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News: OFC says, again,very difficult to participate in election under current conditions; cautions threat to multinational federalism “dangerous move”

Members of OFC: From left Bekele Gerba, vice chairman, Merera Gudina, Chairman, Jawar Mohammed, member, Hamza Borana, member, and Dejene Tafa, 2nd vice chairman in charge of political affairs. All but Merera are currently facing both, terrorism and criminal charges . Picture: Bale Robe during campaign trip in 2019. Social media

By Medihane Ekubamichael @Medihane 

Addis Abeba, January 09/2021 – Opposition party Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) has released yet another statement last night saying that the party will find it “very difficult” to participate in the coming general elections scheduled to take place on June 05/2021.

The statement, the second in as many weeks, said that repeated the calls that “it will be very difficult for us to participate in the election, as our leaders, members and supporters, who would be participating, coordinating and observing, have been arrested and others have been displaced and our offices have been forcibly closed.”

The party has made a similar call on December 09 last year in which it said it finds it “extremely hard” to take part in coming elections under the existing conditions in the country whereby many of its leadership as well as rank and file members remained jailed, most of its offices are closed by the government, and the free movements of its members are restricted.

“As the OFC has repeatedly expressed in the past, it finds it extremely difficult to take part in the election when the majority of its members from federal to Kebelle (small districts) level who are competing, coordinating, and observing elections are imprisoned, and majority of its offices, except for its headquarters, are closed.”

The OFC has requested an immediate effort to reach at a national consensus before holding the elections, a call it repeated in its latest release yesterday “despite falling on deaf ears.”

In addition to calls for national consensuses and the release of its members, OFC’s latest statement also warned that the growing calls by “right-wing forces that oppose the constitution and the multinational federalism [and] push forward with threat to it” was reverberating among “those in control of the scepter of power who are also seen working to reverse the federal structure.” it said, and cautioned “OFC understands that this is a dangerous move.”

It is to be recalled that on September 30 last year OFC had called for “genuine national dialogue” and warned that “Ethiopia has entered a new year with all its heavy political burdens – with both hope and despair. And without a shadow of doubt, the hoped-for democratic transition is disturbingly failing.”

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The following is a translation of OFC’s January 08 statement

The expansion of the political space is crucial for our political problems as well as for free, fair and democratic elections!

Statement from the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) on current affairs of our country

Since its inception, the Oromo Federal Congress has been an organization that believes in peaceful dialogue and negotiation and has stressed the need for dialogue, discussion and negotiation to solve our country’s political problems.  It is known that it has been working for free, fair and democratic elections with the aim of holding public office.  Accordingly, many of our members have made great sacrifices in our years of bitter struggle against the EPRDF-led government for the democratization of the federal system, interference in the autonomy of the states and the abolition of the caretaker administration.

OFC leaders, members, and supporters from the center to the lower echelons were killed, arrested, tortured, deported, and persecuted.  Still today, countless OFC members and supporters, from the top to the bottom, are being tortured and imprisoned in various concentration camps, including police stations, special forces camps, corporate offices, prisons, and classrooms, simply because they stand up for the rights and freedoms of their people. 

On the other hand, using the current Ethiopian crisis, right-wing forces have begun to push political parties established based on the constitution and identity out of the political space by claiming that the the multinational federalism we got in its shape is too much. There are more and more organizations working on condemning the question of nations together with the TPLF, forgetting that it was raised before the formation of the TPLF. We say that these right-wing forces should be warned on time.

The purpose of the Oromo Federalist Congress is to ensure that the people of the Oromia region are represented only in the federal system of the people and in democratic elections, and that their basic democratic right to self-determination, without being ashamed of their identity, neither being lesser nor greater than anyone, is respected in accordance with international principles.  However, while the right-wing forces that oppose the constitution and the multinational federalism push forward with threat to it, those in control of the scepter of power are also seen working to reverse the federal structure.  OFC understands that this is a dangerous move.

OFC has been urging to resolve political differences through national dialogue, fearing that a war alternative could harm our poor country and benefit of our people, and thereby hasten the downfall of our country.  Neither the government nor the ruling party are listening to us. 

What is more surprising is that the government, the ruling party, and the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) have set a timeline for the sixth general election, leaving aside efforts to bring about national consensus that has been ongoing for three years from Addis Abeba to Arba Minch and Bishoftu. It is known that competing parties, the Ethiopian people, and international observers have denied that all five previous elections were free, fair, credible, and did not meet international standards. In the current situation, with the treatment of the government and its allies, it seems naive to expect the next election to be free, fair and credible.

Therefore:  The Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) has called for participatory negotiations and discussions on the complex problems of our country and the transition to democracy despite falling on deaf ears, the part will still present the following questions and suggestions.

1. The FDRE government, in accordance with the human and democratic rights enshrined in the Constitution and the international law adopted by our country, should immediately release our party leaders, members, supporters and other sections of the society who have been imprisoned for their political positions and ensure that political parties operate freely.  We also strongly urge that our offices, which have been closed by government forces, be reopened.  We would like to inform the people of Ethiopia and all concerned bodied that it will be very difficult for us to participate in the election, as our leaders, members and supporters, who would be participating, coordinating and observing, have been arrested and others have been displaced and our offices have been forcibly closed.

2. We urge the government and the ruling party to urgently facilitate the situation so that the leaders and members of the police, special forces and militias engaged in different parts of the country work independently of party politics and respect the democratic and human rights of citizens.

3. The state-run media is only reflecting the interests of the ruling party.  Some so-called private media outlets that have close ties to the government sing a single melody calling for the government to use force to destroy ethnic and nationalist parties. Such an approach will not benefit our country.  Therefore, we respectfully request all media outlets to work diligently to provide information to Ethiopians so that the public can understand the general situation of our country and fulfill their professional duties.

4. Law is enacted to protect and guarantee the security of citizens, whereas development and prosperity are unthinkable by just only saying them repeatedly in a country where law and order are not respected.  Extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, displacements, and intimidation are taking place in various areas outside of the provisions of the Constitution.  The police rearrests a citizen whose release of had been ordered by the courts under unidentified authorization.  Government officials who commit crimes under the guise of government shall not be prosecuted. There are very few, though.  We therefore call on the courts, the criminal investigation department and the police to be independent of any party or group and to support the efforts to build good governance and democracy.

5. We entrust the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to monitor the inhumane and undemocratic activities in various parts of the country and fulfill its legal obligations and play its role in saving our people from massacre.

6. We are at a critical juncture in which our country’s political forces can narrow our differences and create a national consensus and achieve a successful democratic transition.  We urge the government, the ruling party and the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia to put an end to their policy of holding free, fair and acceptable elections and to create a conducive political environment.

In conclusion:  What we want to leave to the people of Ethiopia and history is that we have failed to develop and modernize our politics for the past fifty years and we have been struggling from one crisis to another, from one transition to another.  The result is being seen.  Unfortunately because we have not learned from our recent history, we are in a situation where our priests, sheikhs, Aba Geda’s, and elders find it difficult to bring about national consensus for the past three years.  We are seeing the pros and cons with the Ethiopian people.

For the past three years, we are struggling with a dream of bringing about a peaceful, free and fair election without a national consensus and agreement on a common roadmap for a successful democratic transition.  Therefore, to avoid that this is not becoming a fool’s marathon, our organization respectfully calls on all Ethiopian political forces and the Ethiopian people, who are truly organized for the rights and freedoms of your people, to work together to save our country from this difficult time.

There is no alternative than a national consensus to bring a successful democratic transition!

 Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC)

 Finfinne:  January 8, 2021

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