Oromo Protest: ill governance as a Prime cause

Community leaders and elders from across the Oromia Regional State were in Addis Abeba (Finfine) two weeks ago, seeking audience with Aba Dula Gemeda, veteran of the OPDO and currently Speaker of the federal Parliament, gossip disclosed. He declined to meet them, rather suggesting they should have their audience with Muktar Kedir, president of the regional state, gossip revealed.

It was considered to be a gracious, if not politically perceptive, move on Aba Dula’s side, considering their history of edgy relationship, claims gossip. The most popular figure in the EPRDF horizon now, Aba Dula often seems careful not to be perceived as trying to overshadow and undermine Muktar’s authority in the affairs of the regional state, gossip claims.

Those who came to Addis were interested in having consultations on the unprecedented turmoil lingering in no less than 30 places of the region, according to gossip. In large part provoked by students, but by no means confined to them, the widespread and strangely sustained protests have their cause in the unpopular Draft Master Plan for Addis Abeba and its environs. At least, that is the pronounced cause on the surface.

But for any casual observer of development in the region, and indeed in all the other regional states across the country, the roots of the public discontent are much deeper and pervasive, claims gossip. It is only that the ills of governance are worse in the Oromia Regional State for reasons as complicated as the evolution of the governing party itself, according to gossip.

OPDO has always been the problem child of the EPRDF, those at the gossip corridors would agree. Formed by former prisoners of war (POWs) during the war against the military regime, it continues to be perceived by its very constituency as “cannon-fodder” for others in the coalition. Add to this is the unrelenting campaign portraying its leaders as “messenger boys” for the senior party in the coalition, the TPLF. Neither has its leaders done much to change this narrative, for, unity of leadership is a trait in short stock. Factionalism is what characterizes the OPDO, although the other parties in the coalition are no less prey to this, claims gossip.

With the purging of Junadin Sado, and the subsequent sidelining of Kuma Demeksa, OPDO’s leadership has been ploughed by the alignment and re-alignment of the axis: Aba Dula, Muktar and Aster Mamo, the only woman in the OPDO’s political bureau, claims gossip. Although the three have a history of seeking alliances outside of the party, their sharp differences were evident during a recent executive committee meeting of the OPDO, where the party decided to stop pursuing the implementation of the controversial Draft Master Plan; the decision was far from unanimous, revealed gossip.

It is unprecedented for a member party of the coalition to make a decision on its own and inform the Front’s leadership, claims gossip. While the EPRDF Executive Committee may have reached the same conclusion, albeit in polarized manner, the OPDO leaders have made this cardinal decision on their own, in their craving to assert their autonomy, gossip claims. They may want to signal to their constituencies that regardless of what others in the coalition think, they are leaders who can make political decisions on their own, according to gossip.

What other EPRDFites feel about all this is yet to be seen, claims gossip. Nonetheless, OPDO’s recent decision is just the beginning of a long battle within the Front’s leadership for the consolidation of power, and the natural reaction and resistance to it. For now though, there are voices in the senior leadership of the Front who are displeased with the decision and are worried that the precedence set may be the start of weakening EPRDF’s historical firm grip over the affairs of its member parties, claims gossip.
Published on Jan 24,2016 [Vol 16 ,No 821]