10 October 2017

Ethiopia: The Obscure Position of Abadula Gemeda

Photo: Xinhua
Abadula Gemeda resigns as speaker of parliament.

The story began unfolding early last week. Authorities at the Ethiopian Housing Corporation told Abadula Gemeda, speaker of Parliament, to vacate a state-owned house located near Olympia where he has lived in for many years. Formerly known as Housing Agency, Abadula had served as its board chairman in the late 2000s.

His family vacated the house on Tuesday, according to a person close to the family. He had stayed with friends before he moved into a rented villa off Africa Avenue (Bole Road) on Saturday, another person close to the family confirmed.

The unprecedented news that a Speaker of Parliament tendering a resignation came to public light on Saturday with the disclosure by the online publication Addis Standard, and followed by the Reporter. This be the case, Abadula will become the first speaker of Parliament to formally resign from office during the 22-year history of the legislative house under the EPRDF regime.

However, so much remains in the dark, with even those close to him raise more questions than answers on what prompted him to leave office.

Speaking to Fortune on Saturday, the Speaker denied the story.

His denial of the reports was reinforced by Shiferaw Shigute, head of the EPRDF Council, who told the VOA that he does not know a resignation letter submitted to the party's executive committee. Yet, there was no official source in the Administration of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to dismiss the reports as false and inaccurate, including Negeri Lencho (PhD), minister of Government Communications Affairs Office.

"I can't confirm whether he tendered his resignation or not, though he has the right to do so," Negeri told Fortune.

The talks of his resignation surfaced three days ahead of Parliamentarians returning from a three-month recess on Monday, October 9, 2017. He told some of the top leaders of the EPRDF of his intention to resign, according to a senior member of the EPRDF.

Parliament's Working Procedures & Code of Conduct rules that in the case of the Speaker resigning before termination of working period of the House, for various reasons, the current Deputy Speaker shall chair formation of an election committee to pick a new Speaker from among members of the House.

Shitaye Minale, deputy speaker of the House, appeared on the state television, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC), last Saturday discussing Parliament's return from recess.

Abadula was also busy attending Parliamentary meetings on Friday and Saturday, which discussed a 10-year plan for the nation's highest legislative body, said people close to MPs.

Born in 1958, Abadula was a former rebel fighter-cum-high ranking military general, commanding operations and intelligence for the National Defense Forces. In the early 2000s, he joined the political leadership of the Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization (OPDO), serving as president of the Oromia Regional State.

"History commands the commitments of H. E. Abadula Gemeda for his contributions to the democratisation process of Ethiopia," said Motuma Temesgen, an executive at the regional TV station, Oromia Broadcasting Network, posting on his personal Facebook page, following the news alleging submissions of resignation letter by Abadula. "Big Respect."

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