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Ethiopia’s prime minister replaces security chiefs in reforms plan

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister
Abiy Ahmed replaced the heads of two branches of the security
services as he presses ahead with political and economic reforms
in response to demands from protesters many of whom were killed.

He named Seare Mekonnen to lead the armed forces, Abiy’s
Chief of Staff Fitsum Arega said in a Twitter post late on
Thursday. He replaces Samora Yunis, who had a four-decade
military career.

Abiy also named air force head Adem Mohamed to lead the
National Intelligence and Security Service, replacing Getachew
Assefa, the Ethiopian News Agency said, quoting a statement from
the prime minister‘s office.

Samora and Getachew are senior members of the Tigrayan
People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and their replacements lack
their political influence, an analyst said.

“This certainly indicates a weakening of the TPLF,” said a
university lecturer in the capital Addis Ababa who declined to
be named. The TPLF is dominated by ethnic Tigrayans, while Abiy
is an ethnic Oromo.

The TPLF has dominated Ethiopian politics since 1991, when
the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front drove
Mengistu Haile Mariam’s regime from power after a civil war.

Abiy was sworn in in April to lead Ethiopia, a country in
the Horn of Africa that has the biggest economy in East Africa
and is the continent’s second largest country by population.
Security
forces killed hundreds of people during unrest that
began in 2015 as protesters pushed for reforms.

Other senior officials have also retired. These include
Abadula Gemeda, who was only appointed as Abiy’s advisor on
national security in April, as well as Sebhat Nega, a founder of
the rebel movement that toppled Mengistu. Other officials who
served as heads of industrial development bodies have also
stepped down.

The reshuffle came days after Abiy announced the partial
liberalisation of state-owned firms like the country’s flag
carrier Ethiopian Airlines and telecoms monopoly Ethio Telecom.

He has also announced that landlocked Ethiopia, which lost
its access to the Red Sea nearly three decades ago, plans to
build a navy as part of military reforms.

The country disbanded its navy in 1991 after its
then-province Eritrea seceded following a three-decade war for
independence. It does however have a maritime institute that
trains seafarers.

He has also extended an olive branch with neighbouring
Eritrea, with whom Ethiopia has been embroiled in a bitter
border spat ever since the two countries fought each other over
a disputed town in 1998-2000.

The EPRDF coalition is made up of four region-based parties,
with the party from Tigray, the TPLF, maintaining a political
dominance ever since the coalition came to power in 1991.

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