The Ethiopian regime has given up any pretension and appointed government officials to run the Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (Mejlis). Five of the eleven Mejlis leaders are active government officials, while the rest are recycled from the old Mejlis leadership serving at various levels.
The man appointed to lead the new Mejlis, Kiyar Mohammed Aman, is a long time member of the ruling party who worked at various posts over the last two decades. Kiyar was one of the party cadres sent abroad following the mass resignation of career diplomats during the aftermath of the 2005 election. Since then he has been working as secretary of the Ethiopian embassy in Saudi Arabia. Although a layman until this past summer, he is now bestowed with a title of ‘sheik’ and appointed as president of the Mejlis. Kiyar is the son of the famous Qadi (sharia court judge) Haji Aman Lode of Asalla, therefore, the government hopes his father’s popularity would help it win over the population.
Similarly, Mohammed Adem Worsema , the person representing Somali region to the Mejlis, is a cabinet member of the regional government in Jijiga until he vacated the post to take up the new job. Nobody knew he has the title ‘hajj’ under his sleeve until he pulled it out and put it on for the new job. The representative of Harari was an official of the federal ministry of foreign affairs until he was converted to take the role of spiritual leadership. The Benishangul Muslims are represented by the head of the Asosa zone health bureau. The representative of Addis Ababa was serving “in high ranking position with the government” until he was transferred to his current post. And from Gambella came an employee of the federal government working within the Statistics Agency.
The person representing Dire Dawa, Abduleziz Ali, was chairman of the city’s Ulama Council, which was a body established last spring to organize the election of this Mejlis. That means Sheik Abduleziz must have presided over an election committee that ended up electing him.
Among the former Mejlis leaders recycled is found Khedir Mahmud Aman who is representing Tigray region. Khedir was one of the soldiers that fought to bring the current regime to power. When the rebel army was partially demobilized in mid-1990s, some soldiers were given seed funding to start business, some were converted to bureaucrats, while others, such as Khedir were given special assignments aimed at helping their party control the country. Comrade Kheder was converted to Sheik Kheder, and then appointed as president of the Tigray region Mejlis and Sharia court simultaneously, although the institutions were supposed to be the executive and judicial branches, as such ought to be separate.
He was one of the individuals who helped the regime take over the Mejlis following the 1995 riots in Anwar that was used as pretext to put the organization under its control. An active and influential member of the TPLF, Khedir’s power extended beyond Mekele. He played a key role in enabling the regime maintain its grip over the federal Mejlis over the last decade. He was also said to have traveled to Lebanon with Shiferaw Teklemariam, Minister of Federal Affairs, to negotiate terms with al Habash before they were invited to start the controversial re-indoctrination campaign. His role was seen so crucial that, when the current protest broke out, Khedir was formally brought to Addis Ababa to reinforce the troubled Mejlis as senior adviser. Now he is appointed vice-president of the new Mejlis where he will be the defacto leader like his predecessors. Kedir will team up with Jamal Mohammed Salah, another TPLF member, who is in charge of the ‘ permanent office’ of the Mejlis that runs the day-to-day activities of the organization.
This drama of the Mejlis appointment was completed with a bizarre ritual whereby the appointee took oath of office by swearing to govern the Muslim faithful according to the rules of ‘Ahlal Sunnah Waljama-Sufi” which is a name for al Al Habash’s branch in Ethiopia that was formally established this past spring. Basically while the public is demanding for reforming the existing Mejlis by allowing them to freely elect their leaders, the regime responded by appointing government officials to run the institution, and according to a religious doctrine it imported from abroad. Put another way, Mejlis openly become another branch of the government, while Al Habash is declared the state sanctioned doctrine that Muslims must follow.