Decoding the Cabinet Reshuffles in Ethiopia

A Necessary Means to an End?

What’s most challenging to process about the persistent cabinet and other key political position reshuffles under Abiy Ahmed’s leadership is having to decide whether it’s normal or not. ​​Previous administrations in Ethiopia had varied approaches to managing their cabinet. During the military regime that lasted from 1974 to 1991, frequent cabinet reshuffles were the norm, often in response to political instability or the regime’s need to consolidate power. The post-military government, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), had a more stable approach to managing its cabinet, with ministers staying in their positions for longer periods unchallenged. 

Since coming to power in 2018, Abiy Ahmed has been in charge of one of the most diverse and challenging countries on the African continent. Abiy’s administration has been marked by several significant reforms, including the opening up of the political system, the release of political prisoners, and the normalization of relations with neighboring Eritrea. He promised to bring much-needed reforms to Ethiopia’s political system. It is often argued that his frequent cabinet reshuffles have been part of this broader effort to overhaul the country’s government and institutions. However, there are differing opinions on whether these reshuffles have been effective in achieving the government’s goals or have led to further instability.

Over the past five years, the political landscape in Ethiopia has undergone significant changes, in some cases changes that forced reshuffling. One such notable event is the fallout between the ruling Prosperity Party and TPLF, which had dominated Ethiopian politics for decades. Keria Ibrahim and Fetlework “Monjorino” Gebre-Egziabher are examples of ousted politicians in the wake of the fallout. The TPLF’s hegemony was a significant obstacle to reform and progress, and the reshuffles allowed Abiy to bring new voices whose service would not be a conflict of interest. 

Another significant event is the national elections that took place in Ethiopia. The pre and post-election periods created a markedly different political environment, and it is to be expected that new people with an electoral mandate would be added to the cabinet. Therefore, some of Abiy’s reshuffles are a necessary step in ensuring that the government reflects the will of the people and that they have a say in how the country is run.

Though these dynamic challenges to the political scene give a level of justification for the frequent reshuffles, the persistent change in key personnel exacerbates the psycho-social perception of the precariousness of peace and prosperity in the country. The reshuffles give a sense that there is a lack of stability and strategic vision in the government. Critics futher argue that the reshuffles are not always strictly necessary and that they reflect a lack of clear policy direction, which is what is leading to constant changes in personnel and policy. The constant reshuffling of cabinet ministers and other key officials has been criticized for creating uncertainty and making it difficult to implement policies and programs effectively and consistently.

To be fair, the Prime Minister has allowed several key personnel to retain their position for extended periods— some, like Billene Seyoum (Press Secretary) and Demeke Mekonen (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs), have even retained the same position since being appointed nearly five years ago (Demeke Mekonen even served as Deputy PM to Abiy’s predecessor, Halemariam Dessalegn.) It can be argued that the frequent changes in personnel reflect a commitment to promoting meritocracy and ensuring that people are appointed based on their skills and abilities rather than their political connections.

On the flip side, the frequent reshuffles have raised murmurs of concern, particularly regarding ethnic representation. Ethiopia’s political (and, arguably, social) systems are steeped in ethnic federalism, which has led to an increase in the ethnic division in the country. The reshuffling may have been an attempt to balance the ethnic representation in the cabinet. While some view this as a reflection of a commitment to diversity and inclusivity in government, others see it as a politically-motivated maneuver from the populist leader to gain support from different ethnic groups. 

Be all that as it may, the government’s transparency toward the need for the reshuffles and the competence of appointees for their designated [seasonal?] roles has become increasingly non-existent. This inevitably leads to conspiracy— Are the reshuffles a way for Abiy to consolidate his power and remove potential rivals within the party? Are they a way for Abiy to maintain control over the government and prevent any opposition from emerging?

Overall, the frequent cabinet reshuffles have generated a lot of debate and controversy. Ultimately, only time will tell whether the frequent changes in personnel will help or hinder the government’s ability to implement meaningful reforms and move Ethiopia forward. In the meantime, the reshuffles continue to feed into a growing disillusionment and confusion among the people of Ethiopia who have already likely exhausted their emotional (and political?) bandwidth after suffering through multiple significant psycho-social crises.

Position Assigned to Tenure Notes
Minister of National Defense Motuma MekassaApril 2018 – October 2018
Aisha Mohammed MussaOctober 2018 – April 2019
Lemma MegersaApril 2019 – August 2020
Dr. Kenea YadetaAugust 2020 – October 2021
Dr. Abrham Belay (incumbent)October 2021
Attorney General/Minister of Justice (administrative renaming of the position) Getachew Ambaye2016 – October 2018 The Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Attorney General have at different times either functioned as separate entities or been combined into one body.
Berhanu Tsegaye October 2018 – March 2020
Adanech AbebeMarch 2020 – September 2021
Dr. Gedion Timotheos (incumbent)October 2021
Minister of Finance Abrham Tekeste 2016- October 2018
Ahmed Shide (incumbent)October 2018
Minister of Foreign Affairs Workneh Gebeyehu2016 – April 2019
Gedu AndargachewApril 2019 – November 2020
Demeke Mekonnen (incumbent)November 2020 Demeke Mekonen holds the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Prime Minister, as well as Vice-President of the Prosperity Party
Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Dr. Hirut WoldemariamApril 2018 – October 2018
Mrs. Ergoge Tesfaye (incumbent)October 2018
Minister of PeaceMuferiat Kamil October 2018 – October 2021This Ministry was created in October 2018.
Benalf Andualem (incumbent)October 2021
Minister of Agriculture and LivestockShiferaw Shigute WolassaApril 2018 – July 2018
Oumar Hussein October 2018- January 2023
Girma Amente (incumbent)January 2023
Chief Speaker of the House Muferiat Kamil April 2018 – October 2018
Tagese Chafo (incumbent)October 2018
Minister of Transport Siraj Fegessa April 2018 – October 2018
Dagmawit Moges October 2018- January 2023
Alemu Sime (incumbent)January 2023
Minister of Mines and Energy Meles Alemu April 2018  – October 2018
Samuel Urkato October 2018 – August 2020
Takele UmaAugust 2020 – January 2023
Dr. Eng. Habtamu Itefa Geleta (incumbent)January 2023
Minister of Health Dr. Amir Aman April 2018 – December 2019
Dr. Lia Tadesse (incumbent)March 2020
Minister of Urban Development and Housing Jantirar Abay YigzawApril 2018 – April 2019
Aisha Mohammed MussaApril 2019 – October 2021
Chaltu Sani (incumbent)October 2021
National Security Advisor Abadula Gemeda April 2018 – June 2018
Temesgen Tiruneh October 2018 – November 2020
Gedu Andargachew November 2020 – June 2022
Redwan Hussein (incumbent)June 2022
Director General of Revenue and Customs Oumar Hussein April 2018 – October 2018
Adanech Abebe October 2018- March 2020
Lake Ayalew March 2020 – August 2022
Aynalem Nigusie Ali (incumbent)August 2022
Ministry of Tourism Fozia AminApril 2018 – October 2018
Hirut Kassaw October 2018 – October 2021
Nasise Challi (incumbent)October 2021
Ministry of Trade and Regional Integration Melaku Alebel April 2018 – October 2018The Ministry of Trade and Regional Integration and the Ministry of Industry have at different times either functioned as separate ministries or been combined into one. Currently, they exist as separate ministries.
Fetlework Gebre-EgziabherOctober 2018 – January 2020
Melaku Alebel January 2020 – April 2022
Gebremeskel Challa (incumbent)April 2022
Ministry of Industry Dr. Ambachew Mekonen April 2018 – October 2018
Fetlework Gebre-EgziabherOctober 2018 – January 2020
Melaku Alebel (incumbent)January 2020
NBE Governor Teklewold Atnafu 2006 – June 2018
Dr. Yinager DessieJune 2018 – January 2023
Mamo Mihretu (incumbent)January 2023
Federal Police Commissioner Yared TilahunApril 2018 – June 2018
Zeynu Jemal June 2018 – October 2018
Endeshaw Tassew November 2018 – November 2020
Demelash Gebremichael (incumbent)November 2020
Mayor of Addis AbabaDiriba KumaJuly 2013 – July 2018
Takele Uma July 2018 – 18 August 2020
Adanech Abebe (incumbent)September 2021Adanech Abebe was Acting Mayor (or Deputy Mayor) between Takele Uma’s departure in August 2020 and her official appointment as Mayor in September 2021
Head of NISS Getachew Assefa 2016 – June 2018
General Adem MohammedJune 2018 – June 2019
Demelash GebremichaelJune 2019 – November 2020
Temesgen Tiruneh (incumbent)November 2020
Chief of General Staff (Army Chief) General Samora Yunis2001 – June 2018
General Seare MekonenJune 2018 – June 2019
General Adem MohammedJune 2019 – November 2020
Field Marshal General Birhanu Jula (incumbent)November 2020
Minister of Innovation and TechnologyDr. Getahun Mekuria October 2018 – February 2020
Dr. Abrham Belay February 2020 – October 2021
Dr. Belete Molla (incumbent)October 2021 – current
Minister of EducationDr. Tilaye Gete Ambaye2017 – January 2020
Dr. Eng. Getahun Mekuria January 2020 – October 2021
Prof. Birhanu Nega (incumbent)October 2021

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