Political divide reportedly evolving to disturbance in the Somali region of Ethiopia. Authorities in the region dismiss news circulating in social media
By Bernabas Shiferaw
May 22, 2020
Addis Ababa – It has been reported that there had been a disturbance yesterday inside the Somali Regional Council as it conducted its meeting yesterday. The council lifted the immunity of 12 of its members at the end of its first day.
Allegedly, 120 members of the council withdrew from the council disagreeing with decisions that were being made. Some (numbers vary according to sources) have returned to the meeting hall later during the meeting while the rest did not return. Physical abuse of few journalists and members of the council and arrest of journalists at the gate was also reported.
Dr. Nim’an Hamere, who was one of the twelve members whose immunity had been lifted, told Ethiopia Insider that the causes of the disturbance were a divide regarding the resignation of the speaker of the council and the refusal by the deputy speaker of the council, who was chairing the council meeting, to add agendas forwarded from the house.
The speaker of the council, Mr. Abdi Mohammed, had submitted a resignation letter a month ago. Subsequently, he had been appointed as the head of the regional bureau of mining and energy. These had raised protests from members of the council as, according to Dr. Nim’an, only the council had the right to accept or reject the resignation request of the speaker and the president cannot assign him to another office before the resignation has been accepted.
Further divide and disturbance followed as members asked for a new agenda to be added to the list. One of them was the issue of preventing the corona virus, according to Dr. Nim’an, and another was a confidence vote to decide whether the President of the region, Mustefe Umer, should continue in power.
According to Ethiopia Insider, this question was raised as a result of the rift between members of the council and the executive cabinet. Members of the parliament are unhappy with the recent appointments the President is making to his cabinet.
They also feel that the selection of members to the central and executive committees of the newly founded Prosperity Party has excluded the veteran members of the old regional party, Somali Democratic Party (SDP), which merged with EPRDF members (and partners) to form Prosperity Party.
The newly elected officials to these committees are new recruits to the party and reportedly more educated compared to the veteran members. According to Dr. Nim’an, many members believe the appointment of these new recruits was not done democratically. They were rather handpicked by the President himself.
According to Dr. Nim’an, there were initially 181 members of the council present in the hall. After the disagreement arose, 120 of them left the hall. Another eye witness told the Ethiopia Insider that 40 of these later returned to the hall. Dr Nim’an said that these members, even if they had returned, the main thing is that they had protested by stepping out.
Mr. Abdulahi Hassen, the head of the regional security bureau, admitted that there had been a disagreement and some disturbance at the council’s meeting. But he said what has been presented in social media is “an exaggeration.”
Although he admitted that members of the parliament had withdrawn from the meeting, he said many of them returned except about 40 of them. He also denied the arrest of any member of the council or any other person.
According to Mr. Abdulahi, the disturbance was caused by “members of the council who are working with opposition groups based in Addis Ababa.” He confirmed that the first cause of the disturbance was the disagreement regarding the resignation of the speaker of the house. But he denied knowledge of the second issue that led to the disturbance saying that he is not a member of the council.
The meeting of the council continued despite the disturbances and finally, and it ended today with two major outcomes. The first of these was the decision to lift the immunity of twelve members of the council who were suspected of corruption and causing disturbances. It has also ratified the appointment of four new officials to various positions in the cabinet.
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