EPRDF Conference: Reshuffling or Repositioning?

By Oromsis Adula*

EPRDF, Ethiopia’s ruling junta, has just concluded its 8th organizational conference held in Adama town, Oromia from September 15 – 17, 2010. The conference was purportedly aimed at “rejuvenating the party (or more bluntly tightening the grip on power) and implementing an optimistic five-year economic plan (or its pet name, Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP))”.

If in your dictionary, reorganization or reshuffling means a systematic maneuvering transition into a more repressive, and a regrouping of corrupt old guards, look no further. Now in office for almost quarter a century, Meles Zenawi has, almost after every term, promised the Ethiopian people and well the rest of us, he will step-down. That did not happen, oh! Never mind, that was because the party insisted he stays on. But then, as of late there have been a talk about bringing a “host of fresh faces to the party in a cabinet reshuffle.”

EPRDF 101; Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front is made up of ethnic PDOs (Peoples Democratic Organizations) all crafted skillfully in the mirror of the “divine” master – the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF). As such, the EPRDF Executive Committee is carefully selected (not elected) not at the 8th organizational conference but forwarded by individual associate organizations, who have concluded their conferences in the weeks past.

Here is that list.
The OPDO Executive Committee members in EPRDF are; Alemayohu Atomsa, Muktar Kedir, Kuma Demeksa, Sofian Ahmed, Abadula Gemeda, Girma Biru, Zelalem Jemaneh, Abdulaziz Mohammed and Diriba Kuma. Clearly no surprise there as seven of the above named Atos (Ato is the Amharic equivalent of Mr.) are returnees, not to mention they are loyalist old guards.

How about the ANDM Executive Committee? ANDM stands for the Amhara National Democratic Movement. Five out of the nine forwarded to EPRDF (Demeke Mekonnen, Gedu Andargachew, Addisu Legesse, Bereket Simon, Kassa Tekle-Berhan, Tefera Deribew, Binalf Andualem, Ayalew Gobeze and Berhan Hailu) retained their posts. Are the rest new faces? No so much.

Tullu Arga comments, “the most important story (perhaps the only change) here is Addisu’s displacement as chair of ANDM and second fiddle to Meles and his replacement by Demeke Mekonnen, an unknown, and a light weight cadre, minister of Education, tightening Meles’ grip.”

The most important story for the SEPDM Executive Committee is no story. Nothing surprising happened there, either, where six out of nine EC members are returnees. The only thing worth noting is perhaps the meteoric rise of a once an unknown Biologist, Redwan Hussein, to the 3rd most important position, expected to inch further when Bereket Simon, finally retires.

How about TPLF, the granddaddy?

The only shocker of this whole fiasco, according to Arga, is “Azeb’s elevation to EC becoming the 2nd most important person, a king maker,” displacing Sebhat Nega. He also notes that Arkebe’s removal from EC “paves the way for Dr. Adhanom, Azeb’s protégée, to be groomed as Meles’ replacement.” Whether that will materialize or not we will watch in the years ahead. I should add here though, whereas six out of nine TPLF die-hards retained their posts, the concentration of Adwans in the EC have angered some among regime’s ardent supporters – Aiga Forum chief among them. So where are the new faces, Doggonit? Expect no better from TPLF, a bunch of minority and fringe tyrants’ intent on ruling Ethiopia for half a century or more.

Tullu Arga summarizes the Shakeup Fiasco as follows:
Out of the 36 members of the EPRDF Executive Committee (each member organization delegates 9) only 12 are new (78% are the same old faces from 2006).

The most notable missing faces from the EPRDF Executive Committee are Arkabe Equbay, Seyoum Mesfin, and Abay Tsehaye from TPLF, Tefera Walwa from ANDM and Shiferaw Jarso and Juneidi Saddo from OPDO and Kassu Ilala from SEPDM. Note here, the absentees are still members, I should say senior members, in the regional central committees. What is farcical is that contrary to the rhetoric those sidelined are not necessarily replaced with younger, more energetic personalities. A telling example is Abay Woldu. He replaces Seyoum but both are seniors. Compared to Arkebe, Abay is older, not to mention a droid bereft of any ideas of his own.

Tullu’s Predictions for the year 2015:
Now that the likes of Arkebe are sidelined the most likely candidates for replacing Meles in 2015 (a big if) are Meles himself, Azeb Mesfin, and Dr. Tedros Adhanom — all TPLF— given the fact that there are no viable candidates from any one of the other member organizations.

So how about this talk about delivering “the country from dependence on food aid within five years”? The ruling party is an upright ghost of broken promises. From multiparty federal government structure to an admittedly “dominant party state”, the country have all but reverted back to the pre-1991 era. VOA’s Peter Heinlein writes, the next five years pledge “contrasts with the most recent five year period, when a protracted drought left one out of every six Ethiopians in need of food assistance, and the United States shipped in more than half-a-billion dollars worth of commodities in a single year.”

I hope Meles and co, are not banking on selling virgin lands to highest bidders to balance their budget or break from foreign food aid. Referring to a recent acquisition of massive, 50,000 hectares of land by Punjab farmers, the President of Confederation of Potato Seed Farmers, had this to say;

Unlike here, most of the agricultural land is with the Ethiopian government and it has offered us to acquire land on lease for a period ranging between 25 to 40 years at a nominal rate, which works out to Rs 400 per acre per annum in Indian currency. Moreover, we will not have to pay for the first five years of our operations.

In the meantime, the elevation of Hailemariam Desalegn as Deputy is the mother of all jokes. Meles wants by this to change the political landscape by dousing the flame of presumption of entitlement by both the Amhara and Oromo PDOs to produce the next EPRDF Prime Minister. He does so skillfully pulling the carpet from under their feet and passing them over by appointing, it is not an election, this relatively unknown white horse from the South.

The calculation is simple and straightforward: during the next five years the Oromo and the Amhara PDOs, among whom one finds lately a budding desire to question however timidly the totality of Tigrean dominance, would be busy vying to outcompete each other to win the favor of Meles while the Southern PDO would wholeheartedly back Meles to keep the honor of displacing both ANDM and OPDO as TPLF’s favorite offspring— thereby giving Meles and TPLF the luxury to be at ease to plot a more elaborate scheme to maintain the status quo of their unquestioned hegemony.

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*Oromsis Adula is the Editor -In-Chief of Opride.com, a multimedia weblog that aggregates Oromo, Ethiopian and Horn of African news. Oromsis writes regular news commentaries and Op-Eds on current issues that affect the Oromo people. This commentary is based on reports by the Voice of America and  Tullu Arga’s article.



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