“Women are less corrupt than men.”
That was the main reason given by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for appointing women to half of his government’s ministerial posts on Monday.
The political reshuffle has seen women ministers now making up a record 50 per cent of the new cabinet, in other words, 10 of the 20 positions have gone to women.
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The historic appointments include the job of the defence minister that is being handled by Aisha Mohammed, making her the first woman to hold that position in the country.
“Our women ministers will disprove the old adage that women can’t lead,” Mr Ahmed told the country’s parliament as he outlined his choices. “This decision is the first in the history of Ethiopia and probably in Africa,” Ahmed was quoted by the Independent.
The newly created Ministry of Peace is also under the care of Muferiat Kamil, the former House speaker. To ensure peace prevails in a country that has often been bedevilled with conflicts, she is expected to be in charge of strategic agencies such as the National Intelligence and Security Service, the Federal Police Commission and the Finance Security and Information Center, as well as, the Information Network Security Agency.
The move to have a government that is gender-balanced has been hailed by many people and is seen as a step in the right direction for women’s rights.
“This is to show respect to the women for all the contribution they have made to the country.
“The new cabinet is expected to reform their respective ministries, remove the walls of bureaucracy, and bring innovation and technology to provide services efficiently,” the prime minister said.
Abiy Ahmed is the first person from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, to become prime minister since the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front came to power in 1991.
The 42-year-old was endorsed by the Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister on April 2. It is the hope of many that the new leader would bring calm to Africa’s second most populous nation after it was hit by months of protests against human rights abuses and violence perpetrated by the security forces.
Ethiopia has faced unrest since 2015 after the arrest of students and opposition figures in the Oromia region who were demonstrating against unfair treatment and abuses by the EPRDF government. Thousands of protesters were jailed and many died in the process.
The attacks and arrests by security forces were condemned by international agencies and partners resulting in measures instituted by the government to address the issues which are still lingering.
Hailemariam Desalegn who has been prime minister since 2012 subsequently resigned saying that he sees his resignation “as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy.”
When voted in by parliament as the country’s new leader, Ahmed vowed to ensure good governance and deal with corruption that was having a toll on the country’s economy.
Ethiopia is the 107 least corrupt nation out of 175 countries, according to the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International.
The government recently began conducting an investigation of corrupt government officials, who are suspected of being engaged in illicit financial outflows and stashing stolen money from the country in offshore banks and investments.
“While Ethiopia is yet not considered among the top 10 African countries thought to have extreme levels of corruption, the lack of proactive media role in uncovering corrupt practices and ineffectiveness of government institutions to root out corrupt practices is endangering the country’s political structure,” Ahmed said in June during the fourth national anti-corruption partnership conference held in Addis Ababa.
Ahmed, after assuming office, also promised to deal with ethnic conflicts in the country, that have displaced over 2 million people since last year.
In July, Ahmed met his country’s longtime adversary, the Eritrean president, Isaias Afwerki, and the two countries smoked the peace pipe and restored diplomatic relations after nearly 20 years of conflict.
Ahmed has since made attempts to reconcile with several rebel groups in the country and he is now optimistic that the women he has brought on board his government would help in restoring peace and stability.