President Sahle-worq Zewde leads the way to the hall adjacent to the Prime Minister's Office, where the joint legislative houses of the state were gathered to begin their sixth annual session of the fifth year. Behind the President in the first row, left to right, Aden Farah, speaker of the House of Federation; Tagesse Chafo, speaker of parliament; and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) were physically distanced to listen to her address that started the legislators' new year in office.
The procedures and processes were similar to those of any other year. The session was eventful only in its omission. Legislators from one of the members of the Ethiopian federation - the Tigray Regional State - made a no-show. The region's ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), had asked its members serving in both legislative houses not to participate, arguing that the constitutionally stipulated terms of the legislators had ended.
It was an issue that went unremarked throughout the President's address, but it was a development that overshadowed the activities of the government in the following days. The House of Federation "ordered" the ceasing of ties with the Regional State's executive and council. Matters escalated further when it was announced that the federal subsidy would be cut to the Tigray Regional State.
Despite failing to address the impasse between the federal and regional governments, the President took her time, stressing that a free and fair election, stability, and upholding the rule of law will be priorities of the government in its sixth year in office.