By Bileh Jelan @bilehjelan
Addis Abeba, February 17/2021 – Barely two weeks after Addis Standard’s in-depth report on the internal crack threatening the opposition Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) issued a statement clarifying its position on the ongoing infighting within the party.
On February 04, Addis Standard’s in-depth investigation revealed that in an apparent escalation of a long simmering crack within the ONLF, members of the central committee who opposed to Abdirhman Mahdi’s chairmanship have issued a press statement on January 23 in which they announced that an extra-ordinary session of the central committee which took place between Jan 20 – Jan 23 and a decision thereafter. the statement announced the suspension ONLF’s Chairman Abdirhman Mahdi and the appointment of Rayaale Hamud, hitherto the vice chairman of the party, as interim chairman until national congress was held and a new chairman was elected.
However, Abdirhman Mahdi told Addis Standard, that “the move is against party bylaws and therefore unrecognizable.” He added that, “this is an attempt by the regional administration, and president Mustafa Omar in particular, to divide votes and get a leg up in his campaign to retain control over the regional administration in the upcoming election.” Mr Mehdi explained that he was in Addis Abeba attending an event related to building regional stability while the said central committee meeting was held and that he was on his way to Jigjiga, the capital of Somali region, to deal with the matter head on.
Now, in a statement published on February 16, the NEBE declared that all decisions made during the emergency meeting held between Jan 20-23 were invalid and has further invalidated the disciplinary committee’s decision to expel 22 members and suspend 7 more for the period of 6 months.
The following is the statement issued by the NEBE:
“The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) wrote in a letter dated February 01, 2021 detailing that an emergency meeting of the party’s central committee, the following decisions were made: the party’s chairman, Abdirahman Mahdi, was suspended as chairman of the party according to party bylaws and other directives; a national congress will be held in four months time; a 15 member transitional executive committee and thre internal auditors have been voted in and Rayale Hamud was elected as interim chairman. In addition, on February 03, 2021 another letter said the party’s central committee had suspended the chairman [Abdirahman Mahdi] during the emergency central committee meeting which was held between Jan 20-23, 2021.
In a related matter, the NEBE received a letter signed by the chairman of the party [Abdirahman Mahdi] and dated 29/01/2021 with serial number Chair/ONLF/G/D/001/21. A copy was also submitted to the Ogaden National Liberation Front’s disciplinary committee. The letter detailed that according to Article 11(b) and Article 17(b) of the party’s code of conduct, Article 22 (b), Article 23 (b) and Article 29 of the party bylaws were violated and after review by the Disciplinary Committee of the party, the disciplinary committee determined that the said members violated the party’s bylaws and thus a decision to expel 22 members and suspend seven others for six months, was made. The chairman informed the NEBE in writing that said members can appeal their sentences within one month from the date of the sentence.
The NEBE examined both documents presented by disputing party leadership and made the following decision. In the emergency central committee meeting that was held between January 20-23, 2021 and organized by Rayale Hamud, there is no document that shows that the meeting was held according to party bylaws. Out of the 47 attendees of the said emergency meeting, only 10 were members of the Central Committee, which goes against party bylaws, specifically Article 11/2 and Article 13/1 that says a quorum was not met. The meeting was chaired by Rayale Hamud, who is known by the NEBE to be a member of the party’s central committee.
The board recognizes Ahmed Yasin to be the vice chairman of the party. In the absence of a document stating that the [alleged] offenses committed by the party chairman Abdirahman Mahdi or an evidence that these allegations were heard by the disciplinary committee in accordance with Article 33 of the party’s bylaws 15 “Transitional Executive Committee members” and three internal auditors were voted at said meeting. These decisions were made despite the fact that the said meeting was convened without quorum and these decisions go against party bylaws that don’t regulate the formation of a transitional executive committee. In addition, the decision to hold a national congress contradicts Article 10/3 and Article 12/7 of the party’s bylaws that state such decisions can’t be made without a quorum. The NEBE rules that all of the aforementioned decisions made at the said emergency central committee meeting are invalid.
On the other hand, the disciplinary committee decision to expel 22 members and suspend seven others for six months after a complaint was lodged against the party’s chairman [Abdirahman Mahdi], and in the absence of a document stating what offenses these members have committed and the absence of evidence that due process was held according to the party’s code of conduct, the NEBE rules that the decision is unacceptable. AS