Addis Abeba, November 29/2019 – In what could potentially be a major blow to Abiy Ahmed’s philosophy of “Medemer” and his subsequent move to dismantle the ruling EPRDF in favor of the newly forming Prosperity Party, Lemma Megerssa, Minister of Defense and Deputy Chairman of the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), said he does not subscribe to both “Medemer” as a philosophy and the merger of EPRDF to form Prosperity Party.
In an exclusive interview with VOA Afaan Oromoo, Lemma, a close ally of PM Abiy who also stepped down as chairman of then OPDO, a decision which had eventually helped Abiy assume his current position, said he has been vocal about both from the “very beginning” because “it is not something I agreed to.”
Lemma Megerssa’s statement in full:
“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.
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.”
The VOA Afaan Oromo said it will air the full interview after it has received statement from the ODP leadership.
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.” AS
The following is the excerpt of the full interview between Lemma Megerssa and VOA Afaan Oromo, as translated by Addis Standard’s editor Ephream Sileshi.See below
The first question from Journalist Jalane was on whether the rumor that he voiced his opposition against Medemer at an Oromo Democratic Party training and brainstorming and training session held in Adama was true or not.
Lemma: I have been communicating my ideas of what I believe in and what I think is good for our nation regarding ongoing processes. I have been doing this in Adama and in other places too.
Jalane: Was it the Ida’amu (Medemer) idea that you opposed?
Lemma: For us first, Ida’amu shouldn’t start from somewhere else, but should be something about Oromos and the Ida’amu of Oromos is strengthening the unity starting from the Kebelle, Woreda and zone to the top. Second when we say Ida’amu the how and in what form should be considered; our unity and our differences should be understood.
Jalane: Are you the only one thinking along those lines or are there people who support you?
Lemma: People who share this idea are many.
Jalane: You were present at the meeting the EPRDF council held to approve the merger. Members of TPLF didn’t vote. Can you tell us something about that meeting?
Lemma: I can get back to this some other time. It is better if we speak about the details of the process that unfolded, the details of what happened at every stage and who did what some other time. But in general, from the beginning I had a different idea regarding the merger of the parties. Generally, right from the start, I had 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’s not the time for it, I have made myself not be a part to it upon my own position. 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 our people gave this question to us after we changed the name OPDO that we had before and became 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.
The second is, it is not the time to merge this party; there are too many dangers. We are in a transition. The time now is a borrowed time, it is not ours. We are facing several problems from different places at this time when we are governing on this borrowed time. This transitional time is not the time to come out with something new or to conduct trials. It is not the time for us to come out with something new, but a time to solve those problems that we should be focused on, on keeping the peace and securing the country as the country isn’t stable yet, which we should spend a lot of our time on, on macroeconomics, especially on the rising cost of living and what we should do about it. Third, it’s the government’s responsibility to make sure the election ahead of us is conducted peacefully and we should be working on ensuring that starting from now. We should be working on strategies that answer questions of how it is that we as a people, as a party can come out winners so we can be the government of tomorrow. This is what our job should be now. Trying to do something beyond this could bring about danger and that is why I said this should be stalled, shelved.
Another thing that I wasn’t okay with is the rushed manner this merger, this new thing, is being handled. It should have been open for different people to discuss it, understand it, for different ideas to be raised on it, for experts on the subject to be included, the people’s ideas collected and for the people to believe in it and then implement it rather than for it to just be piled on top of another with so many unsolved things; and that has made me suspicious. Because from the start I did not understand, know, believe and participate in this project, it is something that the Oromo people, let alone the whole country, should understand very well. Politics requires to understand what and who is behind it all, beyond what is written in public. This project requires asking, understanding and discussing who started it, who participated in it and what its long term and short term benefits are. In addition to that it is important to analyze what the drawbacks of the previous system are and how this new system is going to improve on that, what the benefits would be, and what its drawbacks will be.
When we look at it comprehensively like this, if I have taken part in it with full knowledge, shared my ideas and taken it as my own and by my own I mean whether or not I would be able to answer confidently if I would be serving my people’s interest by taking part in it, which I didn’t, and so it is because of this that I have decided not to accept this idea. The second is we have agreed to go back to our people, to listen to our people. We have promised our people that we will not do what they don’t want us to do and our people believed us. So, when we come up with this new thing, then the people should know. Scholars, community elders, the general public should inquire whether or not this idea is good for them. Just a few of us sewing and clothing them is not right. I, myself, have not understood it and have begged that it be delayed. I have begged. I have begged saying it is going to hurt us. My influence isn’t that much anymore. It has been a while since I lost my influence within the party. It is not important to take part in decisions like these when you don’t have influence and a role to play. I do not believe in it and that is why I have come out with my difference.
Jalane: Obbo Lemma, as you know the Oromo Democratic Party is dissolved. What’s your political role’s and destiny going to be now?
Lemma: Until they tell me to leave the organization I will struggle holding on to the difference I have. It is not just me, there are many who have misgivings about this and are willing to struggle for it. If we can, we will fix it. If not, we will discuss with the Oromo people and do what is necessary. I answered all that because I felt that I have to answer your question on why I was absent from that meeting. In fact, in the future, I will explain everything that our people need to your media and other media. For now, I think what I have told you is enough.