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Nobel Peace Prize magic? Ethiopian PM dissolves ruling coalition amid ethnic clashes

By East Africa correspondent , Garowe Online

ADDIS ABABA - To foster peace and stability in ethnic-fragile Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made tremendous steps towards achieving the government of national unity, 18 months after taking over.

For the past several months, Abiy, who seized power from Hailemariam Desalegn, has struggled to contain ethnic violence, with over 100 people succumbing to Ethiopia's first ethnic-fueled clashes.

But on Saturday, the Nobel Peace Prize winner scored a major victory after managing to convince his Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition to dissolve for a new outfit.

The new outfit, Ethiopian Prosperity Party (EPP), would eradicate the dominance of major parties in the coalition, subsequently giving smaller tribes more freedom to discuss government arrangement and national discourse.

At least 30 of the 36 National Executive Committee members, state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Cooperation reported, voted in favor of the merger that ostensibly evolves to a new single party.

Somali Democratic Party and Afar party are among groups that endorsed the new formation, whose philosophy is to reduce ethnic antagonism by embracing diversity in governance.

Only six members rejected the unity deal. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) faction of the party opposed the merger. The party has been dominant in the coalition since 1988, dictating fundamental national agendas.

According to Fikadu Tessema, a member of the executive committee, "the move will include a fair representation of the ethnic groups in the alliance."

The move comes shortly after Oromo rights activist Mohamed Jawar has declared his interest to contest for PM in the upcoming 2020 election in Ethiopia. Speaking to his supporters in the US state of Minnesota, Jawara said he would have to give up his American citizenship to be able to enter the race.

The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front or EPRDF, a former rebel movement that’s made up of four regional parties, will, however, wait for the final confirmation from the coalition’s 180-member council.

It was soon after Abiy Ahmed became prime minister that the ruling coalition, which constitutes four ethic parties, began to discuss transforming the coalition into a single united party.

"Strengthening the federal system and developing administrative system while maintaining language diversity, ethnic identity and national identity were among the top agenda in the executive committee meeting," Ethiopian Broadcasting Cooperation noted.

Despite winning Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering the Eritrea peace deal, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has failed to curb escalating ethnic animosity, resulting in the deaths of hundreds.

In October, police opened fire killing 78 people, state media reported, with media entrepreneur Jawar Mohammed blamed by Abiy for the violence.

The violence mainly affected the Oromia region, the backyard of both Ahmed and Jawar. The two are embroiled in power tussle, despite having been comrades over 18 months ago.

Last weekend, at least three university students died following ethnic clashes across Ethiopia. The government has since deployed the military to the institutions.

But the merger of the parties, political analyst Prof Nyachieo Bogonko says, will ease pressure on Ahmed, and perhaps give him life after months of violence.

"With the coalition now integrated to one party, there will be synchrony in administration. The PM will be the de facto leader and this will allow him to make decisions without intimidation," he said.

"Forming a single competitive party is genius of him. It will work magic. Problems will be easily solved when you work in unison than when approaching issues as a big team," added the don.

Throughout his administration, Abiy has opened do space in the Horn of Africa nation, freeing hundreds of political prisoners in the process. Freedoms of press and speech have also expanded.

Almost now managing internal squabbles, Abiy will probably shift focus to Somalia, where Non-AMISOM Ethiopian National Defense Forces have been accused of plotting to overthrow Sheikh Ahmed Madobe's government.

Last week, Jubaland administration wrote to UN Special envoy James Swan, condemning the alleged attempts by FGS and Ethiopia forces to interfere with the sovereignty of the region. Both teams are yet to reply.


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