Press Release, Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia

In a yet unfolding drama involving the TPLF/EPRDF evaluation hearing surrounding allegations of

Gambella Regional President, Mr. Omot Obang Olom

corruption and mismanagement of the Gambella Regional Government under the current president, Omot Obang Olom, new allegations have now emerged accusing these same Ethiopian Federal government examiners of their own corruption in the execution of this hearing.

On December 27, 2011, senior officials in the regional administration and federal party officials initiated a hearing, which still has not concluded. Leading the meeting are two representatives from the EPRDF’s federal office in Addis Ababa, Mr. Zemedie Zemedkun and Mr. Alebachew Nigussie, a high-ranking political advisor.

The official reason given for the hearing was to probe the performance of the regional administration and the Gambella Peoples Unity Democratic Movement (GPUDM) in matters of development and good governance, but from early on, most observers recognized the underlying intent of the hearing was to fire key regional authorities from their posts, including Mr. Omot Obang Olom who according to official protocol, held both the position as president of the region and as chair of the GPUDM.

Over the last weeks, the federal examiners have essentially removed Mr. Omot from his position, but then in a stunning reversal, they suddenly reinstated him to his former position as president for at least six more months. Others, like the Vice Chair of the GPUDM/.deputy administrator of the region, Guaner Yer, and two other executive party members, Kor Powoch and James Deng, were all fired.

For those who do not know, Omot was the Chief of Security during the brutal massacre of the Anuak that began on December 13, 2003. He was accused of providing the list of Anuak to be targeted to TPLF/EPRDF officials. Ethiopian defense troops and militia groups then proceeded to slaughter 424 Anuak in less than three days. Following the massacre, he was awarded the position of regional president/governor, a position he remains in today. On January 6, one of the federal examiners made a statement during the hearing to the effect that Omot was no longer capable of leading the region and gave specific reasons: 1) his work performance evaluation was graded as “C”, essentially a failure to measure up to expected standards, 2) an audit dating back to when he came to power in 2004 revealed that 80 million birr was not accounted for and that was the reason for the lack of development and incidents of ethnic conflict in the region, and 4) the people in the region did not think he was capable of leading the region.

In this discussion, the official also stated that people from Omot’s own ethnic were accusing him of providing the list of the Anuak to be targeted because these were the Anuak who most threatened his own power. The man went on to say that for all of these reasons and many more which had been determined from this evaluation, it was no wonder Omot was in nearly an impossible position to continue to lead this region.

Omot, probably sensing this could be the end of him, responded with anger. According to reliable eyewitnesses, with a loud voice, retorted that if this was a plan to get him out of power and to put him in jail that he should not go alone. He threatened that if he had been the one to give the list of those to be killed, it was Meles who provided the troops, the guns and gave the order; that the list by itself would not kill the people. Sources report he then said with defiance, “If I end up going to jail for giving the list, I should go together with Meles who gave the order!”

Omot was then removed from being chairman of the political regional party and all authority to sign any official documents or to do any official business was immediately withdrawn. Authority over the security and his role as head over the Chief of Police was ended. His body guards were removed and others were assigned to watch him. Most of the members of the regional executive board testified against him; however, rather than delivering any final verdict on that Friday, the federal officials of the hearing board said that all parties would be dismissed until Monday morning, January 9th when the hearing would again resume. Most of the people at the hearing believed Omot was done and that on Monday, he would be arrested.

Surprisingly, on Monday, everything abruptly changed. The hearing examiners determined that Omot would continue as the president for six months, although he would no longer be the chair of the party, a position which had always gone to whoever held the position of regional president. His vice president was stripped of any power and was dismissed.

People were shocked by this reversal and as to why the whole tone of the hearing was totally different. It was clear something had happened between the end of Friday’s hearing and Monday morning, but only later has information leaked out regarding what it was. According to inside sources, the decision to depose Omot Obang Olom was reversed by the hearing examiners after wealthy investors, who had bought large tracts of land in the region, and other business persons in town, used their money and influence to pressure and allegedly bribe the examining officials into changing their decision.

The SMNE has obtained information alleging that key business people had met together to raise money and had come up with almost three million birr ($175,000 USD) that they allegedly used to bribe three members of the evaluation board. It was said that some of these business people were very close to Omot and that some of them had been involved in the December 13th massacre. These co-conspirators may have had good reason to believe that if Omot went down, they would go with him.

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