In his first major cabinet appointments since he became Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed has appointed women into half the positions, a first for the country. Ethiopian Parliament members amicably agreed to his appointments, as the country became the second African country with equal gender representation in its ministerial cabinet, after Rwanda.
In his speech to the Ethiopian parliament after announcing his cabinet, Abiy Ahmed said he made the decision to make his cabinet 50 percent women because women are less corrupt than men. “Our women ministers will disprove the old adage that women can’t lead,” he said.
Abiy Ahmed also appointed Aisha Mohammed as Ethiopia’s Defense Minister, the first time a woman has been appointed into that post in the country. He also cut the number of ministerial posts in the country from 28 to 20, in a continuation of reforms he has implemented in the country since he assumed office in April 2018.
In his almost six months in office, Abiy Ahmed has repaired frail relationships with Eritrea as evidenced by the historic peace deal that was signed between both countries in July, effectively putting to an end the to the almost-two decades’ war between the two. He has released many political prisoners, especially those from the Oromo region of the country. Negotiations for port deals at the Djibouti, Somaliland, Kenyan and Eritrean ports also represented a new direction for maritime policies in the landlocked country.
The new Minister for Defense, Aisha Mohammed hails from the Afar region of North-east Ethiopia and has formerly served as Construction Minister in the country. Former Ethiopian Speaker for Parliament, Muferiat Kamil was also made the first Minister of Peace in Ethiopia. She will be in charge of the country’s intelligence and security, including the Federal police. This role is especially important since she is basically in charge of the government apparatus that was used to control dissent and quell demonstrations in the past. It will be interesting to see how they go from here, with Abiy Ahmed’s reforms aimed at reducing government-sanctioned repression on Ethiopian citizens.
Asides having the most female representation in parliament in the world, 15 positions, out of 31, on president Paul Kagame’s ministerial cabinet are women. The country has often been hailed as an example globally for how more gender inclusivity can be correlated with economic development. Ethiopia would be hoping to achieve the same with its new reform.