Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has been busy...

Sep 24 , 2018

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has been busy this past week meeting with groups within and outside of his administration, including heads of foreign missions and international organisations. With the first, he briefed European diplomats based in Addis Abeba on the reform agenda he has been pursuing. But he was more excited in showing them the remodeled office on Lorenzo Te`azaz Road that is bright and illuminated. He told the diplomats that the idea behind the remodeling symbolizes a departure from the darkness to the era of light, gossip reveals.

These are events that were reported in the mainstream media and developed traction in the social media. What has not been reported though was a high-level meeting he chaired with a regional state president, and federal authorities in the security, intelligence and at the cabinet level, gossip discloses.

In particular, whether or not the next national elections will be held on schedule is getting a lot more disputed than what was initially thought, according to gossip. Never mind that one way of knowing democracy is taking root in society is the ability of a state to hold regular elections for the electorate to vote for those they want to see get elected.

Neither is Ethiopia’s constitution much help in this respect, except for stating that legislators are elected for a five-year term, and the Prime Minister serves within such a mandate. The only mention of extension is in relation to an existing government coalition the Prime Minister could dissolve with the consent of parliament. Hence national elections should be held within six months.

The Prime Minister does not seem to have the appetite in dissolving his administration, led by the all too powerful EPRDF, which is essentially a coalition of four parties that now have a delicate relationship between themselves. However, there has come no public signal on his desire to see the next national elections postponed from May 2020. Yet those in the political opposition are divided and disputing the merit of holding the elections on time or waiting until preconditions are met concerning the non-partisan institutional settings and the assertiveness of the federal government in all the weredas across the country.

The latter issue appears to be the primary concern to the Prime Minister and his administration, judging by the high-level meeting held last week, claims gossip. Muferiat Kamil, minister of Peace attended it, alongside Adem Mohammed (Gen.), chief of the national intelligence; Seare Mekonnen (Gen.), chief of staff of the army; and several of his top brass, including commanders of the four divisions; as well as Lemma Megersa, president of the Oromia Regional State, gossip revealed.

Lemma was notably included in the meeting due to the growing concern over the loss of control by the federal government in many weredas - no less than 50 - located in western Wellega area where a force identified with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) is at large, reveals gossip.

The trouble is leaders of the OLF, a rebel group supported by Eritrea until its return a couple of months ago to a peaceful struggle, privately distance themselves from the armed group creating havoc and displacement in the border areas between Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz regional state, gossip disclosed. Nonetheless, whichever force is in control of the weredas in the western Wellega area, Dawid Ibsa, chairman of the OLF, is reluctant to disown it in public, making it difficult for the army to intervene in the dispute between political parties contesting power, gossip claims.

Who controls the force roaming around in this area is a question that has remained unanswered, claims gossip. In the absence of effective control in all areas of the country and an inability to ensure the monopoly of violence by the state, trying to hold national elections where there is already a fight for power could be a cause for conflict and a collapse in social order, according to gossip. Disarmament of all groups but the state is the central issue Abiy’s administration has to grapple with before putting the country through bitterly contested elections, claims gossip.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 24,2018 [ VOL 19 , NO 969]

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