Voter Registration for Sidama Referendum in Awassa is Marred by Massive Voter Fraud

Ethiopian authorities _ Hawassa _ Voter registration

By Damo Gotamo
November 12, 2019

In the past few days, massive fraudulent activities have been taking place in Awassa. In the name of voter registration for the Sidama referendum, egregious crimes have been committed in broad daylight. The toothless government in Ethiopia and its week institution responsible for overseeing the process, are watching on the sidelines when  a few Sidama extremists have been openly engaged in large-scale voter fraud. 

Based on what has been transpiring so far, the outcome of the Sidama referendum is a predetermined event. The whole process has been staged and given a democratic cover up to deceive the people of Ethiopia. What has been taking place in Awassa in the last few days makes it abundantly clear that the Ethiopian government is cooperating with the Sidama extremists in the illegal activity. The crimes in Awassa would not have been committed if Ethiopia has a government committed to law and order, and upholds the basic democratic principles.  

In the last few days, Awassa has been swarmed by people who came in mass from the villages in the Sidama zone. The strangers travelled from Benesa, Abela, Chuko, Dore, Bafona and other villages all the way to Awassa to receive new IDs and voter registration cards. On November 23, 2019, they will cast their illegally received cards in Awassa where they have never lived and hardly know the city. 

The Sidama ethnic group accounts for less than 10% of Awassa’s population. Among the eight Kefele Ketemas of the city’s  population, only Tabor and Tula have a large number of ethnic Sidamas. In other districts, their number doesn’t exceed more than 150 people, which means 25 people in each district. Many thousands of illegal IDs have been issued from the six Kefele Ketemas to people who have never set foot in Awassa. 

In Piazza Kebele alone, seven thousand illegal IDs have been issued to people who live outside Awassa. According to my sources, the number of residents in Piazza Kebele does not exceed more than 1500. Apparently, the Sidama extremists had prepared a bogus list indicating the people in Piazza are seven thousand. More than five thousand illegal IDs were prepared and distributed to people who have never lived in Awassa!

The Sidama extremists started issuing Illegal IDs to the non residents of the city a long time ago. In Bahel Adarash district, the chairman of Harar Kebele has his own stamp he carries with him and has been issuing illegal IDs to non-residents for more than a year. 

In Adare Keble, the chairman Negash Atsbeha, suspected TPLF agent, has prepared more than 800 IDs in three days and passed it to the Sidama extremists who are in charge of the Bahel Adarash Kefele Ketema. In Piazza Kebele, four different types of IDs have been prepared and issued to the people of the Sidama ethnic group who came to Awassa by several buses in the past few days. 

In all the eight districts in Awassa, for more than a year, a directive has been issued not to give new IDs to residents of the city. However, the directive has not been applied against the Sidamas in the city. Against the directive, several thousands of IDs have been issued to people who have never lived in Awassa for a day. 

The main coordinator of the crime in Awassa is an individual by the name of Kebede Waiso. He has lived in Awassa for a few years and has been responsible for carrying the list of strangers who would be issued illegal IDs in Awassa. 

In the past three days, people who have already received illegal IDs and who live outside Awassa have also been congesting Awassa. Many residents of Awassa have been watching in awe when strangers have been asking them for the directions of the Kebeles in Awassa. The people who have followed the newcomers to the Kebeles told me they saw registration cards being handed to them. 

Two days ago, an innocent Awassa resident was beaten senselessly by the Sidama ethnic thugs for allegedly breaking the Misrak Tabia voter registration site. He was forced to appear in court for a crime he has not committed. The Command Pos, which is supposed to protect Ethiopians from criminals, has done nothing to help the innocent man. 

From what I have seen so far in Awassa,  the Sidama extremists have been doing anything they want. I have not seen anyone from the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) to monitor what has been going in Awassa. The Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs issue illegal IDs and voter registration cards. They also serve as observers in different Kefele Ketemas in Awassa. 

Birtukan Midkesa, the chairwoman of the NEBE, said to have been infuriated when she visited the Meneharia Kefele Ketema voter registration center. She could not see any observer from the NEBE and did not recognize the people who were sitting as observers. Birtukan has witnessed illegal activities in Awassa first hand, and has not said anything about it. 

It is an enigma to many people why the NEBE has decided to conduct a shame referendum in the first place. Would it not be easier to allow the Sidama extremists declare their own Kelil before the death of many innocent people and destruction of properties? Why did several members of the military and federal police have sacrificed their lives for the process to be manipulated and hijacked by a few Sidama extremists?

Why is the government squandering seventy million birr of the taxpayers money to hold a fake referendum whose outcome has already been determined? Why not spend the money building schools for the poor Sidama children? 

We have already seen how the corrupt Sidama extremists have been spending the money. They have been spending a large sum of money as per dime payments for themselves. Thousands of birr has been wasted on placards and tee shirts that bear empty slogans. Quite a large amount of money has been wasted on transportation to bring people from the countryside to Awassa to give them illegal IDs and voter registration cards. 

It should be clear to everyone that the residents of Awassa have been discouraged from participating in the upcoming referendum. They will have nothing to do with it. A few people in the city have been issued a voting card, and they are determined not to cast their ballot. The government of Abiy and the Sidama extremists have effectively stifled their voices. 

The people of Ethiopia must know that the Sidama referendum is fake and intended to to appease a few Sidama extremists. Its result will not be accepted by the residents of Awassa. Even the people of Sidama have not been informed about the pros and cons of the Sidama statehood. They have been fed empty promises by the Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs without clearly understanding the ramifications of the Sidama statehood. Many reasonable Sidama people have not been given the opportunity to tell their people the negative sides of the Sidama statehood. 

Many people in awassa are predicting the scam of the Sidama extremists will backfire soon, and they will have to respond for their hollow promises and deception. Being Kelil has not brought anything to the people of Oromo, Amhara, Tigraye, and others except death and destruction. 

In Awassa, the NEBE has proved beyond any doubt that it can’t oversee a local referendum, let alone a national election. It is a very weak institution with a history of overseeing fraudulent elections and a tool used to create immense suffering against the people of Ethiopia. It has continued to be a useless institutions under the current government. 

If the toothless government of Abiy to be considered credible, it must reschedule the fake Sidama referendum and carry out a more transparent process in the future. The upcoming referendum will not be credible when many thousands non residents of Awassa with illegal IDs are being prepared to cast a ballot in Awassa. The people of Awassa have been mere spectators and have no part in the process, while thousands of strangers will be paraded in their city to engage in the illegal activity. 

What has angered many residents of Awassa is the inaction of the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) and the Command Post when the Sidama extremists have been engaged in a massive fraud Awassa has never seen before. The NEBE has left everything to Sidama extremists without putting any controlling mechanism to monitor the group with a fraudulent history. Except deceiving the people of Ethiopia by disseminating false information such as  ‘the Sidama referendum voter registration is taking place smoothly’, the NEBE has done nothing to ensure its integrity and the participation of the main stakeholders in the process. 

The Command Post also has done nothing when the Sidama extremists engage in massive criminal activities and harassing the people of Awassa using their positions. Instead of removing the ethnic thugs from power in Awassa, the Command Post left them to do whatever they want. 

Right after the infamous 11-11-11, the leaders of the military gathered the residents of Awassa and encouraged them to vent their frustrations against the Sidama extremists, only to leave them unprotected from the threats of the thugs. People in Awassa say the leaders of the Command Post are leading a luxurious life, abandoning the people of Awassa to the criminals they came to catch. They left the city to ethnic entrepreneurs, who have caused immense misery to the people of the region. Many innocent residents of the city are still being rounded up and jailed by the extremists, while the leaders of the Command Post doing nothing to protect them. I believe the weak leadership in Addis Ababa has made the Command Post ineffective and crippled its mission. 

Many people believe the government of Abiy has left the Sidama extremists in Awassa on their positions deliberately so that they could engage in voter fraud. It is clear to everyone that the toothless government and its agencies have left the Sidama extremists to do whatever they want. The residents of Awassa have been helpless to the crimes in Awassa and have no one to turn for help. 

I would like to make a very important point to all Ethiopians who are reading this article to take to heart. The main objective of the Sidama extremists in wanting to have their own Kelil is to have absolute control over the finance of Awassa and steal the properties of Ethiopians in the city. If they get the opportunity to control the city, they will engage in a massive displacement scheme. The Sidama ethnic entrepreneurs live and die to take properties they have not worked for.

The thugs in Awassa have done everything to change the demography of the city,including bringing strangers to the city and issuing illegal IDs. They have been saying to people who would listen that Awassa has been developed using coffee from Sidama. 

The fraudulent activities of the last few days( Issuing thousands of illegal IDs to non residents the city) are intended to tell us that the Sidamas are the majority in Awassa. 

If a real referendum to be conducted to determine the fate of Awassa in the future, thousands of phony residents of the city who live in the villages in Sidama zone must be identified and screened. The Sidama extremists must also know the people in Awassa will not watch in silence if they try to repeat the scam of the past few days in the future. Awassa residents don’t believe the current government is capable of protecting them and will do everything to protect themselves. 

For the upcoming Sidama referendum to be credible and legal, the recent voter registration in Awassa must be rejected. People who don’t live in the city have been groomed and prepared to vote illegally in Awassa. The criminals who have been engaged in the fraud must be prosecuted. Until a transparent and democratic voter registration takes place, the Sidama referendum must be postponed. Ethiopians everywhere must be prepared to reject the illegal referendum because it is a scam perpetrated against the people of the country. 

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