The road to Abiy Ahmed’s premiership – What went behind closed doors

“If there is anyone who should take credit for putting up with six weeks of political drama played by members of the ruling party EPRDF, it should be the Ethiopian people,” said Bantayehu Yilma, a middle-class retailer in Merkato, Africa’s largest open market found at the heart of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Abeba.

A keen political observer who says “politics is what makes or breaks my business,” Bantayehu is not the exception. “I know many of my trading partners who have either suspended or significantly scaled back their business activities expecting the worst after the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Hailemarim Desalegn.”

What Bantayehu and millions others did not fathom, however, is the fact that PM Hailemariam’s resignation was not sudden. It was known to the heavy weight EPRDF party apparatchiks “for at least two months” prior to Feb 15/2018, the day PM Hailemariam announced he was resigning.

According to a party insider, “the idea was floated and approved during the 17 days closed door meeting by the executives of the four parties” who gathered to seek solutions to the rapidly deteriorating political crisis that gripped the nation. Saving the party, they agreed, was tantamount to saving the nation. A stunning admittance in itself  that shows the revolutionary democrats treat the nation’s fate as one and the same with the party.

Fissures (and serious ones)  

Three years of persistent anti-government protests in Oromia, Amhara and the southern regional states have eventually morphed to create enough weight under which the EPRDF, previously known as a tightly knit coalition of four major and five satellite parties, began to crack.

Months of verbal and administrative frictions among the leaders, rank and file members and social media warriors of the different parties have on various occasions laid bare the growing interparty fissures within a party that governed the country for a quarter century and took pride in its  motto of “unity of purpose”.  Cracks began to appear particularly between Oromia vs Ethio-Somali, and Amhara vs Tigray regional states (which are, according to Ethiopia’s federal dispensation, governed by OPDO,  ESPDP (the Ethiopian Somali People’s Democratic Party), ANDM and TPLF respectively),

Worse, the spillover effects of the growing interparty dysfunctions have led to the deaths of hundreds of civilians and the biggest internal displacement of more than a million Oromos and ethnic Somalis from villages, towns, and cities bordering the Oromia and Ethiopian Somali regional states; and the displacement of thousands of ethnic Tigrayans from some parts of the country, especially from the Oromia and Amhara regional states.

For many astute observers of Ethiopian politics, these events revealed not just the cardinal signs of interparty fissures but EPRDF’s possible decomposition. […] CONTINUE READING