Boost for Ethiopian PM as Somali Democratic Party votes to join new party

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online
Ahmed Shide, finance minister [L], PM Abiy Ahmed [c] and Mustafe Omer [r]

ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopian PM Ahmed Abiy on Saturday received a major boost on his quest to form a new party ahead of us 2020 polls, amid ethnic violence in the Horn of Africa nation.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner has been pushing for the dissolution of Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a move that has seen a host of parties endorse the agenda.

Somali Democratic Party (SDP) has agreed to formally join the proposed Prosperity Party, greatly boosting Abiy's 'medemer' philosophy in which he targets national unity.

General Assembly of SDP will on Sunday ratify the new changes, effectively joining Abiy's new party. SDP is the ruling party in the Somali region, popularly known as Ogaden.

“The merger of the Somali Democratic Party (SDP) into the would-be established Prosperity Party (PP) heralds an era of more inclusivity and recognition for the marginalized Somali People in Ethiopia.

"This also brings a lot of opportunities for the Somali people to have a say in issues of national and regional importance,” Mohamed Olad, media and communications advisor to the President of Somali Regional State Mustafa Omer, told Addis Standard.

Omer's decision to fold the party comes amid intensive opposition at home, waged by Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) under Abdirahman Mahdi.

ONLF leadership has been pitching a tent in Nairobi. On Thursday, they met Jubaland President Ahmed Madobe, who is also facing pressure from FGS and Ethiopian non AMISOM troops.

Oromo Democratic Party, which spearheaded Abiy's ascendancy to power along with Amhara Democratic Party have already joined the new outfit.

Lemma Megerssa, Ethiopian Defense Minister and a key ally of Abiy, is the only senior ODP who rejected a move to merge the party.

“Onwards to Prosperity!” PM Abiy Ahmed said in a tweet announcing the decision by the two parties to join the new outfit on Friday.

So far, the Afar National Democratic Party (ANDP), the Harari National League (HNL), the Benishangul Gumuz People Democratic Party (BGPDP) as well as Gambella People’s Unity Democratic Movement (GPUDM) have all decided to merge as well.

Another outfit, Southern Ethiopia Peoples Democratic Movement, SEPDM also joined the new party, further boosting Abiy's progressive ideology.

Only the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF), one of the largest founding parties of EPRDF has unanimously rejected the idea of having a single party.

Getachew Reda, TPLF executive member also told local media that “EPRDF is a coalition so to the extent that [if] there is going to be merger it’s going to be the merger of the four constituent parties."

The latest decision by SDP manifests the confidence marginalized groups have in the leadership of Abiy, who succeeded Hailemariam Desalegn in 2018.

Hailed for promoting liberalism in Ethiopia, Abiy has however struggled to contain ethnic violence, which has led to the death of over 100 people.

In October, violent demonstrations in his own Oromiya region had 78 killed. He has been at loggerheads with media entrepreneur Jawar Mohammed.

Outside Ethiopia, Ahmed's administration has been linked to the interference of electoral processes in various regional states in neighboring Somalia, a claim which he has remained tight-lipped about.


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