Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister Demeke Mekonnen, who has occupied the post for over 11 years under three successive prime ministers, will be replaced by spy chief Temesgen Tiruneh, a senior government official told Reuters on Friday.
Temesgen was elected to succeed Demeke as a vice president of the ruling Prosperity Party, state-run media reported. A vice president of the party typically serves as deputy prime minister.
Demeke has been a face of continuity during a turbulent period in Ethiopian politics. He was appointed to the post after the death of longtime prime minister Meles Zenawi in 2012 and survived a reorganisation of the ruling party that occurred after Abiy Ahmed took power in 2018.
Temesgen is the head of the national intelligence service and has coordinated the government’s response to a conflict that broke out last year in the Amhara region with local militias.
Abiy appointed Demeke as foreign minister days after civil war broke out in November 2020 in the northern Tigray region, a conflict that lasted two years and cost tens of thousands of lives.
While the government and rebel forces in Tigray signed a peace deal in November 2022, Ethiopia has remained dogged by insecurity.
Besides the unrest in Amhara, a decades-long conflict in the Oromiya region, the country’s largest, has intensified in recent years, killing hundreds and displacing tens of thousands.