In a complete contrast
to the third Parliament, which at times had lively
debate from and rapport between opposition party
members and whose term ended in July 2010, the
fourth Parliament which opened on Monday, October 4,
had only one opposition member in its midst.
Hardly a word came from
Girma Seifu, member of the Coalition for Unity and
Democracy Party (CUDP), who was the only opposition
party member elected to the Parliament and sat
amongst 540 Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary
Democratic Front (EPRDF) members in the house.
Although he did not
Speak, his no vote during the election of the
speaker of the house, which was first on the agenda,
went unnoticed. The swearing in ceremony which was
presided over by Tegene Getaneh, president of the
Federal Supreme Court, only counted the “aye” votes
for the election of Abbadula Gemmeda as the speaker
and did not ask for “nay” votes or abstentions.
The beginning of the
formation of the new government was far from dull,
despite what many people had expected. Many had
congregated to observe the proceedings from the
balcony of the house on Monday to the extent that
Seyoum Mesfin, former minister of Foreign Affairs (MoFA),
was unable to find a seat in the observation balcony
and had to leave.
Instead, it was a week
filled with excitement as speculations of who would
make it into the new government and be tasked with
the implementation of the draft Five-year Growth and
Transformation Plan (GTP) reached their peak.
Following the selection
of the speaker of the house, Meles Zenawi was sworn
in as the Prime Minister of the country for the
fourth and, perhaps, the last time. He would be
among the last remaining senior party members to
leave government, Meles had repeatedly said.
Many people eagerly
awaited the session on the next day, October 5, to
see how the succession of party members would play
out in the appointment of ministers, especially that
On Tuesday, the
appointment of the nominees to the 20 ministerial
positions, which are expected to bring the GTP to
success once it has been passed, was passed in the
Parliament upon the recommendation of the Prime
Before the Parliament
approved the nomination of the Prime Minister
candidate to ministerial position, it debated the
draft proclamation to provide for the definition as
well as powers and duties of the executive organs.
This led to another surprise as members of
Parliament (MPs), all of whom are EPRDF members,
debated the draft proclamation after Hailemariam
Desalegn, deputy chairman of the front, presented
The country’s plan to
make the agricultural sector reach its highest
productivity level, the industrial sector take the
leading role in the economy, and the country reach
middle income earning status in the next 15 years,
were taken as the basis in reorganising the
executive organs, Hailemariam said during his
presentation. The human factor, the system, and the
restructuring of the executive organs are inevitable
for the proper implementation of the GTP.
The role and
accountability of major state owned enterprises,
including the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo)
and the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA),
not being reflected in the draft, was one of the
concerns raised by MPs.
Since state owned
enterprises are not executive branches of the
government, their accountability is not determined
by proclamations like the one at hand but rather by
the regulations of the Council of Ministers, Mesfin
Lema, team leader of the Technical Committee for the
preparation of the draft bill, told MPs.
Girma Seifu joined EPRDF
MPs in the debate voicing his concern over the
article in the bill which empowers the Council of
Ministers to reorganise the executive organs by
issuing regulations for the closure, merger, or
division of an existing executive organ or for
changes to its accountability or mandates or for the
establishment of a new one.
“If this is the case,
there is a possibility that the executive organs can
be restructured again without the knowledge of the
house,” he said. “Even though I know that there will
not be a major challenge for any change on the
reorganisation of the executive organs, given the
composition of the Parliament, at least it would be
nice for the record to bring it to the attention of
The power of the Council
of Ministers to reorganise the executive organs as
it sees fit is appropriate as it is the body
mandated with the implementation of the country’s
budget and administering the human capacity at
large, Girma Birru Minister responded in
justification of the insertion of the article into
the draft law. The draft bill was finally approved
by the house with only one abstention from Girma
The ministries that saw
minor adjustment include those of Defence (MoD),
Finance and Economic Development (MoFED), Health (MoH),
Science and Technology (MoST), Culture and Tourism (MoCT),
Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA), and MoFA.
The ministries of
Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD), Works and
Urban Development (MoWUD), Federal Affairs (MoFedA),
Justice (MoJ), Mines and Energy (MoME), and Water
Resources (MoWR) saw major changes.
production of agriculture and trade were the
responsibilities of MoARD but now it will only
invest its resources in developing agricultural
productivity while its other responsibility would
fall under the auspices of the Ministry of Trade (MoT).
The Ethiopian Roads
Authority (ERA) and the Road Fund Office (RFO) are
accountable to the Ministry of Transport (MoTrans)
under the new arrangement. The Charities and
Societies Agency, which is responsible for the
registration of civil society organisations and used
to be under the MoJ, is now under MoFedA.
As hydropower is the
major source of electricity in the country, it has
been merged with the energy sector to form the
Ministry of Water and Energy (MoWE).
There are also
organisational divisions between the ministries of
Transport and Communications (MoTC) and of Trade and
Industry (MoTI). The former has been divided to
MoTrans and the Ministry of Communications and
Information Technology (MoCIT) and the later into
MoT and the Ministry of Industry (MoI).
The ministries of Women
Affairs (MoWA) and of Youth and Sport (MoYS) have
been consolidated into the Ministry of Women,
Children, and Youth Affairs (MoWCYA). The former
ministries of Capacity Building (MoCB) and of Civil
Service Commission (MoCSC) merged to form the
Ministry of Civil Service (MoCS).
The bill on the
establishment of the Federal Sports Commission was
passed without much debate after MPs approved the
motion for the inclusion of sports for the disabled.
However, the speaker of the house initially
mistakenly counted the vote for inclusion of the
motion as an approval for a proclamation.
Meles’s nominations to
the 20 ministerial positions saw seven new faces
added to the ministerial portfolio, including some
existing ministers. Perhaps, the biggest surprise
came in the appointment of Hailemariam Desalegn as
both deputy prime minister and minister of MoFA.
as foreign minister baffled Girma Seifu, who was not
in the Parliament during the nominations of the
“As far as I know, he
does not have any foreign policy experience,” Girma,
who left the house feeling it would be the same if
he watched on TV, told Fortune. “He might be able to
execute his political duties as deputy prime
minister but I do not see how he can handle being
the foreign minister.”
Hailemariam started his
career teaching at Arba Minch University in 1989
after graduating from Addis Ababa University (AAU)
in civil engineering. He completed his post graduate
studies in water supply and environmental
engineering at Finland’s Tampere University of
Technology in 1992.
He served as the vice
president and president of the Southern Nations,
Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP) Representatives
until he was appointed as an advisor to the Prime
Minister on Social Affairs and Civic Organisation in
2005. Since 2008, he has been the chief whip of
government in Parliament until taking over the
position as minister of MoFA from Seyoum Mesfin on
Friday, October 9, 2010.
Sufian Ahmed was
reappointed as the minister of MoFED, just as many
were expecting, while Mekonnen Manyazewal, his state
minister, was appointed as the minister of MoI.
While the public was
still mulling over the nominations of Tuesday, the
pardon of Birtukan Midekssa, the president of the
Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), who has been
imprisoned since December 2008, sent the public into
She had made a mistake
in denying that she had asked for a pardon for her
actions in the aftermath of the 2005 election,
Birtukan was seen and heard saying on TV and radio.
In all the excitement of
the first three days of the week, the meeting held
between nine opposition parties and Redwan Yesuf,
Public Mobilisation and articipation Advisor to the
Prime Minister over the GTP, went unnoticed.
Having had an exciting
first week, the Parliament will not convene this
week as the MPs, who had come from all over the
country, return to their homes to get their affairs
in order in preparation for their stay in the
capital for the next five years.
The house is expected to
resume its sessions on October 19. The revised bill
of the GTP, which has been commented on by many
stakeholders over the past two months, is the major
bill which it is expected to approve in the coming