The achievement of Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) 9th Conference
Dr. Teshome Adugna, September 25, 2018
Party conference play pivotal role in shaping and leading the future activities of the given political organization. Various political organizations used their party congress to convey the future activities of their political, social and economic ideologies. In Ethiopia, the EPRDF as a leading national ruling party in the country has made various decisions in its last ten organizational conferences. During the last two or three organizational conferences the party has failed to come up with innovative ideas to address the real problems of the nation. This leads for the party to loss its organizational value and principles like inclusive democracy, reliable peace and stable economic growth. Such situation strongly aggravates public unrest and country wide protest.
At this time, ODP (former OPDO) one of the member organizations of EPRDF started its deep reform to save the nation and EPRDF from self suicide or political death. To curb these problems ODP takes the leading role in identifying the emerging political, economic and social challenges in the region/country. The OPDO leadership has called for “accountability’ and “transparency” in resources allocation and utilization. In the same way the OPDO leadership was courageous in their demand for the restoration of constitutional order without erosion of any of its provision (Addis Fortune, 2018). With this in mind, the executive committee of EPRDF agreed to implement nationwide political, economic and social reform to address public grievance and discontents. ODP’s 9th party conference was the first and historical conference since the party took its leading role at national level.
The members of the party and other people expected eagerly the outcome of the 9th ODP’s conference to ensure the regional and national political stability and economic development. Meseret Meskele represented SEPDM and told participants at the opening of the Congress “the decisions from OPDO organizational congress could have the power to determine ODP’s, EPRDF’s and the Country’s future.” The main purpose of this brief article was to present the major achievement of this historical ODP’s organization conference which was held between February 8 and 11, 2018. This brief article has five sections including introduction. The second section highlights the brief performances of ODP in Oromia. The third section identifies the major achievements of ODP’s 9th conference. The last section is summary.
2. Performances of ODP in Oromia
The Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) is a political party in Ethiopia, and part of the alliance with the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the South Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Movement (SEPDM) and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that form the Ethiopia People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). ODP is the right and the appropriate political organization that work for the economic, social and political transformation of the people in the region. The party has more than 28 year of experiences in changing the life of Oromo people. ODP is the first and the only political organization that brought all Oromo people together by forming regional, zonal and local administration. It worked hard for unity and prosperity of Oromo people. In addition to this, the party established various economic and social institutions that provide education, infrastructure, communication, health services and other public services. Learning from its challenges and weakness the party conducted various reform measures that improve efficiency and effectiveness of its policy and strategies implementation.
Today with the leadership of ODP the number of primary, secondary and tertiary students in the region was increased from 6 million in 1989 to more than 10 million in 2011. In average between 1989 and 2011, the number of students increase annually by 4.4 percent. The infant, maternal and child mortality rate decreased due to the provision of health services in the region. The number of hospitals and health posts also increased in the region that improve the health status. The road net work in the region increased from 8.4 thousand KM in 1988 to 51 thousand KM in 2010. The region agricultural, industrial and services sector has experiencing continues growth during the last twenty years. Today the region has managed to mobilize financial resource more than Birr 64 Billion for the social and economic development of the region. The regional state has been allocating more financial and human resource to poverty reduction and youth employment creation. These have been done only by ODP’s leadership who has the vision of improving its people’s quality of life.
The motto of ODP during the last two decades was to increase accesses to education, infrastructure and health services in the region to realize economic and social empowerments. In the last two decades, ODP achieved access to services provision but now with the experience acquired, it will focus on the quality of services provision. Today ODP has the capacity to reach all parts and areas of the region through its existed institutional establishments. It also has practical problem-solving policies and strategic thinking that address public needs. So, by any standard ODP was the only political party in the region during the last two decades in Oromia. The future social and economic transformation in Oromia region would be start by recognizing the ODP achievement and challenges. The party as also achieved a considerable degree of acceptance outside of the ruling coalition and also outside of Oromo region of Ethiopia mainly due to its moderate ethno-nationalist stand and a positive view towards Ethiopia.
3. The achievements of ODP’s 9th conferences
Since the start of the deep reform program in Ethiopia, ODP was conducted its 9th conference in Jimma. The party was inactive to come up with new idea or thinking for the last two decades to address regional issues in Oromia. But after deep reform in the party, various actions were taken by the regional state and ODP to promote peace and political stability. The 9th conference helps the party to speed up the existed reform and working for next inevitable social and economic transformation. The following were the major achievements of 9th ODP congress.
3.1. Rebranding the Party
OPDO rebrand itself by changing its name, song and logo. The party replaces its previous name OPDO (Oromo People Democratic Organization) to ODP (Oromo Democratic Party). The previous name was not fitting with current broad social and economic change in the region. The name was given at the time of regime change or revolution to remove the military government. Now the time is not regime change rather improvement or reforming the existed policies and strategies through efficient and contextual pragmatic approaches.
Today the party has become major power player within the coalition (EPRDF) unlike the past 28 years which was entirely dominated by another sister party (TPLF). The old name could not represent the current leading responsibilities and future role of the party in the region and country. Recently our party started to respond for the question of Oromo people with its existed legal framework. Thinking nationally and globally by focusing or working to solve the specific problems of its nation is the new motto of the party.
The new changed logo and song also consider the culture and existed change in the region unlike the previous logo which indicate the war and revolution in the country. Further the name given before was too long and does not apply for political organization. The party has demonstrated keen interest in taking a leadership role in transforming Ethiopia into a modern multi-party system. This ODP’s branding enhances the image and contribution of the organization in its future activities to address the social and economic problems. So, changing the party’s name is natural to pass to the next stage of economic and political transformation.
3.2 Leadership change
ODP is the only political party that replaces its top leadership democratically with the new leaders since its establishment. But such change during the last two decades was not formal in the way reaching out to the young leadership. Formalizing the leadership change and recognizing the role of previous leaders was the major achievement of the 9th party conference. The current ODP existed due to the contribution and commitment of the founding member of ODP and its existed members. Appreciating and recognizing the founding members of OPD would improve the future political leadership quality of party. This conference also elected more young and professional leaders to its central and executive committee. In the new central committee more than 80 percent are new leaders that would consolidate the role of youth leadership. This leadership change will be done also in the next party conferences to enhance accountability, member participation and transparency in the organization.
3.3 Promote free, peaceful and faire election in the region
The 9th party conference confirmed that the party and regional state would work hard to realize the free, fair and peaceful election. The participants of the conference have emphasized to strength the rule of law and freedom of expression for all political parties in the coming election. The party will rule the county only with public vote that comes through free and fair. As the political players gear up for the 2020 election, ODP will be working to position itself as the party that cannot only fulfill the aspirations of the Oromo people, but also appeals to national interests including security and economic growth. The party will use its rich experience and development policy advantage to get public support.
3.4. Promote Inclusive Democracy and Political System in the Region
The conference undertook detailed discussion to enhance the unity of the people in the region by allowing all Oromo political party to express their idea freely in the region. Inclusive democracy and political system can increase social capital that facilitates economic and political empowerment. Political differences should be accommodated to achieve social and economic transformation in the region. Any political party in the region has full right to promote its ideology peacefully without harming the social and economic development. For this purpose, the regional state and ruling party (ODP) provide all possible support to enhance inclusive political system. Some scholars, like Professor Desta misunderstood the intention of ODP to work with OLF and other political parties in the county. Since the OLF’s stance contradicts the ideals of Abiy’s Party, the ODP, how will Abiy reconcile this contradiction? (Desta Asayehgn, 2018)
According to the conference participants the political difference should not affect the peace and political stability in the region and country. It is natural and also the sign of modernity to work together with respective political arguments under the order of regional and national constitution. The inclusive political system in the region would facilitate the state and public focus on social and economic development in the region. In this regards all the conference participants and invited guests were grateful to see all the fourteen Oromo political parties to attain the opening ceremony of ODP 9th conference.
3.5. Encourage Pragmatic Idea and Thinking
The other important achievement of the conference was emphasizing new thinking or pragmatic idea to transform the region and the country. The motto of this year conference was the “Better idea for more triumph”. This motto encourages the importance of new thinking or idea. Creative thinking and pragmatic idea are the only way to realize social and economic transformation. This shows the future of our region or country transformation is based on the new idea implemented to serve the social and economic public demand. Running for small victory strongly harm the region future prosperity. So, the conference achieved broad based victory by widening our thinking or improving our creative thinking to address public demand. Business as usual or the traditional approaches of social service provisions would not solve the new emerging and dynamic social demand. It is only the pragmatic thinking or idea that takes our people and party to the higher prosperity.
3.6. Strengthening Democratic Nationalism
Equality of nations and nationalities enhance fast and stable economic development. So, recognizing and embracing nation and nationalities in the country, promote peace and stabilities. All the nations and nationalities in the country have the right to use country resources fairly to accelerate inclusive economic development. The conference participants emphasis was to strength the democratic nationalism that give equal political and social right for nations and nationalities. It is Oromo culture to give respect for nations and nationalities. This value of Oromo culture must be strengthened to create the united and strong nations in the country.
3.7. Speedup the Economic and Political Reform Program
The conference participants discussed on the importance of intensifying the existed or current reform program started in the country. The ruling party during the last twenty-seven years has achieved various social and economic developments. Despite continuous economic growth and regular election, the nation failed to observe inclusive economic development and participatory political decision making at regional and national level. Most of the government institutions controlled and influenced by the ruling party members that do not able to incorporate other idea or different opinion. These aggravate the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of service delivery at national and regional level. Furthermore, it strongly harmed accountabilities and transparencies in the country.
According to the conference participants, intensifying the current reform program in the country would increase public trust and participation. The participants request the regional and national government to accelerate the political and economic reform. In the conference the participant emphasized on effective implementation of the constitutional value of the country that were eroded during the last few years before the deep reform. New idea would be incorporated on the current ideology to give more focus on the real outcome of our policy approaches to achieve inclusive economic development and transparent resource allocation in the region and country.
3.8. Emphasis on the Unity of the Region and Country
The conference delivered that the unity of the people is paramount important for peace, political stability and economic development. Unity of the nations and nationalities in the region and the country is not an option to bring fast and sustainable economic development. It is not possible for any political identity that erodes the regional and national unity of the people. In this regard the conference reiterated that more Oromo political parties would be the threat for the unity of the people.
In this regards his Excellency Dr. Abiy Ahmed conveyed the message that there is no point in having a number of Oromo opposition parties and only two or three parties are enough. In the same way the Oromia regional state president Obbo Lema Megersa said that “Division of political parties has a negative impact on the unity of the people and parties should talk on their difference and work together,” Further the part chairman Dr. Abiy reminded attendees of the conference about the sacrifice that Oromo paid for Ethiopia and that Oromo will not secede as Oromo does not have a country outside of Ethiopia. Mature political system will accommodate all political parties in the country. It is impossible to exercise our political ideologies without united and strong country.
3.9. Enforcement of the rule of law in the region
According to the conference participants, one of the basic elements of democracy is rule of law. Without rule of law there is no democracy and freedom of the people in the region. Rule of law gives equal opportunity for all people to acquire asset and involve in different economic and social activities. The realization of justice in the region through rules of law strengthens innovation and competitiveness that increase national and regional economic development. The rule of law supports reliable peace, accountability and transparency in the region. Fair economic and political empowerment of the people in the region would be realized only through rule of law. Mob justice and other illegal activities in the region can negatively affect the social transformation and increase regional conflict that would finally escalate social impoverishment and absolute poverty. The participants of the conference promised to maintain and enforce the rule of law in their respective local administration.
The revolutionary democracy advocated by the ruling party for the last two decades failed to maintain the required social and political transformation in the country in general and in Oromia in particular. Absence of continued professional assessment of the existed economic and political ideology prevented the nation from enjoying high economic growth with inclusive economic development. It also affects the institutional autonomy that hampered the promised structural change and political stability. ODP is the first political party which decided to address all the public demand in logical and constitutional order. Since the deep reform started the Oromia regional state and its leadership mobilized the public to address their political, social and economic concerns. The measure taken by ODP during the last year was achieved the unity of the nation that promotes fair and participatory social transformation. Realizing its future responsibility, the party 9th congress came up with new logo, song and party name. In its latest 9th conference the party has also emphasized to consolidate the democratic nationalism and rule of law to achieve the social and economic empowerment.
God Bless Ethiopia and Oromia
_______________(2018): The OPDO is Becoming a Force for Reform in the Revolutionary Democratic, Addis Fortune , Ethiopia
Desta Asayehgn (2018): Cracking Open Ethiopia’s Political Can of Worm The author can be reached by email address:email@example.com
 In most political parties, the party conference is the highest decision-making body of the organization, tasked with electing or nominating the party’s leaders or leadership bodies, deciding party policy, and setting the party’s platform and agendas.
 Rebranding is a political and economic marketing strategy in which a new name, term, symbol, design, or combination thereof is created for an established brand with the intention of developing a new, differentiated identity in the minds of party member, consumers, investors, competitors, and other stakeholders. Rebranding can be applied to new products, existed political organization, mature products, or even products still in development.
 A political brand is the overarching feeling, impression, association or image the public has towards a politician, political organisation, or nation. Political branding helps the party or candidate to change or maintain reputation and support, create a feeling of identity with the party or its candidates, as well as create a trusting relationship between political elites and consumers. Source: https://www.thestandard.co.zw/2018/06/24/role-brand-managers-politics/
 Prominent members of the party who are let retire or promoted to retirement from the party are: Abadula Gemeda, Getachew Bedane, Kuma Demeksa, Girma Biru, Diriba Kuma, Eshetu Desie, Teferi Tiyaru, Shiferaw Jarso, Degfe Bula, Suleiman Dedefo, Abera Hailu, Itefa Tola, Dagnachew Shiferaw and Gifti Abasia.
 Inclusive democracy is a form of social organisation which re-integrates society with economy, polity and nature.