In his quarterly report to the House of Peoples Representatives, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn responded to questions regarding the legitimacy of assigning three Deputy Prime Ministers nearly one and half months after the parliament approved their appointment.
The move had triggered discussions and inquiries among legal experts about the constitutionality of having more than one deputy prime minister.
“I presented a nominee for the position of Deputy Prime Minister a few months back before the House and it was approved. I also designated two ministers with the rank of Deputy Prime Minister which the house endorsed. It’s a constitutional practice carried out in some countries like Singapore. It is a mechanism by which government functions are divided into clusters whereby a senior political appointee will effectively handle cases in his jurisdiction. We believe such a practice will improve the quality of leadership in assigned jurisdictions,” argued the Prime Minister while responding to a number of queries raised by MPs during the regular session of the House of Peoples Representatives held on Tuesday, Jan 1st
The Prime Minister also dealt with questions that ranged from human trafficking, transport problems in Addis Ababa, sport facility issues, to land grabbing, economic growth forecast, and the need to invest in agricultural ventures that is considered to be to Ethiopia’s comparative advantage.
He also underlined his government’s determination to set up a foundation that depicts the work of the late Prime Minister in order to pass on his legacy to future generation and researchers.
On November 29, 2012, Hailemariam promoted two ministers to the rank of deputy Prime Minister while reshuffling and dismissing others in a move that drastically reshaped the country’s top executive branch. Since then, discussions and arguments were raging among experts on the constitution of the country in relation to the legality of the appointment. However, a few days after the approval of the nominees by the parliament, the nominees’ rank and position was clearly defined as “Ministers, with a rank of Deputy prime minister.”
“I take the arrangement of a ‘Minister with a rank of Deputy Prime Minister’ as a mechanism or means to escape the issues and criticism raised about the legality that followed the appointment of the deputy prime ministers,” said Girma Seifu, the lone opposition MP, during the parliament’s Q and A session.
In a move seen by analysts as an ethnic balancing act, Muktar Kedir from Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) and Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD) from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), were appointed as Ministers with a rank of Deputy Prime Minister. The move is considered to improve leadership in the federal government. Education Minister Demeke Mekonnen, representing one of the four ruling party’s founding block, the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) was appointed back in September as Deputy Prime Minister.
The three deputies lead different sectors in which they have distinct and defined responsibilities. While some ministries would remain under the direct administration of the Prime Minister’s office, others will be grouped in clusters to be headed by the deputies.
Demeke is spearheading the social sector and relevant ministries in addition to the Ministry of Education. Debretsion is heading the finance and economic sector aside from his duties as Minister of Communication and Information Technology (MoCIT), a position he has held since 2010, while Muktar is in charge of the good-governance reform cluster in addition to his job as Minister of Civil Service to which he was promoted in place of Junedi Sado. Previously, Muktar served as head of the PM’s Office and Minister of Cabinet Affairs, the posts to which Debebe Abera and Eshetu Dessie, respectively, have been appointed to.
Prior to the new appointment, Debebe was the Vice President and Civil Service Bureau Head of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional state, while Eshetu was Deputy Director General of Change and Modernization of the Ethiopian Revenue and Custom Authority (ERCA).
In another reshuffle in November 2012, Health Minister Tedros Adhanom (PhD) was moved from his post, to become the Foreign Affairs Minister of Ethiopia. The position had remained vacant since August 2012 when Hailemariam became PM.
While many expected State minister Berhane Gebrekirstos to rise in the ranks and become a full Minister, Hailemaraim surprised pundits by appointing Tedros to lead the country’s diplomatic efforts.
Tedros’ deputy, Dr. Kesetebirhan Admassu has been promoted to become Health Minister. Kebede Chane is officially the Trade Minister, a position he held for months without the approval of the House, after his predecessor was fired by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.