Stop Intimidating Opposition Parties, Electoral Board tells Govt
The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has accused the government of illegally detaining, intimidating and harassing opposition political parties and their leadership.
The regulator of political parties says authorities’ illegal actions are making it difficult for the boars to discharge its legally prescribed basic mandates and responsibilities.
Officials of the NEBE made the latest allegations after political parties were unable to hold general assemblies due to government pressure this month.
All political parties in Ethiopia must periodically hold a general assembly as per the Ethiopian Electoral, Political Parties Registration and Elections Code of Conduct law and the parties’ bylaws.
“However, the parties are increasingly prevented from renting or using meeting halls that they have rented for holding their general meetings,” the board alleged.
“Members and leaders of political parties have also faced detention, intimidation, and harassment before and after their parties have held general meetings.”
The board used what happened to Enat Party, Balderas for a True Democracy, and Gogot for Gurage Unity and Justice Party (Gogot) when attempting to hold their general meetings as a case in point.
As per the parties’ claims confirmed by the NEBE observers, the three parties were either prevented from holding or their officials got arrested after holding the general assembly.
Enat Party was prevented from holding its general meeting at the St. Trinity University Hall on March 5, by the order of an official whose identity is yet to be ascertained, as per the national electoral board.
Balderas for a True Democracy was also prevented from holding its general meeting.
In this case, the board says it was due to the owners/administrators of Gambella Hotel, where the general meeting was supposed to be held, “were threatened by an unnamed state official [not to rent a meeting hall to the party].”
The coordinators of the Gogot were also arrested on 13 March by members of the federal police a day after the party held its general meeting and then transferred to the Southern South Nations Nationalities and Peoples region (SNNPR) state police.
These acts, the board said in a statement, are “unacceptable regardless of who committed them,” stating that holding a general meeting is among the basic political activities that a political party is supposed to conduct.
‘Tantamount to preventing NEBE’s basic duties’
“Not only does the Board find unacceptable the illegal detention, intimidation, and harassment of members and leaders of political parties when trying to hold or after holding the parties general meetings, but also that such actions would prevent the Board from discharging its responsibilities and exercising its basic mandates as defined in the 2019 NEBE Establishment Proclamation,” the board stated.
It also undermines the attempt being made to build multi-party democracy in the country, claims the NEBE, accusing the officials “who committed the violations” of failure to discharge their duty of cooperating with the Board.
They have also violated the country’s Penal Code which “prohibits disturbances of meetings or assemblies,” and “obstruction of government functions and breaches of the duty to cooperate,” according to the board.
“The Ministry of Justice should, therefore, conduct a criminal investigation and prosecute those who are responsible,” it said.
“Concerned government bodies and security organs should give special attention to the matter and ensure that the persecution that political parties are facing ceases.”
The board has also asked the SNNPR police to immediately release Yonatan Solomon and Remedan Mulugeta, the coordinators of the Gogot party.
“State-owned meeting halls should be made available for holding political parties’ general meetings. The offices of the Prime Minister and state presidents should ensure that this is indeed the case,” the Electoral Board added.
Featured Image: Chairperson of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) Birtukan Mideksa speaking at a press briefing. (Photo File)