little opposition in parliament after the only two opposition parties that won seats accepted cabinet-level positions.
“Even though we have differences, we should adopt a culture of working together,” Abiy told parliament. “Including others and working with them, will help political parties form a foundation for the future.”
Incumbent Ahmed Shide returned as finance minister, signalling a determination to stay with Abiy’s course of reforms that includes privatising creaking state enterprises. Demeke Mekonnen, the powerful deputy prime minister and foreign minister, was also asked to remain in his posts.
In a surprise move, Abiy nominated Abraham Belay as minister of defence. Belay previously served for less than two months as the federally appointed head of the northern region of Tigray, before Tigrayan forces re-took the territory from the military.
Tigrayan forces have been fighting against the central government for 11 months.
Abiy has come under increasing international pressure over the war in Tigray, where the UN says hundreds of thousands of people are experiencing famine and reports of human rights abuses have been rife.
Last week, Ethiopia expelled seven senior UN officials, a move the UN denounced as illegal.
The war — which has also spread to two neighbouring regions of Ethiopia — is one of several problems Abiy’s new government will need to deal with.
Frequent eruptions of unrelated ethnic and political violence claim hundreds of lives.
The economy — once the fastest-growing in Africa for around a decade — is also faltering. Year-on-year monthly inflation stands at 34.8% and the birr’s value against the dollar is falling.
Asnake Kefale, an assistant professor of politics at Addis Ababa University, said Abiy’s cabinet was an effort to build a coalition. “It shows the willingness of the government to inclusive,” he said.
Berhanu Nega, head of the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party (Ezema), was nominated as minister of education. Belete Mola, chair of the National Movement of Amhara, was named minister of innovation and technology.
Together, the two parties won nine seats in Ethiopia’s 544 seats. Abiy won 410 seats; elections in other seats were delayed. Parliament confirmed all of Abiy’s nominations.
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