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News: Opposition party in restive Benishangul region asks immediate elections in constituencies skipped for security, condemns claims of ‘ancestral land ownership’

Members of the BDP Executive committee. Photo: BDP

Addis Ababa – Boro Democratic Party (BDP) has urged the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) to conduct the delayed 6th National election in parts of the Benishangul Gumuz region; the party also condemned groups who it says are destabilizing the region by spreading a “false narrative” of “restoring ancestral lands.”

In a statement it released yesterday, the party said that election was not held in most parts of Benishangul Gumuz when the 6th national election was conducted in June 2021, due to insecurities in the region. BDP’s executive committee said that the current regional council consisted members who were elected during the 2015 elections and as such whose term limits had been expired.

Elections did not take place in four constituencies in Benishangul Gumuz regional state namely, Shinasha Special Election Region; Kamash constituency; and Dalit constituency. in 2021 due to security and logistical problems. Out of the total 99 seats of the regional council, elections were held only in 28, which were all won by ruling prosperity party, but that doesn’t meet the minimum threshold required by regional constitution to form a government.

BDP said security situations have now been improved and it has confirmed through inspection that it is possible to hold delayed elections. As a result the party requested NEBE to come up with a timetable that will help to hold general and local elections in the region in the shortest period of time, adding that, other constitutional options should be explored if elections cannot be conducted this year.

According to the statement, which followed the party’s Executive Committee meeting held from 30 to 31 of December 2022 in Asossa City, over the last four years, the party had been urging anti-peace forces who have been working to destabilize the region by introducing conflict instigating agendas to restrain from their deeds.

“Among these chaotic agendas, some self-representing elements came up with a fabricated narrative that says, “Metekel is our ancestral land, we will restore our ownership” and they have been exerting greater effort to “undermine the constitutional system and disrupt the peaceful coexistence of ethnic groups lived together for centuries.”

The party called on regional and federal authorities in collaboration with neighboring regions to take legal actions against such groups.

In October 2020, four out of the five Amhara Identity and Boundaries Committee coalition agreed to include Metekel Zone as “Amhara territory” to pursue claims to incorporate the zone into Amhara region.  The committee said Metekel is one of the territories belonging to the Amhara people that was forcibly annexed into the Benishandul Gumuz region after the formation of the EPRDF government to power in 1991.

Metekel has became a zone marred by sporadic violence including killings of civilians over the past years and apart from the security crisis, tensions often run high due to the claims on the ownership status of the zone itself.

The other point the BDP party raised was its concerns on little known peace deals the regional government signed with rebel groups. While applauding the efforts to bring peace by signing agreements, BDP urged the reintegration of militants into the public and security forces to take place cautiously and based on the agreements.

The Benishangul Gumuz regional government has so far signed peace agreements with two rebel groups operating in the region. AS

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