Ethiopia: Pending resignation, House Speaker presides over parliament

by Engidu Woldie

ESAT News (October 12, 2017)

Speaker of the Ethiopian parliament, Abadula Gemeda, who submitted his resignation last week has presided today over a regular session of the House of People’s Representatives.

Gemeda’s announcement of resignation last week sparked speculations and debate whether the onetime defense minister and president of the Oromo region has real power to shake the Tigrayan dominated regime. Some analysts say his resignation was a sign that there is a crisis within the ruling EPRDF coalition whose member ethnic parties, at least the OPDO, would no more wish to continue under the complete domination and influence by the TPLF.

A leading member of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organizations (OPDO), one of the members of the ruling coalition, Abadula Gemeda, in his position as president of the Oromo region, was said to have aggressively been organizing the Oromos and had created huge followers. This, some analysts say, has been frowned upon by the TPLF higher ups. Many believe he was made speaker of the House by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi overnight to undermine his power in the Oromo region, as the speaker of parliament has no real power in Ethiopia’s case.

The otherwise smiley and bubbly Gemada had a stern and disappointed look on Sunday as he announced his resignation on the national television. Seen as a rubber stamp speaker by many, but a force to be reckoned with by his supporters, the former defense minister said he had reasons not to continue as speaker of the House of Peoples Representatives any more. He also said he lost interest in the job.

Gemeda promised to tell his reasons for resignation in details once his request to resign has been approved by the government. But some analysts believe he was disappointed by the actions of army generals of the ruling TPLF, who are being accused of instigating recent ethnic clashes between the Oromos and Somalis that saw the displacement of at least 150,000 Oromos.

There has also been confusion as to where the House Speaker submitted his resignation. Gemeda said he filed his resignation to his party, the OPDO and the Parliament. However, government spokesperson Negeri Lencho said on Monday that the request for resignation has been submitted to the Prime Minister’s office and that it was under review, while The Reporter, a pro-government newspaper published in Addis Ababa said Gemeda submitted his resignation to the EPRDF and it has been accepted by the Front.

As fresh protests reignited in the Oromo region on Wednesday, the resignation of a top Oromo government figure continues to occupy the headlines and has stirred passionate conversations on the Ethiopian social media. It was not clear if the unrest that began yesterday and still continuing today in the Oromo region was triggered by or has anything to do with the Speaker’s resignation.