By Siyanne Mekonnen @Siyaanne
Addis Abeba, April 12, 2021 – The Harari Regional State Council (Cabinet) convened an emergency meeting on April 11, following a decision by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) to invalidate the voting practices by members of the Harari community who live outside their regional state to elect their representatives. In a three point resolution released afterwards, the Cabinet said Harari Regional State was not holding voters’ registration for both the regional council and House of People’s Representatives (HoPR).
NEBE’s statement was issued in response to the Harari national congress’ request by the Harari National Congress, the Secretariat of the Harari Regional Council and the office of the Harari region President, as well as the Harari regional state branch of the incumbent Prosperity Party. The letter requested to carry on a practice to elect their representative which was granted to them by the House of People’s Representatives (HoPR) back in 1995, a practice the community enjoyed during the last five general elections. However, the NEBE said the request has no constitutional grounds and therefore will be terminated as of the 6th general election scheduled for June 05.
The NEBE, through its letter responded to Harari Regional state’s inquiry, explained that the constitution does not state that a minority ethnic group shall elect regional representatives while living outside of their regions to the level of its findings. The board also added that it couldn’t find a decree in the constitution that makes an exception for Harari people to carry out the practice. The board argued that allowing this practice for Harari people but denying it to other minority ethnic groups would cast doubts on its fairness and impartiality. The board questioned the authenticity of documents that shows a decision made by the HoPR back in 1995 to allow Harari community to elect their representatives while living outside of the region.
In the statement that was released after the emergency meeting , the Cabinet said it noted that voters’ registration is not taking place in the regional state; NEBE’s decision was unacceptable from legal perspective as it was unconstitutional, illegal, unfair, illogical and failed to consider the regional state’s constitution; and that the Regional Cabinet has decided to establish an appropriate body to rectify these problems in an attempt to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law of the State, as well as the decision of the House of Peoples’ Representatives.
Mohiuddin Ahmed, the speaker of the Harari National Congress one of the two bodies of the Harari Regional Council accused the NEBE of failing to ‘do its job’ of verifying the legitimacy of the document with the HoPR. In addition to accusing the board of violating the constitution, Mohiuddin also slammed the NEBE’s directives of failing to adhere to the regional constitution. The speaker of the Harari National Congress warned ”We will implement the people’s demands. If the people don’t want to vote, we will not participate.”
Speaker Mohiuddin Ahmed, however disputes the NEBE position by insisting that the rights of people who live outside the region to elect representatives for the regional council is stated in the regional constitution. He also recalled that a decision was passed by the HoPR during the transitional government in 1995. Mohiuddin cited Article 50 of the
Harari Regional State constitution which states that members of the Harari National Congress can be elected by members of the Harari community living in and outside the region. The board responded by explaining that it would be difficult to conduct the election as the practice is not backed by the constitution as well as the electoral laws and regulations.
Similarly, in a statement released on April 11, the Harari Council of Ontario, Canada, said the Council “as well as all Hararis around the world, condemn the NEBEs’ diktat in limiting Harari voting rights.”
“We see this decision of the NEBE and other recent activities as an encroachment on Harari rights to self determination and a precursor to further disenfranchisement of Hararis”, the statement further said.
According to HCO, the Harari Regional legislature is made up of two chambers: the first, Harari National Assembly (HNA), is a 14-member council made up of Hararis, voted in by Hararis; and the second, Harari Peoples Representative Assembly (HPRA), is a 22-member council open to all. “The HNA’s powers are limited to issues associated with protecting the identity of Hararis in areas of language, culture and history. It should be noted, voting rights for Hararis living outside of the Harari region are extended only to the HNA.” AS