Ethiopian PM Ahmed appoints first Somali woman to cabinet in latest reshuffles
ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed continued with his unprecedented reforms, appointing the first Somali woman to his cabinet, which boosts his credentials as a nationalist, guided by his famous Medemer philosophy.
Since taking over in April 2018, Mr. Ahmed has initiated a host of radical reforms, including pardoning political detainees and enhancing freedom of speech, among others, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in the process.
And on Wednesday, Filsan Abdi, 28, became the first woman from the Somali region, which has traditionally battled marginalization, to be appointed to Mr. Ahmed's cabinet.
At that age, Ms. Abdi, also becomes the youngest member of the cabinet, a record which could be the best probably in Africa, where government and key leadership posts are entrusted with the octogenarians.
Ethiopia's House of People's Representatives was expected on Thursday morning to approve her appointment as Minister for Women, Children, and Youths during the 14th regular session reports indicated.
Others appointed to cabinet include Adanech Abebe [Attorney General], Dr. Liya Tadesse [Minister for Health] and Lake Ayalew who becomes the minister for Revenue.
Dr. Abiy, who is also a Nobel Peace laureate, is reorganizing his cabinet as part of making it more inclusive by according to minorities in Ethiopia's heterogeneous community ahead of August polls.
She effectively replaces Yalem Tsegaye Assfaw, the last member of Tigray People's Liberation Front [TPLF] in Abiy's cabinet, but who will still assume ambassadorial roles following recent appointment.
TPLF refused to be consolidated into the newly formed Prosperity Party, which is a product of defunct Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front [EPRDF], which folded to pave way for a new progressive approach in politics.
Before moving back to Ethiopia, Filsan was a UK based Speech and Language Therapy consultant. She is the founder of the ‘Nabad Project” which actively engages in social activism.
Fundamentally, she is the first Somali entrepreneur in Ethiopia to establish a private television station; Nebad TV, which widely broadcasts in the Somali region.
She has been actively participating in a youth volunteer project launched by PM Abiy Ahmed. Filsan was the cover story of Addis Standard’s special edition in February 2018. "Nabad" loosely translates to "peace" in the Somali dialect.
The appointment has been received with enthusiasm, with a number of commentators terming it "appropriate and timely" on several social media platforms.
Prof. Senait Fisseha, a scholar, described her as "bold and dynamic" adding that "With your fierce mind & brave spirit, I have no doubt you will accomplish a lot for the women and children of Ethiopia."
"I believe this makes Filsan Abdi the youngest ever African minister and two years younger than Botswana's @BogoloKenewendo, who currently holds the mantle," added Elshadai Nagash, a researcher.
The appointment comes amid growing ethnic tensions in Ethiopia, which are attributed to transformative policies being implemented by Dr. Abiy's administration. Over 100 people have been killed especially in his Oromo region.
Also, it could quell possible violence in the Somali region, following Ahmed's controversial remarks during Karamara festivals last week, which were deemed offensive by Somali regional president Mustafa Muhammed Omer and youthful entrepreneur Jawar Mohammed.
The PM is increasingly becoming under immense pressure but in a tweet on Thursday, he insisted that "Although my country has struggled to maintain it's existence, in the process of preserving it, it has never been intimidated by others."
Jawar, who also holds an American passport, has expressed interest in challenging him during the August polls. He played an integral role in the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn in 2018.
Somali region, also known as Ogaden, has borne the brunt of segregation by subsequent Ethiopian regimes since 1977 after the attempted take over by Siad Barre, the former Somalia dictator.