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Ethiopia: Opposition doubts decision to ’scrap’ capital’s master plan

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

January16, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – An Ethiopian opposition group on Saturday cast doubts on whether the government would be committed to permanently abandon a plan to integrate the capital, Addis Ababa, with the surrounding Oromia region.

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Governor of Ethiopia’s Gambella region pictured with the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn during a visit to the region (FILE photo)

In a statement issued Friday on the state-owned EBC, the Ethiopian government announced that it had abandoned the controversial “Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan”

The government’s move to drop the expansion plan came after the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO) party which is the regional ally of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) on Wednesday decided to withdraw its support to the expansion plan.

OPDO announced that the plan which was proposed by the federal government had been “scrapped” after discussions with local Oromo residents.

In the statement, the government said it had “huge respect” for the Oromo people and respects their rights to oppose the master plan.

The government underscored that no expansion plans will be implemented without the knowledge or contest of the Oromo people and said the unrest was caused due simple misunderstanding created by a “lack of transparency”.

Despite the decision, which is being welcomed by Oromo residents, Oromo’s largest opposition group, Oromo Peoples Congress party (OPC) however doubts the government would stick to its promise to cancel the plan permanently.

OPC Chairman, Professor Merrara Gudina says the decision passed following OPDO emergency meeting doesn’t yet guarantee a permanent halt of the expansion plan.

Gudina says the decision could only be a temporary one citing to a previous trend.

“A year and half ago, the government similarly announced halting the master plan but didn’t keep its promise instead renewed its intention to push forward with the plan” he told Sudan Tribune.

The opposition official demanded the decision to halt the plan is incorporated into proclamation so that the federal government won’t reverse it in future.

Other Oromo Opposition activists say the government’s decision is only meant to calm down the unrest and there by to prevent the crises from spreading to other parts of the country.

Gudina who also was a former Member of Parliament accused the government of detaining leadership of the opposition party.

He said deputy chairman of OPC as well as observers and candidates of the opposition party who took part in Ethiopia’s May, 2014 election are arrested.

Merara called on the international community to put pressure on the Ethiopian government to permanently withdraw the expansion plan and to further free the hundreds of members and supporters of the group who he alleged remain in custody.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) at least 140 ethnic Oromo protesters are killed and many more wounded by the Ethiopian security forces during two months long anti-government demonstrations that had been taking place across Ethiopia’s Oromia region protesting against the controversial “Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan” aimed to expand the capital, Addis Ababa, to parts of Oromia region.

Meanwhile an Ethiopian dissident group in exile calls for regime change describing the current Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, led government in Addis Ababa as “undemocratic” and “oppressive”.

The newly formed opposition group known as the People’s Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (PAFD) urged all liberation fronts and opposition parties to unite in ending the current regime and create a new system which it said would respect the rights of all peoples in Ethiopia.

The group condemned the killing of protesters by security forces in Oromia region.

“We call all nations and peoples in Ethiopia to rise up and support this illegal displacement of Oromo people from their ancestral lands as is happening in all other parts” it said in a statement.

It called on the international community to denounce the Addis Ababa expansion plan which Oromo nationals say would eventually lead to land grabbing and large scale evictions to tens of thousands of people from their ancestral lands.

The group said the government must abide with international laws in respecting citizens’ rights, dignity and safety.

PAFD is an opposition alliance formed by the Benishangul People’s Liberation Movement, the Gambella People’s Liberation Movement, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, the Oromo Liberation Front and the Sidama National Liberation Front.

The group says it is united to bring a change of government.

(ST).