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News: US “gravely concerned” about election environment as lack of security, irregularities besiege the process; calls for post-election inclusive dialogue

Birtukan Mideksa, Chairwoman of NEBE. Picture: NEBE

By Bileh Jelan @BilehJelan

Addis Abeba, June 12/2021 – In a statement released last night by the State Department, the United States said it was “gravely concerned about the environment under which these upcoming elections are to be held,” and cited “the detention of opposition politicians, harassment of independent media, partisan activities by local and regional governments, and the many inter-ethnic and inter-communal conflicts across Ethiopia,” as obstacles to a free and fair electoral process and whether Ethiopians would perceive them as credible.”  The U.S. Also said the “exclusion of large segments of the electorate from this contest due to security issues and internal displacement is particularly troubling.”

The statement came in the backdrop yet postponement of the election as the activities by the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) continue to be besieged by lack of security and irregularities including logistics, and the latest announcement of defect in ballot papers.

The 6th general is not taking place as scheduled in three regional states: Tigray, Somali and Harari, and several dozens of conscientiousness in other regional states including Oromia and Benishangul Gumuz due to a combined effects of ongoing conflicts, voter registration irregularities, legal issues to be sorted, logistics, as well as latest discovery by the Board of defect in ballot papers.

In the latest such twist, on June 11 the Electoral Board said it has disqualified as “illegal” 79 polling stations that were opened without its approval. It subsequently disqualified two polling stations in Addis Abeba and six polling stations in Dire Dawa City Administrations respectively, as well as 71 polling stations in SNNPRS that were opened without its approval. It said it will announce its decision on the already registered voters in these polling stations before the general election day on June 21.

The U.S. Said it recognizes “the efforts that the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) and its staff have made to prepare for these elections at a time when so many Ethiopians are suffering and dying from violence and acute food insecurity caused by conflict.”

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has repeatedly rejected calls for inclusive dialogue from various stakeholders and equated the concept as attempts by various individuals to “share power.”

However, it cautioned that these elections “should not be seen as a singular event but rather as part of a democratic political process that involves dialogue, cooperation, and compromise,” and urged “the Government of Ethiopia and all Ethiopians to commit to an inclusive, post-election political dialogue to determine a path forward to strengthen the country’s democracy and national unity.”

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Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has repeatedly rejected calls for inclusive dialogue from various stakeholders and equated the concept as attempts by various individuals to “share power.” Similarly, leaders of the second largest party running for the election, Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (Ezema), led by Dr. Berhanu Nega, have repeatedly dismissed previous calls for inclusive national dialogue as a viable way to settle the political violence rocking the country.

In the statement, the U.S. urged “politicians and community leaders to reject violence and to refrain from inciting others.  All political actors and community leaders to reject violence and “seek to resolve grievances through negotiation, dialogue, and recognized non-violent dispute resolution mechanisms.” AS

Read the full statement here.

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