Ethiopia: Fine Line – a Power Reshuffle Within the High Brass of the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organisation


A power reshuffle within the high brass of the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organisation (OPDO), has resulted in a lofty position in the federal government being occupied by a female for the first time, gossip disclosed. A series of rearrangements have taken place in the top leadership of the OPDO and the Oromia Regional State, subsequent to the resignation of Alemayehu Atomsa, two weeks ago.

Alemayehu had been chairman of the OPDO and president of the largest region in the republic since 2010, but has been a long term absentee from both offices due to illness and treatment abroad. His deputy in the regional administration, Abdulaziz Mehamed, has been running the affairs of the region, one of the four coalition member of the ruling EPRDF.

The politbureau of the OPDO met last week and voted into office Muktar Kadir, as chairman of the Party, and Aster Mamo, as deputy chairperson, gossip disclosed. She was preferred to Worqney Gebeyehu, minister of Transport, by a marginal three votes, gossip revealed.

A native of Jimma, a small town 346Km west of Addis Abeba, Muktar is a contemporary of Alemayehu’s, joining the OPDO immediately after the fall of the military regime back in the early 1990s. He served the Party as a mid-rank level cadre during much of the 1990s and was promoted in the rank and file after 2005, when he succeeded Hailemariam Desalegn as head of public organisation and mobilisation within the Prime Minister’s Office, under the rank of a minister.

He was an administrator of the Jimma Aba Jiffar Zone before being promoted to head of the region’s capacity building bureau, in the 1990s. His ascendance on the ladder of power began when he was first elected as a central committee member of the OPDO during its second congress, in the late 1990s. He was elected to serve as deputy chief of the regional state under Abadula Gemeda, now speaker of Parliament, gossip says.

In 2010, Muktar was appointed by the late Meles Zenawi to run the affairs of the Prime Minister’s Office and serve as secretary of Cabinet Affairs – a very powerful position, previously held by Brehanu Adelo, according to gossip. It was during his debut as chief of both of these offices that he also joined the most powerful and secretive National Security Council, comprising of the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Chief of the National Intelligence, Chief of Staffs of the Army and the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister.

The unexpected passing of Meles and the subsequent departure of Junadin Sado, a high ranking official of the OPDO and former minister of the Civil Service, led the administration of Prime Minister Hailemariam to move Muktar onto this ministry, which is housed in a private building on Africa Avenue (Bole Road), neighbouring country offices of the World Bank Group and the IMF.

The post-Meles EPRDF government was designed to have a deputy prime minister and two additional ministers with the rank of deputy prime minister, last year – an arrangement that elevated the positions of Debretsion G. Michael (PhD), from the TPLF, and Muktar, from the OPDO, within the cabinet, gossip recalled. Muktar was given the mammoth task of carrying through the civil service reform program – one of the six signature reform agendas the EPRDF government has been struggling to accomplish for over a decade now, claims gossip.

With mixed results, such a task has now been given to Aster, another senior OPDO leader who rose to prominence during the same time, when she was elected as a central committee member of the party. Elected to the House of Federation as early as 2000, she served as a secretary to the Budget Subsidy and Revenues Affairs Standing Committee under Ayalew Gobezie, before being appointed to serve as the Minister of Youth & Sports, in 2005. She served as government chief whip in the federal Parliament from 2010, replacing Hailemariam, prior to handing over the seat to Roman H. Sellasie, from the TPLF.

Recent changes and power realignment show that the veterans within the OPDO – Abadula, Kuma, Girma – are having less influence in the party. They continue to have a considerable hold, however, through the younger generation of politicians who have been mentored by each one of them, gossip claims.