The executive committee of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a once exiled political group that came following the coming to power of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), has suspended its longest serving chairperson Dawud Ibsa.
OLF executive committee member and party spokesperson Tolera Adaba told The Reporter that the party suspended Dawud because of the chair’s irresponsiveness and unwillingness to work with the executive committee. This comes following the suspension of five executive and one central committee members of the party by a faction led by the chair. Among the six are the deputy chairperson Ararso Bikila, Tolera Adaba and Kajela Merdassa.
At the backdrop of the current suspension is a meeting that the central committee held at its headquarters on July 26 and 27, a time when the chairperson is said to be under house arrest. Tolera also confirmed that the chairperson said he was told by authorities to stay at home for his own security.
While Tolera says they had informed Dawud of the meeting and he agreed for the meeting to go ahead with his role played by the deputy chairperson of the party, Ararso Bikila. Consequently, Dawud and other four members of the executive committee deemed the meeting and the press conference at the Hilton that followed it illegal and ordered the suspension of the said.
“It was a surprise for us to hear the chairperson say he was not informed of the meeting which surfaced on social media on the night of the eve of the meeting,” Tolera said. “He also called for the public to protect the party as he claimed not knowing about the meeting.”
When they went to the Office to conduct the already scheduled meeting, there were unfamiliar people in the compound who were ready to cause chaos in the compound, he added. This led them to call for the police to give them protection while they conduct their meeting.
“We conducted the meeting according to our bylaws which stipulates that the deputy chair would act in the position of the chairperson in the absence of the later,” he said.
But Dawud and his group did not consider this meeting legal and deemed the activity a move to remove him and dismantle the party. Then he called a meeting that suspended the members.
But Tolera argues that the decision by Dawud to call a meeting and pass the decisions was against the bylaws of the party that require an approval by the executive committee to hold a meeting and support from two-thirds of the central committee members to pass a decision.
The decision to suspend the chairperson was because of the chairperson’s unwillingness to sit and work with the executive committee whose meeting he avoided. This decision to suspend the chairperson will last until the party Council, the highest decision giving body, meets and either elects a new chairperson or reinstates Dawud. A decision to do so will be presented by the Ethics and Control Committee to the Council to adopt.
With a belief that the party would resolve its internal issues internally, no measure has been taken on the other members that aligned themselves with Dawud’s faction, Tolera said. He said the issue will be resolved by the Council.
Commenting on criticisms that it is the Prosperity Party that did so to dismantle one of its ardent opponents in Oromia region, Tolera says the accusations are only meant to distance the public from them and to alienate them from their base.
“One of the reasons for this criticism is the protection we received from the police on the day of our meeting. But it was necessary given the presence of unknown people in the party compound on Sunday, the day the meeting started. We were even blocked from entering the compound by OLF members who are guarding the offices,” he rebutted. “We won’t allow PP to get into our internal affairs and we have the responsibility to safeguard the integrity of the party.”
OLF is one of the parties that were involved in armed struggle with Ethiopia by basing itself in Eritrea. Following the call by PM Abiy for a peaceful struggle of armed groups, OLF entered Ethiopia in 2018 led by Dawud Ibsa. They came to Ethiopia following an unclear agreement with the government which was represented by Lemma Megersa and former Foreign Affairs Minister Workneh Gebeyehu (PhD). Their armed wing, the Oromo Liberation Army, broke apart from the party leadership and is still conducting insurgency movements in Western Wollega Zones and Southen Oromia around Guji.