Ethiopia defense minister breaks ranks with ally PM Abiy

Abiy, himself an Oromo, came to power in April 2018 after more than two years of anti-government protests led by Ethiopia's two largest ethnic groups, the Oromo and Amhara. (AFP)
Updated 01 December 2019

Ethiopia defense minister breaks ranks with ally PM Abiy

  • Ethiopia's defence minister has criticised plans to transform the ruling coalition into a single party,
  • Analysts say the public split between the country's most powerful ethnic Oromo politicians could increase political uncertainty ahead of the May polls

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia's defence minister, a key ally of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, has criticised plans to transform the ruling coalition into a single party, highlighting growing divisions ahead of planned 2020 elections.
Analysts say the public split between the country's most powerful ethnic Oromo politicians could increase political uncertainty ahead of the May polls, and hinder Abiy's reformist agenda.
In an interview with Voice of America's Affan Oromo language service on Friday night, Defence Minister Lemma Megersa criticised the move to merge the coalition of ethno-regional parties which has ruled the country for three decades.
"I have had a different perspective from the beginning of the talks about the merger of EPRDF," said Lemma, adding that "even if that is to happen it shouldn't be done in a hurried way."
Nobel Peace Laureate Abiy's plans to transform the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) into one party have already been rejected by the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) -- the once dominant party of late strongman Meles Zenawi.
The three other parties last week voted to unite and form the Prosperity Party (PP), which Abiy hopes will heal ethnic divisions that have marred his rule, while critics say it will only deepen them.
Lemma also rejected Abiy's philosophy "Medemer" (Amharic for synergy) which is aimed at uniting the country.
Lemma is a former president of Ethiopia's largest and most populous regional state, Oromia and is currently vice chairman of the regional ruling party (ODP), with a large following in the region.
Abiy, himself an Oromo, came to power in April 2018 after more than two years of anti-government protests led by Ethiopia's two largest ethnic groups, the Oromo and Amhara.
Ethiopian analyst Abel Abate said the public break between the two men will likely add to political uncertainty in the country as it prepares to hold general elections next year.
"While the process to form PP out of the ashes of EPRDF has gone a considerable distance, it's far from complete yet. This public disagreement could fatally injure plans to form PP", he said.
Meanwhile, Horn of Africa analyst Rashid Abdi wrote on Twitter that Abiy was "in deep trouble" after being ditched by his "single most important pillar of Oromo support".


Trump: I am Israel’s best pal in the White House

Updated 32 min 48 sec ago

Trump: I am Israel’s best pal in the White House

  • Unlike his predecessors, Donald Trump says ‘I kept my promises’
  • The president also claimed there are some Jewish people in America who don’t love Israel enough

HOLLYWOOD, Florida: President Donald Trump said Saturday that Israel has never had a better friend in the White House than him because, unlike his predecessors, “I kept my promises.”
Trump energized an audience that numbered in the hundreds at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Florida by recounting his record on issues of importance to Jews, including an extensive riff on his promise to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and relocate the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Trump said his predecessors only paid lip service to the issue.
“They never had any intention of doing it, in my opinion,” Trump said. “But unlike other presidents, I kept my promises.”
Trump also highlighted his decision to reverse more than a half-century of US policy in the Middle East by recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the strategic highlands on the border with Syria.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war but its sovereignty over the territory had not been recognized by the international community.
In his speech, the president also claimed there are some Jewish people in America who don’t love Israel enough.
“We have to get the people of our country, of this country, to love Israel more, I have to tell you that. We have to do it. We have to get them to love Israel more,” Trump said, to some applause. “Because you have Jewish people that are great people — they don’t love Israel enough.”
Aaron Keyak, the former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, denounced Trump’s remarks as anti-Semitic.
“Trump’s insistence on using anti-Semitic tropes when addressing Jewish audiences is dangerous and should concern every member of the Jewish community — even Jewish Republicans,” Keyak said.
Trump has been accused of trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes before, including in August, when he said American Jews who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” A number of Jewish groups noted at the time that accusations of disloyalty have long been made against Jews.
The Israeli American Council is financially backed by one of Trump’s top supporters, the husband-and-wife duo of Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate.
Both Adelsons appeared on stage to introduce Trump, with Miriam Adelson asserting that Trump “has already gone down in the annals of Jewish history, and that is before he’s even completed his first term in office.”
The Adelsons donated $30 million to Trump’s campaign in the final months of the 2016 race. They followed up by donating $100 million to the Republican Party for the 2018 congressional elections.
Trump’s entourage at the event included Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, along with Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Michael Waltz, whom he described as “two warriors” defending him against “oppression” in the impeachment inquiry.
Trump criticized Israel’s sworn enemy, Iran, saying he withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal with other world powers because Tehran must never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon
But Trump voiced support for Iranian citizens who have been protesting a decision by their government to withdraw fuel subsidies, which sent prices skyrocketing.
Trump said he believes thousands of Iranians have been killed in the protests and that thousands more have been arrested.
“America will always stand with the Iranian people in their righteous struggle for freedom,” he said.