When Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) established prosperity party just a year after taking the helm as the leader of the second most populous African nation, he hailed the decision as a “crucial step in harnessing our energy to work towards a shared vision.”
But it was a move that came with a heavy price.
Abiy was successful in dismantling the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) by persuading his comrades to dissolve the legal status of their respective parties. But not all were on his side.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which was one of the four coalitions of the EPRDF, rejected the merger, a measure that soured its relationship with the federal government and the Amhara faction of the ruling party.
As the political difference between the groups worsened, the war of words turned into a bloody war, which has sadly led to hundreds of thousands of death and displacement of over 10 million citizens.
The TPLF’s action to call the federal government an illegitimate leader, the annulment of the 2020 regional election in Tigray by the House of Federation, the growing accusation by officials that the TPLF is sponsoring conflicts, and the attack on the northern command were major causes for the war.
However, one thing is for sure that all these started as a small disagreement among members of the ruling party and was born out of many years of mismanagement of grievance among its coalition.
The turning of deaf ear by the then leaders of the ruling party to growing political differences within its members contributed to its demise, a state of affair later reflected in a public protest led by the youth and activists with strong links to officials of the coalitions.
Though many hoped that the newly formed Prosperity Party would bring a political settlement among the parties, the reality on the ground shows to the contrary. The unified ruling party is yet to achieve political consensus among its constituents.
It is not surprising to witness officials of one region calling another an enemy, even take up arms to fight each other, though they both belong to the same ruling party. The latest rift comes between the officials of the Oromia and Amhara faction of the ruling party.
The replacement of the old guards of the Amhara Prosperity Party by new officials is evidence that shows the relationship between the two factions is deteriorating, a move that was later opposed by Yohannes Buyalew, member of the ruling party representing the Amhara region.
Yohannes blamed the federal government for failing to ensure the rule of law and protection of civilians from attacks, referring to the displacement and killings of ethnic Amharas in Oromia Region and not viewing the existing leader of the Amhara Prosperity Party in the same way as members from other ethnic groups.
While his statement is a clear indication of the growing political difference within the ruling party, which just marked its two years a month ago, the statement by officials of Oromia regional government bears another evidence to show things are not smooth sailing for PP either.
Just a week after the Oromia Regional State government issued a stern warning against “extremist forces operating in the name of Amhara,” which it called, “are the main enemies of the Amhara and Ethiopian nations and nationalities,” its Communication Bureau Head, Hailu Adugna, accused the same groups of causing problems in Wollega and Fantale areas.
Often accused of having a similar political view with the ruling party, the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (EZEMA), under the chairmanship of Yeshiwas Assefa, is the first party to warn that the growing dissent within the ruling party will put the country in a precarious position, with a potential to cause another conflict.
EZEMA, in a press briefing held on April 15, 2022 at its premise located around Mesqel Square, accused the ruling party of developing a political culture of sponsoring conflict among communities, which has become a tool to advance one’s political interest.
“Officials of PP that are leading the regions were supposed to cooperate and communicate very well to avert several problems faced by the country and its people, but the growing political difference and their struggle for supremacy is making them a threat to the country, even more than the inflationary pressure faced by the public,” said the party.
For observers who have been closely following the political development in Ethiopia, the statement made by the party holds water, as previous incidents show such differences may end in internal conflicts.
A case in point is the boundary dispute between the Afar and Somali region.
The conflict between the forces of the two regions is not new but it was intensified recently as Somali region tries to take back three small towns transferred to Afar in 2014 when the federal government tried to redraw the map of the duo. Many hoped the formation of PP would resolve such differences but little has been achieved thus far.
A conflict broke out last year claimed the lives of over 100 civilians, according to officials, and with no solution given to the cause of the fighting, the leaders of the two regions are yet to settle their differences over the demarcation of boundaries.
While many warn turning a blind eye to such problems will cost the country dearly, opposition groups caution the latest war of words among officials of the ruling party will endanger the existence of the country as a nation.
“Officials of PP do not like when peace prevails and the public to go back to normalcy. They incite hostility among ethnic groups and then act as peacemakers to extend their rule in the country,” said Mulatu Gemechu, senior leader of the Oromia Federalist Congress, equally blaming political groups based in Amhara region for straining the brotherly and sisterly relation between Amharas and Oromos.
Mulatu points his finger at Fano.
“It does not have a proper structure and is literally fighting with another armed group on the soil of Oromia,” Mulatu said.
Such a sentiment has already faced sharp criticism from officials of the ruling party in Amhara region.
“Fano has guarded the country with the blood of its members during the war with TPLF. We don’t have any intention to either disarm its members or dismantle it,” said Yilkal Kefale (PhD), president of Amhara region, in his address to members of the region’s council by the end of last month.
Opposition groups with a strong social base in the region share his view.
“Being Fano is embedded in the culture of Amhara. Though this may not make our enemies happy, including the TPLF, making Fano strong is critical to enable Amharas protect themselves from any attacks and keep the region safe. Doing so is our natural right and an attempt to disarm it will only cause conflict,” said Demoz Kassie, a senior official of the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA).
Analysts, on the other hand, advise the federal government to play a central role in averting possible conflicts among regions.
“The war of words among regional officials is an outcome of weak leadership at the federal level, which shoulders the responsibility of ensuring regions live in harmony. So the key to end the mess is in the hands of the ruling party itself, which I advise it to use it as soon as possible before things become out of control,” said Addisu Getaneh, a political analyst.
Contributed by Samson Berhane and Selamawit Mengesha