The House of Peoples’ Representatives unanimously approved on Tuesday the much-anticipated reshuffling of cabinet ministers by Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn. All members of the new cabinet are expected to effectively discharge the respective duties entrusted to them. It was disclosed at the confirmation session that the criteria by which the nominees were groomed for the ministerial positions included, among others, efficiency, devotion to the public, knowledge and skill, experience, upstanding character and work ethics. The appointees to the new cabinet need to be mindful of the fact that the public expects profound change from them. They have to understand that the sectors they have been assigned to are beset with deep-seated problems that have accumulated for years and can be tackled not through whitewashing, as is the custom, but sweeping reforms.
The pent-up grievances in the administration of justice, commerce, tax and customs, land, construction, housing and the like exploded over the past one year leading to conflicts which occasioned the death and injury of thousands and damage to extensive property thereby jeopardizing the security of the nation and its people. If the threats that the mistakes and untoward practices of the past gave rise to are to be dealt with decisively the new cabinet must set out to undertake radical reforms. The numerous demands the public has of the government have to be addressed promptly.
As the cabinet is reorganized the most important thing is not the reshuffling of personnel per se but rather the elimination of practices that have engendered widespread public discontent. The appointees should make use of their knowledge, skill, experience and diligence to achieve results that the public has been long craving for. This cannot succeed without a fundamental reform of the country’s flawed political landscape which aims at stamping out any and all acts impeding the democratization process and guarantees respect for basic freedoms and the rule of law. This calls for a demonstration of unwavering commitment on the part of the appointees to bring about a drastic change.
Taking stewardship of a country entails grave responsibilities for any government. It requires of those who hold the reins of power to possess a well-rounded persona. Some of the more important obligations incumbent upon government officials consist of exercising power responsibly, upholding transparency and accountability, shunning corruption and other morally reprehensible behavior in practice, not only in words, avoiding bias and cronyism, battling hypocrisy and disingenuity, deciding by oneself even under difficult circumstances, guarding against anti-democratic tendencies, demonstrating a sense of service to the nation and the public, strengthening and sustaining institutions , assigning the right person to the right job, and displaying exemplary leadership. Profound changes are needed if normalcy is to be restored in Ethiopia is with an end to the state of emergency it is in and the democratization process is to take root.
The premiere announced when presenting his nominees that the practice of clustering major portfolios under cabinet ministers with the rank of a deputy prime minister and appointing advisors with the perks of a minister will henceforth be abandoned. This is a commendable measure that does away with red tape. It was quite perplexing to see a steady stream of individuals relieved from duty on account of failure to provide adequate leadership found niche positions as advisors to the Prime Minister. First, the practice not only points to the absence of accountability, but also rendered the work of advising meaningless. Second, a considerable amount of time and money was wasted on developing organizational structures and staffing for positions that were created anew constantly. Now though it seems the realization that the times we are in necessitate merit to be the sole consideration for government appointment has dawned. The need to implement meritocracy must not be just paid lip service to; it has to be implemented on the ground. The public can only be satisfied with a radical change.
The new cabinet ministers have to respect the rule of law and to be governed by the will of the people and their conscience in discharging their duties if the House of Peoples’ Representatives is to be recognized as the entity in which ultimate power resides. Accordingly, the reports they present to this august body must be accurate, entail accountability and reflect the high esteem in which it ought to be held. While all Members of Parliament are obliged to keep close tabs on the performance of the executive branch of the government, parliamentary standing committees in particular have the obligation to see to it that the House firmly exercises its oversight power. The new appointees are duty-bound to show the utmost dedication in cognizance of transformational change the public is yearning for.
Ethiopia can be at peace with itself when it is blessed with a visionary leadership. Its people can lead a contented life when they are governed properly. The democratization process may be consummated when consensus is forged on critical national agendas. The fruits of democracy can be tasted when the political arena is shaped and governed by the principle of give and take. Growth and development can be achieved when the economy is run by capable citizens. Social justice can be attained when the leadership serves the country ably and with dedication. Fundamental rights and freedoms can be enjoyed when the rule of law prevails. A common understanding can be reached on the arrangement of the federal system and the electoral law when the political class is guided by the needs of the people. An equitable distribution of resources and political power can be realized when a leadership that is committed to a profound change duly plays its role. The country’s very survival can be assured and the public’s demands can be satisfactorily met when the leadership accords a paramount importance to deep reforms. This is precisely why the public is seeing to sweeping reforms from the new cabinet.