Premier Reshuffles Space Science Top Mgmt

October 3 , 2020

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has sacked Solomon Belay (PhD), the director-general of the Ethiopian Space Science & Technology Institute, effective September 29, 2020. Abdissa Yilma, who was his deputy, has replaced him.

Solomon, who holds first and second degrees in physics and astrophysics from Asmara and Addis Abeba universities, respectively, and a PhD from Gutenberg, Sweden, in collaboration with Addis Abeba University, has been serving the Institute since its formation in 2016. He was appointed by former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

“The premier’s decision was unexpected,” Solomon told Fortune. "I'm non-partisan and a member of no political party, and I have a plan to request clarification on the reasons for my removal."

Abdissa, who was the founding deputy of the Institute, received the appointment letter on September 28, 2020, a day before Solomon was informed about his removal.

Abdissa earned his first degree in physics from Dilla University and a second degree in technology management from Seoul National University, where he is currently pursuing his PhD. Before joining the Institute, Abdissa served at the then Science & Technology Ministry as an advisor to the minister for five and a half years. Yeshurun Alemayehu (PhD) took over the deputy director-general position at the Institute, which has 140 employees.

"I'm among those who established the Institute," said Solomon, mentioning his achievements during his tenure. "I don't have any regrets."

At the end of last month, the Ministry of Finance wrote a letter to the Institute, mentioning an alleged impediment on the housing allowance granted to higher level officials. The Institute pays 18,000 Br as a monthly housing allowance for higher level officials who are not provided with houses.

"However, the Institute has been paying the allowance for the higher [level] officials who received houses from the Institute, paying 400 Br a month since 2018," reads the letter.

The letter also explains that the officials have been living at a housing unit located at Bole Arabsa area under the possession of the Institute and later at a housing unit purchased by the Institute for 2.9 million Br eight months ago.

"The housing allowance should be stopped," reads the letter, "and the money paid for the officials after the housing unit is bought should be returned."

The Institute, which reports to the Ministry of Innovation & Technology, has a Space Science & Technology Council that is chaired by the Prime Minister. Members of the Council are appointed by the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Innovation & Technology serves as the secretary of the Council.

The Institute administers Entoto Observatory & Space Science Research Centre, which is mandated to lead research and training in astronomy and astrophysics, space science, earth observation and satellite science.

The Centre focuses on research and postgraduate training for master's and doctoral degree programmes. Since its establishment in 2014, the Centre has graduated 13 students with PhDs and 21 master's degrees from its observatory and Research Centre atop Entoto Mountain, north of the capital.

Last December, the Institute launched its first remote sensing satellite from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in Xinzhou, Shanxi Province, China. The Institute has a plan to launch the second satellite before the end of this year.

The lifetime of the satellite mainly depends on space turbulence, but the unit was designed for three years. Space turbulence, also known as plasma turbulence, results from disturbances resembling waves that run along a stretched piece of string, according to the outgoing director.

PUBLISHED ON Oct 03,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1066]

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