By Staff Reporter
November 30, 2019 (Ezega.com) -- Ethiopian Defense Minister Lemma Megersa and Deputy Chair of the Oromia Democratic Party (ODP) has disclosed that he disagrees with his ally and boss, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, over the establishment of a united national party known as the Prosperity Party. More crucially, he also said he doesn't support the idea of 'Medemer.' The disclosure confirms what has been rumored for some time of friction within the so-called 'Team Lemma' and may signal the unraveling of the broader alliance within the OPD leadership that propelled them to power in April 2018.
In an interview he gave to VOA on November 29, 2019, Lemma Megersa said he did not agree on the merger of regional parties and the philosophy of “Medemer” - loosely translated as synergy - which is the brainchild of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Lemma's opposition to Medemer - a central guiding principle of PM Abiy Ahmed - is especially surprising since it may indicate that 'Team Lemma' may have stood on shaky ground from the start, contrary to popular belief hitherto.
Lemma said he attended the recent extraordinary meeting of the council of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) which unanimously approved the merger of the regional parties to form the Prosperity Party. “I don’t want to explain how the merger process went on now,” he said, perhaps pointing to the rushed nature of the deliberations, which some others, including leaders of the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) have said.
Lemma Megersa said the ODP hasn't even started addressing the demands of the people who gave us this opportunity. "The Oromo people presented those demands to the ODP, not another party. And ODP must answer them. I do not believe going into other initiatives without even starting on our core regional agenda. This is a betrayal of our responsibilities."
“I have been opposing the idea of unifying political parties from the very beginning. I expressed my stance once and again to my party ODP and the executive committee of the EPRDF. I believe the merger idea was wrong. If the need is there, it should not be done in a rush. It is not the right time for the regional political parties to merge, the defense minister added.
"This is not the time for experimenting with different ideas. We have many problems in the country. We do not have peace and stability. We have economic problems and rising cost of living. We are facing national elections in a few months. We should work on these issues first before starting others."
On the concept of Medemer, which Lemma has been rumored to oppose for a while, he said it is important that we start at home (meaning Oromia) and work for our people first, rather than starting elsewhere. Asked whether there are others who support his ideas, he said there are many others who support him.
Lemma Megersa said, he has been voicing his concerns for some time, but he could not change things. Hence, he was forced to walk out during a recent meeting, apparently the ODP meeting that approved the merger.
On a Facebook page post recently, Prime Minister Abiy said the establishment of the party had been studied by scholars and won the acceptance of the leadership at all levels. It is unknown whether Lemma Megersa is the minority voice within the OPD, as the statement indicates, or he has followers.
Both the ODP and the Amhara Democratic Party (ADP) have formally decided to join the Prosperity Party (PP) which will replace the ruling front. It is unknown how the even went within the ODP or whether Lemma Megersa opposed the measure. Previous reports indicate Lemma Megersa supported the establishment of the Prosperity Party during the EPRDF Executive Committee meeting held earlier this month. Six members of the TPLF voted against the measure and two abstained.
Lemma Megersa's expressed opposition may signal deep divisions within Oromo political forces. It appears that on the one hand there is the reformist, pan-Ethiopia force led by PM Abiy Ahmed, and on the other, there are regional Oromia forces made up of several factions, including the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Lemma Megersa wing of the ODP. How this dynamics plays out leading to next year's national elections remains to be seen.
When asked whether this will means division within the ODP and possible breakup, he said he will do everything possible to discuss the issues with all concerned parties and correct course. He will do so unless he is asked to quit the party, he added. Ultimately, he said, he will do whatever is necessary in the interests of the Oromo people.
In the past, Lemma Megersa is known for declaring that, to him, his Ethiopian identity is like addiction. This earned him hero status at the time. Since then, he has been accused of reneging on that pledge, including when civilians were attacked by Oromo youth in different areas and during the forced demolition of many houses in Legetafo, near Addis Ababa city.
In the eyes of many, the current developments will surely and squarely put Lemma Megersa as one of the regionalist forces of Ethiopia.
You can watch the full interview of Lemma Megersa with VOA on Ezega Videos.
Meanwhile, the unrelenting killings against officials in Oromia state of western Ethiopia have been perpetrated by a rebel group called Shene, the Oromia Security Bureau disclosed
Speaking to VOA, deputy head of the Oromia Security Bureau, Colonel Abebe Geresu, said the assassinations were not only similar the way they were done but also committed by Shene which opted for armed struggle to overthrow the government.
Recently two officials, namely Regene Kebebe, the Deputy Governor of Jelegu district, and Tesfaye Gebreme, the political party head of the Gojo town of the region, were killed by unknown gunmen in Gojo, in Western Oromia.
The murder in Gojo was preceded by another tragedy in West Shoa Zone of the regional state where an official was shot dead in the same way and the killing of Commander Chala Degaga, Nekemet town chief criminal by unidentified gunmen.
Shene was the other wing of the OLF which was in exile but was allowed to operate peacefully following a call by the government back in September 2018.
He said members of the Shene also kidnapped innocent people during night time and brutally killed them.
According to the deputy head, the government has been taking military measures against the armed group and bringing suspects before justice.
He called on residents of the region to collaborate with the government’s drive to arrest the remaining suspects and ensure the rule of law.
A command post has been deployed in Oromia western region, one of the hot spots of lawlessness, since one and a half years ago to maintain peace and stability there.
This news post was updated to reflect the latest information.
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