Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) accuse Election Board of unilaterally postponing the scheduled election
April 3, 2020
Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) blasts the National Election Board of Ethiopia for postponing General Election, which was initially scheduled to take place in late August 2020.
The two organizations have issued a joint statement criticizing the Board on the way it postponed the election. They said they understand “COVID 19 has posed a challenge to the election schedule and its implementation,” as quoted by BBC Amharic service.
Their criticism has something to do with procedures.
Last week, OLF announced that it has partly closed its office in Addis Ababa due to the Coronavirus situation in the country.
OLF and OFC confirmed that the Board organized a consultative meeting on March 21, 2020, with political parties, which they attended. However, they claim that what was decided at the end of the meeting was to organize another round of consultative meetings. What the Board did instead, they argue, is that it came up with the decision canceling the scheduled election. “It is inappropriate,” they said.
The parties seem to claim that preventing the COVID 19 pandemic and preparation for the next general election is something that could be undertaken concomitantly.
BBC Amharic service cited them as saying that “they will do their part to eradicate the problems that the COVID 19 is posing in all sectors. But they also called on preparation for the election to take place alongside actions needed to prevent the pandemic.”
The two major ethnic Oromo Nationalist Parties tend to think that “extending the next national election and deciding the fate of the country could bring about a worse national crisis.” They argue that all stakeholders need to be a part of the decision making about the next steps regarding the general elections.
On March 31, the election Board announced that it can not go ahead with the election schedule due to Coronavirus. So far, no other opposition political parties opposed the decision.
According to the election Schedule that the Board released in mid-February this year, many of the critical election-related activities, including training election officials and voter registration, among other activities, were supposed to take place starting next month.
The Ethiopian government has introduced a range of COVID 19 prevention measures that could negatively impact most of the activities that need to happen for the election to take place. Likewise, regional administrations exercised their devolved powers to take preventive measures against the spread of the pandemic. Many of them, for example, banned transregional public transportation. Some have imposed a total lockdown in selected cities like in the case of Amhara region. Others, like in the case of the Tigray region, have banned the movement of people or public transport between the countryside and urban centers. Until April 3, 2020, Ethiopia reported 35 confirmed cases of Coronavirus patients, of which three have entirely recovered from it according to information from the Ministry of Health. However, there are fears that the number could climb higher in the weeks to come.
The Election Board has not responded to OLF and OFC accusation at this writing.
In the past few months, the OLF has been accusing the government of shutting phone and internet service in the Wollega region of Ethiopia – a region where an armed wing of Oromo Liberation Front operates. Over the past two years, the region has a history of a security crisis. Several government officials, both from Oromo regional state and the adjacent Benishangul Gumuz regional state, have been killed. In December 2019, the militant group kidnapped more 17 Dembi Dollo University students whose whereabouts are unknown yet. Earlier this week, Shimeles Abdisa, who is the acting president of Oromo regional state, announced that he has decided to restore the internet and telephone service in the region.
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