By Ashenaf Zedebub 1-21-19
An Article by Gerager Zeberga (presumably a pen name) appeared on Aiga Forum criticising the former Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn (HMD) for betraying Shiferaw Shigutie and SEPDM during March election of EPRDF Chairman. The writer also held Hailemariam responsible for the crumbling of the party and the Southern region of Ethiopia. Wether the region and the governing party in South are disintegrating or not is not a point of dispute here but for sure it is a critical political agenda that warrants serious debate and dialogue in itself. Whereas heaping all the blame on Hailemariam for what is happening in the southern region appears to lack fairness and balance. Nonetheless, the fact that Hailemariam takes lion’s share of the blame is not far from the truth. If one really is out to criticise HMD, one does not have to beat around the bush. HMD, without going into details, like any leader, is responsible for all failures when he was in oﬃce both at Federal and in the Southern region. But to attribute something that was not his making is unreasonable.
One thing is for sure, the Southern Ethiopia region is fragile and no body could deny it. Now who is responsible for what is going in the region and within SEPDM, undoubtedly, the answer is more than obvious, its leadership takes the greater share of accountability and responsibility including Hailemariam and Shiferaw. They alone, however, cannot be escape goats. As the captains of the party for the last 17 years, the two, for sure, take the greater share of the blame, while the rest of the executive and central committee members also have their fair share of responsibility. For that matter, the over 2 million ordinary members are also to blame.
That is not, however, the main purpose here. Reverting to the theme of the article, the writer intentionally or unknowingly omitted facts or did not put the record straight on what transpired during EPRDF election last April. The fact of the matter was that when Hailemariam decided to resign from his party leadership and premiership positions, the matter, with all seriousness it deserved, was ﬁrst tabled to the Executive Committee of SEPDM and after a thorough discussion, the Committee agreed to his position to resign unanimously. Later on, the matter was brought to the attention of the central committee of SEPDM for information. It was for information because the news was broken at the EPRDF Executive Committee meeting before it was presented to the Central Committee.
At the same time, the SEPDM Executive Committee also agreed that SEPDM should not put forward any candidate to replace Hailemariam for EPRDF chairmanship. Not only that the movement was also of the view that any candidate from OPDO to succeed the leadership of EPRDF to replace HMD should be supported. Both decisions made a lot of sense because any person from SEPDM or for that matter from any other party outside OPDO would not be in a position to appeal for the grassroots movement from Oromia that literally besieged the capital. Secondly, putting a candidate from SEPDM would have amounted to saying that we have a better person than HMD who is up to the challenge. Politically, it would have been incorrect for SEPDM to nominate another candidate. Of course, that did not mean that there were no capable persons from SEPDM to lead the country. Only the timing was so inappropriate. It, therefore, goes without saying that Shiferaw was never a candidate from the point view of SEPDM, because it agreed not to have a candidate in the ﬁrst place. When one looks back, after his election for the chairmanship of SEPDM, which he manoeuvred very well, he was groomed for chairmanship of EPRDF. It therefore goes without saying that it was Shiferaw who betrayed his party in favour of other constituency and of course to satisfy his hunger for power. If we seriously talk about betrayal, therefore, it was Shiferaw who actually went behind the back of SEPDM and broke the consensus of the party by agreeing to his nomination to replace Hailemariam. The point was that he later on, when he was confronted by the SEPDM EXCOM, admitted and apologised for his move behind the back of the party, goes the information. Of course, he did not hide his political ambition for power but to do it by breaking the consensus was unethical. The regret was that he did it at the expense of the unity of SEPDM which was already rupturing.
If we were to hold them accountable, it is this type action both by the chair and vice chair that was damaging the party. Both of them are responsible for the crack within the movement. In fact, that action is one of the main factors that divided and saw the seed of discord and mistrust among the leadership and rank and ﬁle of SEPDM. That was why SEPDM fraternity lost conﬁdence in the party leadership and began wondering wether SEPDM was supporting the change or not! No other forum than the forum of senior SEPDM leadership in Hawassa disapproved the leadership of Shiferaw and its Politburo. At the conclusion of the meeting literally half of the participants did not approve the directions and the way forward set by Shiferaw, the then Chair of the movement. It was a clear vote of no conﬁdence in his leadership. I believe, he clearly read the mood of the senior cadres and considered it as one of the pushing factors for his ultimate resignation.
It is, therefore, untrue for the writer to mislead his readers by presenting factually wrong information about what happened within SEPDM. This, of course, does not mean to exonerate Hailemariam from his failure during and before the change of leadership.There is no denial that HMD and Shiferaw were hunting for a replacement of the former, and as many felt, that this was not their own initiative but they merely were fulﬁlling mission from elsewhere. Despite their denial, many observers believed that they were tasked by TPLF to undertake that futile exercise to undercut Dr Abiy’s candidacy. They shamed themselves and shamed their mother party. Once their endeavour was exposed and failed, HMD then quickly changed course in support of Dr Abiy. That was only last minute change of heart, for he had another candidate he favoured in the person of Abadula, according to source in the know. He knew what was happening inside the then OPDO (ODP current) camp and hurriedly changed his position. I do not think that was lost on him or on the current leadership. BTW, it was same with Demeke, who until Election Day maintained his candidacy for the chairmanship of EPRDF. It was only when he got to know that majority of SEPDM members would vote for Dr Abiy that he decided to quit the race.
As to wether HMD lobbied for Dr Abiy using some of SEPDM members, I doubt it very much. Some of the names mentioned by the author took their position way early with like minded SEPDM comrades (consistent with the consensus of SEPDM) to support any candidate put forward by OPDO. Surely, they did not shy away for mobilising support for Dr Abiy out of conviction that the only way to bring calm was to support an OPDO candidate. In the view of those who supported Dr Abiy, no principle had been violated as such. On top of that, it was abundantly clear that the masses from Oromo community was ready for any ultimate scariﬁes if one of their own was not elected as chair of the ruling party and hence take over the mantle of the executive power. The mood was so charged such that it was an opportune moment for an Oromo to occupy the Arat Kilo palace. Indeed, no one was HMD’s messenger. And it was absurd and ridiculous to think that he would promise position to some of them. These are leaders in their own right and do not require any one’s promise or favour, least from some one who is on his way out. Secondly, how can he possibly promise any one, any thing, on his way out? It was crystal clear that once he resigned from his post, his appointing authority was over. Who will take that promise, if any, seriously for that matter? It does not make sense at all. The assertion is factual wrong and logically it does not add up.