Addis Abeba, October 04/2021 – As per the established norm, President Sahle-Work Zewde has this morning opened the 6th joint parliamentary session of the House of People’s Representatives (HoPR) and the House of Federation (HoF) in a bid to mark the formation of a new government. is set to appoint a new speaker and deputy speaker.
The joint session has then moved on nominating and appointing members of the new government, including the Prime Minister and Speakers of both houses. Accordingly, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was elected by the joint parliament to become the next Prime Minister, the first for the Prime Minister who assumed the position on January 02/2018 after being appointed by the then Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the party he since dismantled to form his own Prosperity Party (PP).
During the ongoing joint session, members of the HoPR re-elected Tagesse Chafo as Speaker of the House. Tagesse was first elected as Speaker in October 2018, replacing Muferiat Kamil when she moved on to become the Minister of Peace. The HoPR also elected Lomi Bedo as Deputy Speaker. Lomi replaces Shitaye Minale who served the parliament as deputy speaker since 2015. Prior to her election as Deputy Speaker today, Lomi served as Speaker of the Oromia State Council (Cafee Oromia).
Similarly, members of the HoF elected former Amhara state president Agegnehu Teshager as Speaker of the upper house. Agegnehu replaced the outgoing speaker Adem Farah.
In the run up top this year
It was on October 5th, 2020 that the President announced the new start of the incumbent’s mandate to govern, after its extension was recommended by the Council of Constitutional Inquiry and approved by the House of Federation. At the time the Tigray Regional State pulled out all of its representatives from both the House of Federations (HoF) and House of People’s Representatives (HoPR) in protest against the start of a new mandate by the incumbent citing the end of the five year term limit of the government.
Shortly after, a disagreement between the federal government and the Tigray administration led by the now designated terrorist group the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) erupted into a full blown war on November 04, 2020. Forces of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) allied with Eritrean Defense Forces and regional special forces mainly the Amhara regional state special forces took the Tigray region capital Mekelle and declared victory on November 28, 2020 barley three weeks into the conflict.
As a result Forces loyal to the TPLF withdrew to the mountain areas of the region and vowed to drive out federal and allied forces. Forces loyal and allied with the TPLF took over Mekelle on June 28, 2021, seven months after the capture of Mekelle by federal and allied forces.
The war that is still ongoing expanded into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions. The war also witnessed the involvement of neighboring Eritrea where it’s army stands accused of committing ‘crimes against humanity.’
In the absence of Tigray, and incomplete electoral process
For the first time since the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) was constituted in 1995, Ethiopia is forming a new government in the absence of one of the ten members of its federation, Tigray state, and in the backdrop of an incomplete electoral process.
Ethiopia decided to hold its twice postponed elections in June, 2021. The Sixth National Elections were originally scheduled for May 2020. The date was then changed for August 2020 before being indefinitely postponed by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 in the country in March 2020.
The electoral process featured scandals, ranging from irregularities in both candidates and voter registrations processes to cancelling of polling stations to the electoral board dispute with Harari region. In the Somali region, 7 constituencies were tainted by voter registration irregularities. In Addis Abeba, opposition parties complained of irregularities in the process, and in Oromia residents complained of forced registration. Days before elections, NEBE cancelled and postponed voting in a number of constituencies across six out of the regional states.
Nonetheless, the ruling Prosperity Party (PP) secured a landslide victory for the ruling party where elections in the Somali, Harari Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Regions only took place Three days ago on September 30, 2021. Commenting on the election that took place amid growing calls for the cessation of hostilities and an inclusive dialogue, the US said Ethiopia’s electoral process was not free or fair for all Ethiopians and calls for inclusive political participation to move the country forward
The June 21 elections in Ethiopia took place against a backdrop of grave instability, including increasing inter-ethnic and inter-communal conflicts, and an electoral process that was not free or fair for all Ethiopians,” the state department said in a statement, adding, “The boycott of the elections by opposition parties, the detention of vocal political leaders, and the ongoing violence in multiple parts of the country underscore the need to launch an inclusive effort to build a national consensus on the governance of Ethiopia that preserves the sovereignty and unity of the state and strengthens the constitutional order.
The establishment of the new government comes despite the absence of the biggest opposition parties in Oromia and Somali regions Ethiopia’s two biggest regions and hosts the country’s biggest nation and third biggest nation respectively. All of Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) withdrew from the elections .
It also comes only four days after the 2nd round of elections were held in Somali, Harari and several constituencies in other regions as well as before the conclusion of the South West Regional State Referendum. It is noteworthy to mention that Tigray regional state is not represented either in the HoPR or HoF as the region’s elections that took place in September, 2020 were nullified and deemed illegal by the federal parliament.
The State of Ethiopian Diplomacy
The Ethiopian state under the incoming administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will have to grapple with increasing diplomatic isolation. Perhaps a glaring sign of that, today’s formation of the new government and the inauguration of Abiy Ahmed as Prime Minister for the next five years is being attended with just *three heads of state from Africa: President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo of Somalia and President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti.
The country’s diplomacy suffered severe blow as a result of the war in Tigray, as relations with humanitarian partners and long standing allies deteriorated. The US administration and Ethiopian government traded accusations over aid delivery and obstruction of aid. In addition, the United States repeatedly called for an end to hostilities, allowing unfettered humanitarian access and the initiation of a national dialogue.
Moreover, President Joe Biden issued an executive order, authorizing sanction against those deemed responsible for the continuation of the conflict as well as the prolonging of the humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia. Prompting a response by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed criticizing the move.
The most recent blow to Ethiopia’s international image came after the federal government declared 7 United Nations (UN) organization senior staff members ‘persona non grata’ and ordered them to leave the country within 72 hours. The move prompted condemnation from the UN, UK, EU and Germany, it also prompted the US administration to threaten further sanctions using the executive order issued by President Joe Biden.
For all the mounting challenges, with an electoral mandate now at his disposal, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed assumes office with the ball at his court. The Us’ impending sanctions, including the threat to de-list Ethiopia from the list of countries benefiting from the AGOA privileges, and diplomatic isolation from from the rest of Ethiopia’s traditional western allies are all conditioned in the new government’s ability and willingness to enter into a negotiated ceasefire with Tigrayan forces to end the the month-old war that has hitherto ripped the country apart. Whether PM Abiy prioritizes peace over his repeated slogan of “prosperity” is yet to be seen. AS
*Editor’s note: Five more African heads of state and government have arrived to attend the event in the hours after the writing and publishing of this article. Please See latest update below.