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Starting his second term, Abiy has brought in some carefully chosen opposition figures and centralised more control in his office
A month after a second round of parliamentary elections confirmed the Prosperity Party's landslide victory in June, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has launched a new offensive against the Tigray People's Liberation Front. At the same time, he has reshuffled his cabinet and brought civilian and military intelligence services under the direct control of his office.
Overseeing the offensive will be the new Defence Minister Abraham Belay. He served with Abiy at the cyber-espionage Information Network Security Agency and as minister of innovation and technology, a cabinet position Abiy also once held.
Abiy had despatched Abraham earlier this year to run the federal government authority in Mekelle, capital of the Tigray region. He may have some scores to settle. When the TPLF seized back control of Mekelle in June, Abraham was forced to leave the city, along with the other federal appointees.
Abiy's reshuffle is less radical than many had expected. About 60% of the old ministers have stayed in the government. Finance minister, Ahmed Shide, overseeing the delayed telecoms and financial sector liberalisation, will keep his job, as Foreign Minister, Demeke Mekonnen, who has struggled to deflect international criticism of the war in Tigray.
New to the cabinet are a raft of co–opted leaders from opposition parties enter government, reflecting what Abiy's describes as the government's 'commitment to inclusivity' (AC Vol 62 No 13, War casts shadow over Abiy's election plan).
These newcomers include Belete Molla, Chairman of the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) appointed minister of Innovation and Technology; and Berhanu Nega, the leader of the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice, is the new Minister of Education. Kejella Merdassa of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) becomes Minister of Culture and Sport.
Berhanu is one to watch. Elected as mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005, he was jailed under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government and has a penchant for fiery rhetoric.
Shortly after the appointments, state media posted a list of the new institutions which will now be accountable to the prime minister: the National Bank of Ethiopia, the Ministry of Labour and Skills, Ministry of Planning and Development and the Ministry of Justice, reflecting the centralisation of power.
Around 20 more bodies and institutions, mainly security and intelligence departments, which had been placed under the remit of the Orwellian-sounding Ministry of Peace now report directly to the Prime Minister.
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