Former regional chief said to have fled the country
The former Gambela regional state chief and the current federal affairs state minister, Omot Obang fled the country, it was reported. Omot is said to have left the country and he told friends that he would not be returning to Ethiopia, even though he hasn’t made public statement yet.Sources suggest Omot took refuge in Manila, Philippines.
Omot, ethnic-Anuak, who studied law at the Ethiopian Civil Service University, served as president of Gambela state in western part of the country for 13 years until he was replaced by Gatluak Tut Koat, ethnic-Newer.He led the region’s ruling party – Gambella Peoples’ Democratic Movement (GPDM) – from September 2005 until he left the party in 2012.
Omot has been named by human rights groups as a key architect of a genocide against the Anuak tribe.He was accused of being involved in December 13, 2003 massacre by government troops of more than 400 people.The former high-ranking Ethiopian politician denies the charges which he says are false, illogical and he says he is the victim of a smear campaign.
In April 2013, Prime Minister Hailemarim Desalegn dismissed him as part of a government reshuffle and then brought him to the capital, as the state minister for federal affairs in a controversial appointment.
Government officials this week admitted they have lost contact with Omot since he traveled abroad, supposedly on personal business. Federal affairs minister Dr. Shiferaw Teklemariam said he had not managed to speak to Omot since last week and he said he had not notified the ministry of his resignation and did not follow up on his duties.
Omot has generally kept a low profile since he was sacked from his presidency of the region last year after he was evaluated and scrutinized for a week.
Gambella has a population of 300,000, mainly indigenous Anuak and Nuer. The Nuer are pastoralists moving with the cattle and the Anuak fish and grow crops as the flood waters recede. The low-lying region bordering Sudan is remote, politically charged and prone to drought and flooding. The government’s program to lease large tracts of land for agricultural investors in Gambella has at times been faced with violent opposition in the region.
In related news, the new president of the Gambela region, Gatluak Tut Koat announced that his administration is working with the different nationalities of the region against the widespread tendencies of stereotypes, competition, and mistrust which he said to be a feature of relations at the local level. He said he is trying to bring government closer to the people and distribute resources in a fair manner.
Gatluak, who was Omot’s deputy, becoming president of the region after his departure, said things are getting back to normal and Ethiopian refugees living in South Sudan are returning.
“Nine foreign and 350 local companies are investing in our region. They are growing food on the previously unutilized land. The farm investment is done in a win-win situation and people are benefiting from this investment,” he said.
The new president faces a daunting agenda: how to improve security in the region, whether to allow companies to buy more farm land, and how to accelerate the reconciliation process in the aftermath of the Nuer and Agnuak conflict.
Graduating from the Ethiopian Civil Service College in 2003 in advanced diploma and from Jimma University in law, Gatluak first worked in the region’s justice bureau before becoming vice administer and president of the region.
He enjoyed a close relationship with Prime Minster Hailemariam but is not on good terms with his former boss Omot.