The Contest for The New Prime Minister And the Way Forward in Ethiopia part two
By Orion Demame
Tigrai Online, March 20, 2018
The OPDO Gang of Three
Like all governments the Oromia Regional State Government is run by few functionaries at the top. Ato Lemma Megersa (President and Deputy Chairman of OPDO), Dr Abiy Ahmed (Chairman of OPDO, PM hopeful and former Head of the OPDO Office), Ato Addisu Arega (Head of Communications who controls the media and propaganda) is what constitutes the Gang of Three within the OPDO. The most vocal of them is the Regional State's president though. It is well known fact that his Excellency the President was not that brilliant in school. However, he was enrolled at the Civil Service University with some push by the EPRDF. Further, the ruling party fast tracked his progression to power corridors probably due to his smart talking. They even mistakenly employed him in the intelligence where classified information about everything security is to be found. Funny enough, he now wants to shatter the very party that brought him to prominence - a carbon copy of the Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki. EPRDF did not know that he was an OLF operator in disguise. But, if Lemma had tried harder, he would have understood that the secret behind economic, technological, social and cultural success of the US, Australia, Canada, Germany and Switzerland (to name a few) is federalism. Living aside all the mumbo-jumbo talks and interviews he gives from time to time, we can look at only four events where he went out of line, in my view.
- As president of the Oromia Regional State, he could not stop the brutal murder of the Somalis by the Oromos. He neither attempted to stop, what can be termed as, the ethnic cleansing nor condemned the heinous crimes on time. The Ethiopian Security Forces (ESF) went to the site to stop the carnage. The constitutional obligation of the ESF which is to protect the lives of all citizens (including the Oromos) made him furious and expressed his anger by saying "who gave order to the ESF to enter Oromia Regional State"? He even said that "he tears and throws to the bin all directives that come from the Federal government", and that "he and he alone is the decision maker in the Regional State"! Isn't this alarming? It clearly demonstrates that he is the most undemocratic, divisive and dictatorial. It also demonstrates that either he does not really understand federalism the Ethiopian way or he used federalism to ascend in the power corridors and then destroy it altogether.
- When Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) was having its conference in Bahirdar, Lemma, Aba Dula and few others went to the conference uninvited just with the purpose to seal a pact between OPDO and ANDM parties, of course, to counter TPLF and ultimately destroy it and the EPRDF itself. He lectured the ANDM conference that Oromo's and Amhara's destiny was one and the same in the history of Ethiopia and that they need each other more now than any time before (emphasis mine). This was music to the ears. Did he really forget all the animosity by the Oromo elites towards the innocent Amharas (who were victims themselves), by past mistakes of some Amhara rulers to the extent that they even wanted to remove Emperor Minilik's monument. If that is the case, then why is erecting monuments in almost every town?
- Lemma and his government would have been the ones that organised the recent concert at the Millennium Hall where a singer by the name Hachalu Hundessa that called Oromos declare war against the Federal Government. It was well planned and executed with impunity. He and his government were sitting there and knew what was coming. Had he not been behind the drama, he could have stopped it. The Gang of Three in OPDO used that concert to send a clear message to his six million Keeroo he often talks about, that he has declared war against EPRDF and that they should rally behind the him. But that did not end there. Hachalu's declaration of war was again aired the next day to further send a clear message that The Gang of Three is in control and there was nothing to fear. Certainly, this couldn't have been a coincident, rather it was carefully planned and executed.
- At one time, he even commented that taxes collected in his regional state should go to his Local Government coffers and not to the Federal Government coffers. Oh really? What type of greed is this? It seems to me that Ato Lemma and his gang are intoxicated by big budget, big investment, big population and large land mass. Clearly, they must have a misconception of the word big. Yes, big is good if it is well managed but at times, big can be a curse rather than a blessing. The Gang of Three, with Ato Lemma at the helm and some Oromo elites think that they have the largest fertile land mass endowed with mineral wealth and big population, etc. and that they should be entitled to rule Ethiopia or else they would declare their independence using article 39 of the constitution. Nobody disputes that Oromia is large relative to the other regional states in Ethiopia. But it is not that wealthy unless it put what it has into work. Of course, size matter but success stories have been registered by small countries too. Take for instance, Qatar. It is a tiny country with a population of less than a million. But its abundant natural gas resources have made it very wealthy that the rest of the world wish it would invest in their respective countries. Dubai that did not have any form of natural resources whatsoever has become the wealthiest nation on earth thanks to its visionary leaders.
Ato Lemma at the helm and some Oromo elites think that they have the largest fertile land mass endowed with mineral wealth and big population, etc. and that they should be entitled to rule Ethiopia or else they would declare their independence using article 39 of the constitution. Nobody disputes that Oromia is large relative to the other regional states in Ethiopia. But it is not that wealthy unless it put what it has into work. Of course, size matter but success stories have been registered by small countries too. Take for instance, Qatar. It is a tiny country with a population of less than a million. But its abundant natural gas resources have made it very wealthy that the rest of the world wish it would invest in their respective countries. Dubai that did not have any form of natural resources whatsoever has become the wealthiest nation on earth thanks to its visionary leaders.
There is also another misconception that the Gang of Three in OPDO and the other treasonous Gang of Three from ANDM are entangled with. They have made themselves believe that all other regional states except the Amhara and Oromo are poor. That is not true! The South Regional State is very rich with abundant mineral and agricultural resources. Most importantly, it is endowed with intelligent and hardworking entrepreneurial people. Apart from its agricultural potential, Gambela is sitting on huge oil reserves. With enormous underground water, the Ethiopian Somali region has the potential to feed the whole of East Africa. Add to that the huge gas and oil reserves it has. Same is true with the Afar region. Benshangul is well known for its agricultural and mineral resources including gold. It is Tigrai that some evil-minded people in the Oromo and Amhara Regional States point their fingers at. Absolutely not true at all. Tigrai is endowed with all sorts of mineral resources including gold and oil. Even the agricultural potential is good enough to sustain its population. The people are also industrious and entrepreneurial. The only problem was that Tigrai was a victim of evil political design brought up on it including dividing it, by design, into what is now Eritrea and the remaining Tigrai. It has been unattended for quite long time and highly marginalised by the previous three governments that were following policies of keeping it in misery and depopulating it through migration to the other parts of the country. The bottom line is if we put all out efforts together, it will elevate us to even great heights. Remember, united we get stronger and divided we perish because the vultures are hovering over us waiting for a suitable time like now.
The OPDO leadership is now moving at a marathon speed to put their man as the next prime minister. Was all the unrest and turmoil a means to grab this position? It could have been done democratically if they bring a candidate with the right attribute that the job demands after all there is a vibrant democracy albeit more to be done. Speaking of more to be done, even the United States that prides itself as the mother of all democracies is still struggling with it. I would be happy to see an Oromo Prime Minister if they present an electable candidate. But I don't think this is the right time for OPDO to claim this high office with immense responsibilities with its current candidates because I am convinced that neither Ato Lemma nor Dr Abiy is fit for purpose for the following reasons:
- What did Ato Lemma achieve since he became the President of Oromia State? Corruption, injustice and bad governance have gone to the roof under his watch. He either lacked resolve or was not interested to stop the large-scale border conflict with the adjacent Somalia State where many lost their lives and several hundred thousand displaced.
- Under his watch, the few Oromo Keeroo hooligans that he often romanticises burnt down 11 industries in Sebeta town and about 60 freighted trucks waiting to enter Addis Ababa just like that. What mesmerises me is do these Keeroo hooligans have heads leave alone brain? How can they ask the government to bring more industries to these areas when those that are in place are burnt to ashes? Which investor in his right mind would come to invest hoping this does not happen again. How can the hooligans justify their petition of grievances to the government for jobs when they make those in work jobless by their s senseless and stupid actions? Is it really wisdom to burn and destroy health centres, schools, ambulances, etc. when the citizens in those areas request for more of those? Hooligans’ bravado did not end there. They even moved one step further to apply the heinous act they borrowed from the Amhara hooligans, namely, targeting innocent and peaceful Tigrians, killing them and burning their properties. Lemma could have stopped it but did not turn out that way. Either he did absolutely nothing or whatever his intervention may have been was too little too late. But the unrest in the Oromia is still going on as we speak despite the Emergency Law. My own understanding is that Lemma and company (The OPDO Gang of Three) may have wanted this to happen so that they use the series of riots to blackmail and put maximum pressure on the ruling party, EPRDF, so that the latter gives in to whatever demand OPDO puts.
- Recently at the OPDO chairman election, he was asked by a reporter why Dr Abiy was elected as the chairman of the party and not him. His reply sounded as if he opted out from the prime minister contest because his priority is the Oromo and Ethiopian People are not his priority. He also expressed repeatedly that he thinks Oromo first and then Ethiopia. My interpretation of this statement is that he is biased, and people of Oromia and that he has unfinished tasks to accomplish in his state. His reply implies that ethnocentric as such he wouldn't see all Ethiopians equally. Since we want the prime minister to be Ethiopian first and whatever language then, Ato Lemma can't be the right man for PM for those reasons.
- The unfinished job he talked about may also be his ambition of expanding his state to the other neighbouring states and put the peaceful Oromo people in perpetual conflict with their neighbours in and put at risk the national integrity and security of the country in general.
- The fact that he gives priority to the Oromia Regional State clearly implies that he either understands how the ruling party EPRDF, to which he belongs, operates nor is loyal to it. As a member and functionary of the party he ought to discharge his services with honesty and grace where ever his party thinks he would be more productive including the highest office in the country - the Prime Minister's Office. As far as I understand it, no one can cherry pick positions and titles.
- As mentioned above, he simply lacks experience and his truck record as head of the Oromo Regional State Government is catastrophically dismal.
- The messages he sends in the Oromo language are different from those he sends in Amharic. The steps he takes are those that were in the OLF manifesto. The ultra Islamist Jawar Mohammed has in recent times called Ato Lemma the right man to accomplish what the former has been advocating all along.
- Lemma and company have also expressed their desire to unite with all Oromo opposition entities that are domiciled in Ethiopia and abroad. Well they have already met Professor Merara Gudina, the leader of the Oromo National Congress (ONC), the very man who is sworn to tear down the Ethiopian Constitution. What would stop them from uniting with OLF and Jawar's group that are outside Ethiopia, after all they are doing exactly what OLF and Jawar stand for.
- It seems to me that he may not be an honest partner to the State of Emergency Decree recently approved by the parliament. It is difficult where to put him because of his duplicity and changing character. He may not have openly opposed it, but his staunch parliamentarian supporters fiercely demonstrated their opposition to pass the decree and that should give us an indication. It is unfortunate to learn that most of the 152 MPs who voted against, abstained and absentees were from the OPDO party. Some months ago, the United State Congress called its members of both houses from their holiday to vote on changes to the Obama Care improvement proposed by President Donald Trump. All members came on the day including the cancer patient Senator John McCain from his hospital bed. What the Ethiopian MPs need to learn is US Law Makers', in general, and Senator McCain's commitment and dedication to the American voters and to their Constitution. It seems to me the Ethiopian Law Makers, (apart from those that had genuine reasons) don't seem to know their roles and responsibilities as MPs. Were they really opposing their own party or defending themselves from their possible involvement in all that? Well, I hope EPRDF will delve into the matter and investigate these individuals after all nobody is above the law. Nobody should hide behind the parliamentarian immunity.
- I don't have much to say about Dr Abiy. But his marathon speed in gliding in the power corridors and his excessive desire to be the next Prime Minister is scary. Of course, he has the necessary intellectual capacity that the Office of the PM demands. True, he is good in giving interviews but is his experience enough? I don't think so.
- I believe Dr Abiy is very close to Ato Lemma and even share the latter's duplicity and twisted ideas of ethnocentrism. I for one believe that there is a big ploy here. These two individuals with the help of some MPs seem to have agreed to do a teamwork such that Lemma at the State level and Dr Abiy as a PM at the national level would do the agenda of OLF. Besides, there are some opinions coming about him that question his integrity.
- As mentioned above, the House of Parliament called its members to return from their holidays and vote on the Emergency Decree. It is sad to learn, however, that Dr Abiy is one of those MPs that did not bother to respect the call. This is a bomb shell beyond comprehension. Why would a potential and hopeful candidate for the Office of Prime Minister ignore the call from the highest authority in the country? If he can't respect the parliament and discharge his parliamentarian responsibilities, who else is he accountable for? When some areas in the country are on fire people are killed because of their ethnicity, education and transportation disrupted, shops and business entities forced to close, crops burnt, people scared to leave their homes and harassed, security forces attacked, public and private institutions destroyed and not willing to vote in support of the Decree is tantamount to supporting the lawlessness in his State. To me, this clearly implies that he has something fishy. As such, I wouldn't put me bate on Dr Abiy to the highest office in the country. It is just too risky!!