Interview with Mohammed Ayli, Vice President of Oromiya Region

Mohammed Ayli has been the vice president of the Oromiya Regional Government for a year. Here he tells IRIN how the government is tackling the drought and speaks of his government's priorities.

QUESTION: How serious is the drought in Oromiya?

ANSWER: The drought is very serious in many areas of Oromiya. There have been reports of deaths but as yet we have not finalised how many deaths there have been. The worst affected area is Haraghe. We are trying to identify how many have died from the drought/famine.

Q: How many people are suffering at the moment because of the drought in Oromiya?

A: We estimate around 2.7 million are facing shortages. The problem is the situation is getting worse because the belg [short rains in March] rain had not started at the normal time and there have been no belg rains especially in the highland areas. Even the meher [main rains during June to September] is also late. Due to this, the situation is poor compared to other years. Production from this year has been a problem because of this although we are waiting to see the results from the main harvest. If the rains are prolonged the farmers might get some harvest but if not it will be serious.

Q: What are the priorities of the Oromiya Regional Government (ORG)?

A: We have a budget of more than two billion birr (US $235 million). The priorities for the region are rural development through agricultural development and capacity building. For the last 10 years attention has been paid to education and health care and capacity building. Capacity building is education. There has been a lot of improvement but there needs to be more.

Q: The ORG is moving from Addis Ababa to Nazareth. When will it take place?

A: We are preparing the offices. It will not take place next year as it needs more preparation. Maybe it will take two years. We are happy with this move. It is in our interests. We have to establish our office and our administration within our people. Addis Ababa is the federal state, so we have to move to where our people are. That is why it is in our interests.

Q: There have been some major political upheavals in the ORG [allegations of corruption and political differences]. Have they been resolved?

A: That is over. Our government is in good condition now. As you know we have decentralised power and the budget to the woreda [district] level to fulfill our vision of rural based development. The problems were personality clashes. A few of them were involved in corruption and had personal problems. That is why they defected [to the rebel Oromo Liberation Front].

[See also: 'ETHIOPIA: Oromiya authorities urge rebels to lay down arms']