Ethiopia defense minister breaks ranks with ally PM Abiy

Abiy, himself an Oromo, came to power in April 2018 after more than two years of anti-government protests led by Ethiopia's two largest ethnic groups, the Oromo and Amhara. (AFP)
Updated 01 December 2019

Ethiopia defense minister breaks ranks with ally PM Abiy

  • Ethiopia's defence minister has criticised plans to transform the ruling coalition into a single party,
  • Analysts say the public split between the country's most powerful ethnic Oromo politicians could increase political uncertainty ahead of the May polls

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia's defence minister, a key ally of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, has criticised plans to transform the ruling coalition into a single party, highlighting growing divisions ahead of planned 2020 elections.
Analysts say the public split between the country's most powerful ethnic Oromo politicians could increase political uncertainty ahead of the May polls, and hinder Abiy's reformist agenda.
In an interview with Voice of America's Affan Oromo language service on Friday night, Defence Minister Lemma Megersa criticised the move to merge the coalition of ethno-regional parties which has ruled the country for three decades.
"I have had a different perspective from the beginning of the talks about the merger of EPRDF," said Lemma, adding that "even if that is to happen it shouldn't be done in a hurried way."
Nobel Peace Laureate Abiy's plans to transform the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) into one party have already been rejected by the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) -- the once dominant party of late strongman Meles Zenawi.
The three other parties last week voted to unite and form the Prosperity Party (PP), which Abiy hopes will heal ethnic divisions that have marred his rule, while critics say it will only deepen them.
Lemma also rejected Abiy's philosophy "Medemer" (Amharic for synergy) which is aimed at uniting the country.
Lemma is a former president of Ethiopia's largest and most populous regional state, Oromia and is currently vice chairman of the regional ruling party (ODP), with a large following in the region.
Abiy, himself an Oromo, came to power in April 2018 after more than two years of anti-government protests led by Ethiopia's two largest ethnic groups, the Oromo and Amhara.
Ethiopian analyst Abel Abate said the public break between the two men will likely add to political uncertainty in the country as it prepares to hold general elections next year.
"While the process to form PP out of the ashes of EPRDF has gone a considerable distance, it's far from complete yet. This public disagreement could fatally injure plans to form PP", he said.
Meanwhile, Horn of Africa analyst Rashid Abdi wrote on Twitter that Abiy was "in deep trouble" after being ditched by his "single most important pillar of Oromo support".


US to announce 4,000-troop drawdown from Afghanistan: media

Updated 3 min 47 sec ago

US to announce 4,000-troop drawdown from Afghanistan: media

  • There are 13,000 US troops currently in Afghanistan
  • US President Donald Trump has previously indicated he wants to wind down US military entanglements abroad where possible

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration will announce as early as this week plans to withdraw around 4,000 troops from Afghanistan, US media reported.
Talks between the United States and the Taliban resumed a week ago as the parties sought a path to reduce violence or even reach a cease-fire.
They were paused by Washington on Thursday, however, after an attack by the militant group near a key US air base north of Kabul that left two civilians dead and dozens injured.
There are 13,000 US troops currently in Afghanistan.
NBC on Saturday cited three current and former US officials as saying the Trump administration intends to announce the drawdown of 4,000 troops from Afghanistan.
Two of those said some of the troops would be redeploying early, while others would not be replaced when they end their term.
CNN cited one official in the Trump administration as saying the announcement on a drawdown could happen this week, but that the “timing remains in flux.”
According to a draft agreement from September — reached after years of negotiations — the Taliban would be required to commit to certain security measures, agree to talks with the Afghan government and promise a reduction of violence in exchange for US troop withdrawal.
US President Donald Trump insisted last month on the need for a cease-fire and made a surprise visit to Bagram on November 28 to celebrate Thanksgiving with troops and meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Trump has previously indicated he wants to wind down US military entanglements abroad where possible.