Ethiopian PM hands half of cabinet to women, including defence job

Ethiopian PM hands half of cabinet to women, including defence job
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Courtesy "twitter/channelstv"

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday unveiled a downsized cabinet where, in a first, half the members are women, a top official said.

Women occupy key positions in the 20-member cabinet that includes a newly created Ministry of Peace to oversee the federal police and intelligence agencies, Abiy’s Chief of Staff Fitsum Arega said.

Ethiopia is now the second African nation after Rwanda to achieve gender parity in its cabinet, and one of only a handful of nations to achieve this worldwide.

“Women are assigned to run key ministerial portfolios including ministries of Peace, Trade and Industry, and Defence,” he tweeted.

The new Minister of National Defence, Aisha Mohammed, is the first woman to hold the post.

Aisha was earlier construction minister and before that in charge of the tourism ministry. She is from the drought-prone and poor Afar region, where she had once headed the disaster prevention office.

Minister of Peace Muferiat Kamil is a former speaker of parliament.

The previous cabinet had 28 ministers, of which only five were women.

Kenya currently also has a female defence minister, Raychelle Omamo, while South Africa, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Madagascar, Sao Tome and Principe, Gabon, Nigeria and Central African Republic have all in the past appointed women to the job.

The shakeup is the latest in a series of dramatic reforms implemented by Abiy since he took office in April after more than two years of anti-government unrest that contributed to his predecessor’s sudden resignation.

The prime minister’s measures have included ending two decades of conflict with neighbouring Eritrea, releasing jailed dissidents, welcoming formerly banned groups back into the country and announcing plans to privatise major state-owned industries.

Abiy, 42, took office after anti-government protests began in late 2015 by Ethiopia’s two largest ethnic groups against the heavy-handed rule of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which controls every seat in parliament together with its allies.

But since taking power, his government has been rocked by successive ethnic clashes in the countryside including violence in southern Ethiopia that has displaced nearly one million people.