Seyoum Mesfin leaves FM, Haile-Mariam new DPM
By Eskinder Nega | October 5, 2010
In a comical prelude to what “Parliament” will be like for the next five years that visibly embarrassed its speaker, Abadula Gemeda (whose reversed Kafkan metamorphosis from a hapless POW to Speaker of “parliament” illustrates the lie that is at the core of the EPRDF) Ethiopia’s lower house of “Parliament” approved PM Meles Zenawi’s new cabinet in world record time.
An amazed nation watched a live broadcast from “Parliament” as Meles Zenawi placidly introduced his prospective cabinet Ministers for deliberation, but who were neither commended nor disputed by the new “Parliamentarians”, and then sworn in, all in world record time of ELEVEN MINUTES ( Between 10:30 am and 10: 41 am local time. Will someone please inform Guinness!) “The floor is open for queries and opinions,” said Abadula, the Speaker, after Meles completed his presentation. He was met with utter silence, provoking an embarrassed smile from Abadula. In the café where I watched the proceedings on TV, viewers, including those who were apparently pro-EPRDF, laughed in unison when Abadula moved on to the swearing ceremony.
Haile-Mairam Desalign replaced Seyoum Mesfin at the Foreign Ministry. And in a clear blow to the ANDM, he was also designated as the sole Deputy Prime Minister. If Meles keeps his word, Haile-Mariam is now his most likely successor. Seyoum Mesfin, who is only in his late 50s, reportedly favors a cushy job in the UN system (in the spirit of the new adage about age: “the 60s is the new 40s”), but rumor also places him in Washington as the new Ethiopian Ambassador.
Girma Biru, OPDO’s best prospective PM, has left the cabinet after an unusually long tenure. The OPDO, much like the ANDM, now has no high-flying star to compete with Haile-Mariam. Soft-spoken Suffian Ahmed, the long-serving Minister of Finance, and formally a member of OPDO’s leadership but more of a grey-technocrat in practice, has surprisingly retained his position. “(The macroeconomic stability) attests to his competence,” Meles said.
Of the five key Ministries— Foreign, Defense, Federal, Finance and Justice— three have been allotted to Ministers from the South: Haile-Mariam at Foreign; Siraj Forsedin at Defense; and Shiferaw Tekle-Mariam at Federal. One each has gone to the OPDO and ANDM: Suffian Ahmed of OPDO at Finance and Haile-Birhan of ANDM at Justice. The head of ANDM, Demeke Mekonen, has retained his junior Ministerial position at the helm of the Ministry of Education. Putting a brave face to Haile-Mariam’s unexpected rise to the post of EPRDF’s deputy, which many had assumed was ANDM’s by default, Demeke has said, “It’s division of labor within the party. I am not in the least bit disappointed.” Few, however, are inclined to take his words at their face value. The disappointment both to him personally and his party is palpable.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry, long Girma Biru’s turf, has now been split, and the position of Minister of Industry has gone to Manyazewal Mekonnen, the only non-EPRDF member of the Cabinet.
Veteran of Ethiopia’s KGB, Debre-Tsion Gebre