The Revolutionary Democrats have now concluded a series of meetings

The Revolutionary Democrats have now concluded a series of meetings in four towns. Leaders and delegates of parties in the ruling coalition, which are described as national parties, congregated in Meqelle, Bahir Dar, Adama (Nazareth) and Hawassa (Awassa) early last week. They were not only present to discuss their policy documents in the form of the GTP; also they elected senior leaders of their respective parties, for the political bureaus and executive committees.

These were events that preceded the convention of the EPRDF, which started today.  It is to be the first such convention to be held, not only in a political climate where the issue of leadership succession is top of the agenda, but also in the absence of their great leader, Meles Zenawi.

The party launched its succession plan two and half years ago, during its eighth convention, held in Adama. Its leaders had agreed, at that time, for veterans of the armed struggle to step down from their high positions, both in the party and in the government they lead. Planned to be executed in three phases, the first batch, including; Seyoum Mesfin and Abay Tseyahe (from the TPLF), Addisu Legesse and Tefera Walwa (from ANDM) and Girma Birru and Shiferaw Jarso (from the OPDO) left their prominent places at that time. Conceived to be too young to have that many leaders old enough to step aside, the SPRDM was left intact.

Last week was the time to see another wave of veterans doing the same, to be followed by the last batch of veteran Revolutionary Democrats at the end of the current term. Had Meles stayed alive, he would have been the last to leave come 2015.

The result last week was a mixed bag. While leaders in the ANDM – such as Bereket Simon and Addisu Legesse – were made to stay on in the political bureau, the largest wave of departures, nine in all, came from the TPLF’s executive committee. It included; Arkebe Oqubay, Brehane G. Kirstos, Zeray Asgedom and Seyoum Mesfin. The latter made an emotional farewell address; one which won him a round of applause and the shedding of numerous tears from the rank and file, gossip disclosed. It was a classic “Apobaterion”, claims gossip.

It is time to change role, from a leadership position, which he assumed 38 years ago when instrumental in forming the TPLF, to being an ordinary member of the party; a place where he will be led, Seyoum told the congress, according to gossip. He challenged his contemporaries in the party, stating that it would be a tragedy for them to fail to see the urgency of succession, particularly after the passing of Meles, gossip disclosed.

Nonetheless, if political battles were fought – won and lost – none would assume prominence more so than the OPDO, claims gossip.

Often viewed by many as a problem child of the EPRDF, the OPDO leaders have tried to deal with what they have identified as a problem at the core of their organisation, gossip disclosed. They seem to have done just that, identify, or at least that’s what they would agree, claims gossip.

Factionalism, centred on individual leaders, has been a hallmark of OPDO politicking for many years, claims gossip. The now exiled politician, Junadin Sado, has had his own cliques, competing for hegemony against Abadula Gemeda et al and the alliance formed among the ternate – Kuma Demekisa, Aster Mamo and Muktar Kedir, gossip disclosed.

In the absence of the first – following the departure of Junadin – the battle was fought last week between the two remaining groups. While the ternate’s group criticised their opponents for rent-seeking behaviour and corruption, the all too popular Abadula camp accused their opponents of being “errand boys” serving political interests outside of and to the volatility of the OPDO, claims gossip.

They, in particular, settled an account from two and half years ago, when Abadula was elected to remain chairman of the OPDO by the executive committee members that met in Adama, in 2010, gossip claims. It was a decision that was reversed after the same executive committee members came to Addis Abeba, under the influence of senior leaders in the federal government at the time, gossip disclosed. They had to go back to Adama, where they replaced the chairman and installed Alemayehu Atomsa and his deputy, Muktar; the latter was also criticised last week for nominating himself to the position of Civil Service Minister, under the rank of Deputy Prime Minister, without first securing the endorsement of the OPDO’s executive committee, gossip disclosed. Organisation independence, or lack thereof, was concluded to be a major predicament in the life of the OPDO, claims gossip.

Coming to terms with their recent past, however, OPDO leaders have resorted to political accommodation, fearing that change in the status quo would backfire on them, claims gossip. After inflating the size of their executive committee members to 80, they left the leadership intact, with Alemayehu and Muktar mandated to lead the party for the coming two years.

Published on March 24, 2013 [ Vol 13 ,No 673]



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