Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has restructured his government, naming an up-and-coming ruling party official and former academic to two powerful posts. The reorganization also creates several new ministerial portfolios.
Hailemariam Desalegn became one of Ethiopia's most powerful officials when he was named deputy prime minister and foreign minister. He already holds the posts of deputy chairman of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front and chairman of the Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement, one of the EPRDF's four regional factions.
He was the ruling party whip in the past parliament, and party spokesman during the May election campaign.
In a VOA interview last May, Hailemariam hinted at the direction the new government might take to pull Ethiopia out of its position as one of the world's poorest countries. He expressed a preference for the Chinese model of government-driven economic growth.
"Our strategy is totally different from the western way or approach, because we have to get out of this rampant poverty as soon as possible. So if that is the case, gradual movement does not work, so we have to revolutionize the whole process, and when Western people see this they feel that something is so much controlled," he said.
In an earlier VOA encounter, Hailemariam defended the ruling party's self-described 'revolutionary democracy' against critics who say it has little in common with Western-style democratic values. "This is all because we do not follow the liberal democratic principles which the Western countries are pushing us to follow. That is why everyone is fighting us, and try to somehow criticize and disvalue whatever Ethiopia is doing," he said.
As foreign minister, Hailemariam will replace Seyoum Mesfin, who with Mr. Meles was at the forefront of the Tigrayan rebel movement that overthrew dictator Mengistu Hailemariam and came to power in Addis Ababa in 1991.
It was not immediately clear what Seyoum's role would be, but foreign ministry sources speculate he might stay on in an advisory role for the time being.
An Ethiopian website says the 45-year-old Hailemariam was formerly president of the Arba Minch Water Technology Institute in the country's southern region. The website says he holds a civil engineering degree from Addis Ababa University and a masters degree in water technology from an institution outside Ethiopia.
The new-look government features two new ministries, one to handle the rapidly expanding civil service, the other to oversee women's, children's and youth affairs.
In addition, the Trade and Industry ministry is being divided into two parts, each with its own ministry. The same is being done with the Mines and Energy ministry. Officials say the split shows the growing importance of the four areas.