Addis Ababa — The jailed Birtukan Midekssa’s party, Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), is in a huge turmoil as two factions vie to control the party’s direction.
The party’s executive committee, and a group of 21 party members spearheaded by the veteran opposition figure Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, have been fiercely criticising each other.
Called by the executive committee, the party’s top leadership, the sixty member national council, was expected to meet yesterday and discuss the statement the twenty members distributed back on July 9.
“The meeting is expected to reach some sort of decision against this unlawful accusation the statement contains,” party spokesperson Hailu Araaya (PhD) told Capital. More than 40 members of the council were expected to attend the meeting.
The group that disseminated the statement says the party’s executive committee is firing people without any credible justification and is even eliminating members heard criticising decisions.
“We will no longer keep silent, the executive committee is not only abusing its powers, but could once again deny the nation an opportunity it should not miss,” the group’s ten page statement reads.
UDJ’s acting chair following Birtukan’s re-arrest, Gizachew Siferaw, and Secretary Asrat Tasie, were among members of the executive that were strongly criticised for attempting to organise the party based on political favouritism.
In response, the executive explained that all the group wants is to throw accusations in order to try to disturb the party and halt UDJ’s effort to form a strong alliance with members of the Forum for Democratic Dialogue (FDD), a group striving to emulate the former CUDP’s 2005 campaign success.
“The reasons we are hearing are really embarrassing. The group says FDD members are ethnically-based in their formation and other reasons,” Dr. Hailu explained, adding on July 9, the day the group disseminated the statement, was the day UDJ should have discussed progress made in talks with other forum members.
It was the national council that decided how the party can best work with the FDD. The forum was first initiated by the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF), the Somali Democratic Alliance forces (SDAF), Arena Tigray for Democracy and Sovereignty (Arena) groups and two former ruling party senior officials: ex-president MP Dr. Negaso Gidada and former defence minister Seye Aberha.
The forum is still adding more members to its list, with the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement and UDJ becoming the latest strong additions.
The forum members, including the UDJ, are currently discussing a draft sixty page strategy that each member party’s representatives have agreed upon.
“I don’t think the council would go as far as to fire Professor Mesfin and others, but I expect other strong measures.
“Birtukan was holding the balance between the two groups and managed not to go against the idea of joining the forum, though she was not thrilled about it.
“Following her re-arrest the executive committee got momentum and is working to join the forum, and the group is trying to stop that,” an independent party insider commented to Capital.
The party says it will announce the decision of Saturday’s national council meeting at a press conference expected to be held tomorrow.
- By Kirubel Tadesse | Capital Ethiopia
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