Letter to the National Election Board of Ethiopia (N.E.B.E)

National Election Board _ Wolayta Committee for Human Rights (WCHR)

Wolayta Committee for Human Rights (WCHR)
Hawassa – Sodo- New York – Washington DC
November 6, 2019

CC: NEBE CHAIRWOMAN BIRTUKAN MIDEKSA
CC: Ethiopian House of Federation 
CC: Ethiopian Human Rights Commission 
CC: Human Rights Watch (HRW) 
CC: UNHCR

Our Ethiopian human rights advocate organization WCHR has repeatedly attempted to reach out to your office regarding the urgent matter of the Sidama referendum and constitutional violations of its procession; particularly with illegal registration of ineligible Sidama voters living inside Wolayta zone borders, illegal identification authorization of new Hawassa residents; the xenophobic activities of top Sidama officials directly involved in the referendum and the major city self-rule precedent set on Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa vis-a-vis Hawassa as established by the administration of Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed. 

  • On October 10, 2019, WCHR expressed deep concern on the random re-imprisonment of Wolayta residents and anti-secession Sidama activists in Hawassa wereda. We also condemned nativism harassment of residents labeled as “foreign businessmen” by youth in the name of “Ejeto” which were financed and organized by the same Sidama zone officials who are supposed to be trusted to independently run this referendum. 
  • On October 15, 2019, we expressed our concern that anti-secession Sidama and non-Sidama residents have been denied fair and equivalent voice on the local radio, tv and other media outlets of the zone. It is to be noted that, just like any election, NEBE has a vital responsibility to monitor and correct unfair infrastructural advantage or disadvantage between two or more parties involved in any election/referendum; which might otherwise deem the results to be illegitimate, contested and potentially lead to violence. Also, since guaranteeing such an equal share of media and infrastructural distribution is a difficult task due to the undemocratic nature of unelected local officials, WCHR has thus recommended that NEBE postpone the referendum until both the Sidama Zone and Hawassa city democratically elect their representatives in the 2020 election.
  • On October 19, 2019, WCHR published a statement titled “Leave Hawassa, go back home!” to re-express our concern with the growing xenophobia and targeted harassment of so-called “outsiders” and “Neftegnas” which has become synonymous with virtually all Ethiopians opposing nativism and xenophobia in the zone. In that statement, we also asked that “Sidama officials stop organizing a referendum inside the Wolayta zone wereda of ABELA” as soon as possible; which otherwise would lead to a deadly conflict between nativist Wolayta elites and Sidama nationalists. Lastly, we reminded the NEBE to guarantee that displaced residents (who became refugees out of Sidama zone due to various ethnic violence incidents in recent years, particularly after the June-August 2018 Wolayta Massacre) be given an opportunity to either return home first OR at least be allowed to vote (wherever they are, as long as they display credible identification /proof of prior residence) in the upcoming referendum, according to the Ethiopian Constitution and according to the NEBE’s own recent declaration that “all legal residents” can participate in the referendum.  

WCHR recommends that NEBE address these urgent concerns as well as provide legitimacy and transparency to the process that will impact millions of Ethiopian citizens. 

Thank You 
Wolayta Committee for Human Rights (WCHR)
Hawassa – Sodo- New York Washington DC



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