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Ethiopia PM hands half of his Cabinet to women

Addis ababa, Tuesday

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.

“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. Minister of Peace Muferiat Kamil is the former Speaker of Parliament and will be overseeing the country’s intelligence and security apparatus including the Federal Police Commission.

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

In his speech to parliament outlining the changes he said that women would help in the fight against corruption as he said they were more efficient and “less corrupt than men”. Abiy also said he wanted to empower minority groups who had not held key positions before.

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, 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.

The prime minister, who came to power after the unexpected resignation of his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn, has shown himself to be an astute politician with impressive academic and military credentials. -AFP

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