PM Abiy Ahmed has always been bullish about winning the next election...

Dec 14 , 2019

There was a somewhat atypical and bizarre meeting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) held with businesspeople who are natives of Tigray Regional State two weeks ago, gossip observed. Atypical, because it is not common for a leader to assemble people of wealth to dispatch them to talk to politicians who have resisted his designs of grandeur in politics. No less bizarre was what he allegedly said in his desire to deal with leaders of the TPLF, which was nothing but off-mark, claims gossip.

Close to 60 businesspeople were summoned by the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago to play the role of go-betweens with the TPLF. Although there was an earlier effort by Yohannes Mezegebe with Muferiat Kamil's Ministry of Peace, several of the calls to the business folks were made by Sisay Desta of AfroTsion Construction Plc, gossip reveals.

Upon their return from Meqelle, the businesspeople met with Abiy on a Thursday two weeks ago. They had a summery of their talk with five of the political bureau members of the TPLF read out by Tibebesellasie Awetahegn of Timex Trading Plc, gossip revealed.

It incorporated four points from the TPLF, according to gossip. TPLF leaders want to be left alone to govern their regional state, if elected, based on constitutional provisions in their relations with the federal government; they would do nothing against the law to disrupt the functions of the federal government or other regional states; if asked, they will cooperate in providing advice and expertise in the Prime Minister's effort to stabilise the country; and, they wish to see the formation of a national commission, comprising representatives from the regional state, to further the normalisation process with Eritrea, gossip disclosed.

The TPLF has called its congress for this week, gossip revealed. Its main agenda will be whether to dissolve itself and merge with the Prosperity Party (PP), a new political outfit orchestrated by Abiy and mainly his allies in the ADP, claims gossip. Abiy told the businesspeople that there is little in the PP political programme in the form of changes from the EPRDF, the latter he believes is tainted in the eyes of the wider public, according to gossip. The new programme and the revised version of PP's bylaws - abandoning the proposed representation based on population ratio - has been given to the TPLF guys for reconsideration of their standing position of not merging, gossip revealed. Theirs is a view solidified by resolutions of their political bureau and central committee; nothing contrary to this is expected from the congress this week, gossip foresees.

Perhaps irritated by TPLF's dual approach in hosting what they described as “forces of federalism” in Meqelle about the same time, the Prime Minister fumed in his reaction, gossip disclosed. Several of the businesspeople in attendance were dumbstruck listening to what he is prepared to do in response to TPLF's defiance and in relation to the upcoming national election, claims gossip.

Abiy told the businesspeople that he would not tolerate the emergence of “two-country,” claims gossip. In a manner that shows how displeased he may have been with the conduct of the universities in Tigray Regional State, which often host seminars on federalism-related issues, Abiy suggested he could hand them over to the regional state, thus cutting federal resources, gossip says. He also said it is possible to cut back flights to the region down to one or suspend federal subsidies and other public services to the regional state, claims gossip.

Abiy has always been bullish about winning the next election; but the businesspeople were not prepared to hear him say that he could also tamper with the results in his favour, gossip claims.

Some of them spoke back to him during the meeting and privately while taking a tour of the renovated palace grounds, urging him to manage his affairs both with the TPLF and the electoral battle within the bounds of the law, says gossip. They have also expressed their hopes with the continuation of the backdoor channels to deescalate potential tensions, claims gossip.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 14,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1024]

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