Ethiopian Defense Minister Lemma Megerssa and two other top officials have been suspended from the ruling Prosperity Party’s central committee.
A spokesperson for the party accused Mr Lemma of disregarding the party and his duties. The spokesperson did not say whether Mr Lemma would continue holding the position of defense minister while he remains on suspension.
The announcement of his suspension comes after the Oromia wing of the ruling party held a two-day summit following ethnic and religious violence that claimed the lives of more than 170 people.
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Teyba Hassen, who was Mr Lemma’s deputy when he was head of Oromia state, is also among those suspended in connection with the recent violence in the region, the spokesperson said.
Mr Lemma was once considered a potential Prime Minister in Ethiopia following the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn. He was also a close ally of current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and a key figure in the country’s political and economic reform over the past few years. He was the head of the country’s most-populous state, Oromia, before he was appointed defense minister.
However, he publicly criticized the prime minister’s efforts to reorganize and rebrand the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) – a coalition of four ethnic based parties that has been in power since the early 1990s. The EPRDF was renamed as the Prosperity Party.
Mr. Lemma also cast doubts on Mr Abiy’s philosophy of Medemer (coming together).