BY TESFANEWS *
Lemma Megersa, the Defense Minister and Deputy Chairman of the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) announced that he supports neither the premiers plan to merge the ruling EPRDF coalition into a new singular ‘Prosperty Party’, nor his much touted philosophy of “medemer”, directly translated as “to add.”
According to an exclusive interview with VOA Afaan Oromoo, Lemma, a close ally of PM Abiy said, he has been vocal about both from the onset because it is not something he agreed to.
“Generally right from the start, I had informed the executive committee and all of them know in details that it was not something I agreed to. Because I believe the merger of this party is wrong and even if it was right, it is not the time for it … I have made myself not to be a part to it.”
He also said, “the reason I said it is wrong is, number one, the ODP leaders have promised to answer some of the big questions the Oromo people have entrusted us with. Our people gave us these question as leaders of the ODP and not to this nationally formed party. Doing this without answering these questions is wrong and it’s failing to deliver on the promises we made. So we have to first answer on the challenges they gave us.”
Although long known to the power corridors, Lemma’s official rebuttal came just two days after ODP’s General Assembly decided to dissolve the party and join PM Abiy’s Prosperity Party, a decision EPRDF’s secretariat said was “unanimous.”
Lemma Megerssa is an Oromo, same ethnic group as PM Abiy Ahmed.
Lemma was the chairman of ODP (the then OPDO), and president of Oromia regional states. His decision to voluntarily step down from OPDO helped Abiy Ahmed to take his place and assume both the Chairmanship and Prime Minister positions.
Such critical comments from Lemma comes ahead of the 2020 general elections, raising more challenges to the success of a new unity party.
Lemma Megerssa becomes the first insider in the ODP to openly voice opposition to Abiy’s merger plan.
The merger plan, however, has the support of all coalition members, even though it faced opposition from Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which was a former leading member.
* Bloomberg and Addis Standard contributed to the story