By Medihane Ekubamichael @Medihane
Addis Ababa, January 23, 2021 — In a letter addressed to the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), said the government’s continued blockade of its headquarters in Addis Abeba using police forces and the closure of several of its branch offices in various places is having undue pressure on the organization’s capacity to organize and participate in the coming elections. The OLF also criticized the neutrality of the Electoral Board for failing to respond to its repeated complaints on the matter for five months.
Signed by its Chairperson, Dawud Ibssa, OLF’s letter recalled the Ethiopian Electoral, Political Parties Registration and Election’s Code of Conduct Proclamation that stipulates a National Political Party registered with the Electoral Board has the right to open branch offices throughout the country and to move peacefully and freely; and the Electoral Board Establishment Proclamation which stated that the National Electoral Board has a responsibility to register, monitor and control in accordance with the law, and to facilitate and ensure the free and fair participation of parties in regular elections, while the Board is also entrusted to examine complaints filed by political parties and make an immediate decision.
However, the OLF says it has not been able to get such solutions from the Electoral Board despite its repeated complaints on several occasions regarding widespread violations of the fundamental rights of political parties by government security forces. The letter mentioned an example of the closure of its branch offices by security forces in many places, and the seizure of its headquarters by members of Addis Abeba Police as of August 1, 2020.
The party complains that its headquarter was illegally occupied by members of the city police and most of the organization’s officials, including its chairman Dawud Ibssa, continued to be barred by the city police from accessing the office. This is, according to the letter, hampering the party’s ability to move freely, open offices, organize its grassroots base, and recruit candidates in order to participate in the coming election.
Such violation of the rights of political parties by the government and the continued inaction of the Electoral Board to resolve them is undemocratic act which will hinder the prospects of peaceful process of building multi-party democratic system, the party said, and added both the governing party and the Electoral Board were responsible for it.
OLF also complained that NEBE’s unwillingness to resolve its complains for the past five months was leading it to question the Board’s neutrality and its execution capacity.
The letter urged NEBE to facilitate withdrawal of security forces from its headquarters and ensure the party’s right to freely operate in the election which is a mere four months away. AS
Below is the full translation of the letter
Date: 18/01/2021. Ref. Number: 009 / xly / abo / 2021
To Office of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia
Subject: In regard to the central office of our organization
It is well known that our organization, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), since its return to country has been undergoing peaceful and legitimate political struggle after fulfilling what is expected from a political party and registering itself with the National Electoral Board.
Pursuant to Article 76 (1) of Proclamation 1162/2011, a National Political Party registered with the Electoral Board has the right to open branch offices throughout the country and to move peacefully and freely. Pursuant to Article 7 (3 and 9) of the Establishment Proclamation 1133/2011, it is also clearly stated that the National Electoral Board has a responsibility to register, monitor and control in accordance with the law, and to facilitate and ensure the free and fair participation of parties in regular elections.
In addition, Article 7 (19) of Proclamation 1133/2011 stipulates that the Electoral Board should examine the complaints lodged with political parties and make an immediate decision.
However, although the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has on several occasions complained of widespread violations of the fundamental rights of political parties by government security forces, we have not been able to get solutions to date.
One of these complaints was the closure of our branch offices by security forces everywhere, in particular the seizure of our headquarters by the Addis Abeba Police since August 1, 2020.
Since our headquarter was illegally occupied by the police and most of the organization’s officials, including the chairman of the organization, left the office by the police force, and barred by Addis Abeba City Police officers assigned to guard the premises from our office, it has affected us, hampered our ability to move freely and open offices everywhere, to organize our people, and to recruit candidates.
We find this not only an illegal act that violates the right to freedom of movement of political parties, but also a dangerous anti-democratic state crime that impedes the building process of multi-party democracy and erodes the political space.
This was done in the run up to the general election while it is known that this act is an illegal act that is being planned by the ruling party to prevent our party from participating in this national election and to avoid peaceful political competition. We are saddened that the Board has not resolved this complaint for the past five months despite we were repeatedly complaining. It also forced us to question the board’s neutrality and executive capacity.
With just four months to go until the sixth national election deadline, with one month to go before the registration of candidates and campaigning, and with less than three weeks to go to a general assembly, and while we are expected to amend our bylaw in line with the comments we have been advised, we find that the seizure of our headquarter without a court order and the illegal intervention of the police is not only a violation of the law, but also a threat to the very existence of the organization. While it is the responsibility of the Electoral Board to rectify this illegal activity and create a conducive environment for the free movement of political parties, we have not seen any action taken by the Board in this regard.
Therefore, we urge the National Electoral Board to immediately vacate the illegally invaded headquarters and ensure our right to freely operate. Given that the situation at our headquarters is unresolved and we do not have any offices in the country, it should be well known that we are facing deliberately set circumstances hindering us from holding a general assembly or running in the election. I would like to point out that it is the government that closes our offices by security forces who will be responsible for any influence and pressure on our organization and that of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia which has failed to address this situation in a timely manner.
Victory for the masses!
Dawud Ibssa Ayana