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Ethiopian PM to keep finance minister in new cabinet

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Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed takes oath during his incumbent ceremony at the Parliament building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia October 4, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday re-nominated 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’s election 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.

Ahmed Shide

In a surprise move, Abiy nominated Abraham Belay as minister of defence. Belay previously served under Abiy at the Information Network Security Agency, Ethiopia’s electronic surveillance agency.

This year, Belay 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 in June. Tigrayan forces have been fighting against the central government for 11 months.

Abiy has come under international pressure over the war in Tigray, where the United Nations says hundreds of thousands of people are experiencing famine and reports of human rights abuses have been rife. Last week Ethiopia expelled seven senior U.N. officials; the United Nations denounced the move 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.

New ministers were also appointed to the water ministry, which oversees the $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, and the peace ministry, which oversees humanitarian issues. Both Sudan and Egypt have expressed concerns over the dam.

Asnake Kefale, an associate 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, chairman 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.Additional reporting by Giulia Paravicini; writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Jon Boyle, Alex Richardson and Alison Williams .@ reuters

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