Ethiopia Names Intelligence Chief Temesgen As New Deputy PM
ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopian lawmakers on Thursday approved the appointment of intelligence chief Temesgen Tiruneh as deputy to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, in a shake-up that followed the ouster of the long-serving Demeke Mekonnen.
MPs also endorsed Taye Atske Selassie, Ethiopia's former ambassador to the United Nations and currently diplomatic adviser to Abiy, as foreign minister.
Abiy's office described the cabinet changes as a "step towards strengthening the nation's leadership", in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
Ethiopia, Africa's second most populous country, is grappling with several challenges, including rumbling regional conflicts, a food crisis, and economic difficulties.
It also stirred regional tensions after reaching an agreement with the breakaway Somali region of Somaliland to gain long-sought access to the sea, angering Mogadishu.
"In the current period of geopolitical tensions that Ethiopia is experiencing, Abiy is tightening the team around him with people he trusts," said Patrick Ferras, head of the Strategies Africaines think tank.
Both the roles of foreign minister and deputy prime minister had been held by Demeke, who was dropped as vice-president of Abiy's ruling Prosperity Party late last month in a move that foreshadowed Thursday's appointments.
A replacement has not yet been named for Temesgen, who was appointed head of the National Intelligence and Security Service in 2020, at the start of the two-year war in the northern Tigray region.
Abiy told parliament that Temesgen, a married father of two, had "extensive experience" in public service, including as leader of the northern Amhara region and as its police commissioner.
He said Taye has extensive diplomatic experience, serving as ambassador in several diplomatic postings abroad including Washington, as well as working in various international organisations.
In the third appointment on Thursday, lawmakers approved the nomination of Mekdes Daba, currently working at World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, as health minister.
The gynecologist-obstetrician replaces Lia Tadesse, who had been health minister since 2020, during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, after serving as state minister for health since 2018.
Demeke was replaced as vice president of the Prosperity Party by Temesgen, state media had reported on January 26.
He had been deputy prime minister since 2012, shortly after being elected vice-president of the EPRDF, the coalition which ruled for nearly three decades until Abiy rose to power in 2018.
He had become foreign minister in November 2020 at the outset of the conflict between federal government forces and Tigran rebels.
Demeke succeeded Hailemariam Desalegn, who himself held both positions until he was elected president of the EPRDF and prime minister of Ethiopia on the death of Meles Zenawi.
Once in office, Abiy merged most of the parties of the EPRDF into the Prosperity Party.