(OLF-OLA High Command)
When Abiy Ahmed came to the helm of power on the back of the Oromo Protest in April 2018, many hoped that the culmination of the two years transitional process would be the conduct of free, fair, and credible elections for the first time in the country’s history. However, it did not take too long for these hopes to begin to wane and ultimately dashed. After the ruling group reaps a cheap political victory under the banner of ‘allowing opposition political parties to enter the country, the regime wasted no time. Propaganda campaigns on both social and conventional media against all federalist forces began in earnest.
At the peak of these smear and disinformation campaigns, and despite concerted efforts by many to give primacy for dialogue, the regime entered into an open military campaign in the western and southern parts of Oromia against OLA. In hindsight, it is now clear that the regime never desired the end of hostilities and reintegration of freedom fighters into the police and security apparatus of the state as had been agreed upon in the ‘Asmara Covenant’ in August 2018. Instead of integrating freedom fighters into the society and effectively ending armed aggressions, the regime chose to conveniently use the continued presence of hostilities as a pretext to push the OLF out of the peaceful political struggle by citing a nonexistent link with armed insurgents.
The Covid-19 pandemic came amid a continued crackdown in Oromia to weaken the opposition before the anticipated August 2020 election. While the pandemic has given rise to various objective conditions that render holding meaningful nationwide elections difficult, the process that led to the elections’ postponement was mired in questionable legal and political processes. Legally speaking, since the constitution left no room for the extension of parliamentary term limits, postponement of the election required a new political settlement with the exiting political forces which the regime rejected with little to no qualms.
As the opposition and disapproval to this illegal extension of power intensify from all directions, the regime used the assassination of one of our brightest sons—artist Hacaaluu Hundeessaa—to further continue its crackdown including, now, at the higher echelons of every formidable political opposition—left, right and center. To this day, the assassination of Hacaaluu and many other high-profile political killings remains uninvestigated by an independent third party.
Having done such a heavy-handed crackdown against all forces that espouse regional autonomy and self-determination in the country’s southern half, the ruling PP is now prosecuting the same ideological war in Tigray as an extension to its crackdown in Oromia and the wider south. Today, the people of Tigray, are on the receiving end of a meaningless vendetta being pursued by Issaias Afwerki from Asmara and the neo-neftegna elite from Ethiopia’s capital.
After a major diplomatic blunder by the ruling party in which it agreed to a US-mediated settlement on the GERD, Ethiopia has lost Sudan as an ally, and the country is now on the verge of a full-blown military confrontation with another neighboring state.
We live in a country in which members of the opposition including high-ranking political leadership are arrested on the whim of the ruling party willy-nilly; kept in appalling conditions, including when they were fully acquitted by courts, or even by the state prosecution in some cases. We live in a country where offices of the opposition—beginning from their headquarters—are raided and controlled by the ruling party at will.
The recent designation of the OLA as a ‘terrorist group’ is another attempt at denying the Oromo people any agency in the ongoing political process, including elections. While the designation does not entail much change on the situation on the ground, it has served the regime as a pretext to avoid any negotiated political settlement on the country’s future. It has also provided a legal license to intimidate further and humiliate the Oromo people. The recent public execution of an under-aged Amanuel Wondimu in Dambi Dolo town of west Oromia is a case in point. In addition to unleashing the wrath of the Abiy’s neo-neftegna clique on our people, the designation of OLA as a ‘terrorist group’ is a clear case of denying our people any alternative, however remote, to proper representation.
It is within this general context that the country is now holding a nationwide general election. It is a fact known to everybody that elections are not merely about the day of casting ballots. The most important aspect of an election is the process that leads to Election Day. Elections are judged by the totality of the processes that lead to the casting of secret ballots. It is primarily based on the process that elections are arbitrated to have been free, fair, and impartial. This process needs to allow space for political parties to operate freely, independent media to flourish, an election board and judiciary that is capable of functioning independently.
Much less to be fair, free, and credible; this is an election the result of which is already predetermined. For a rational observer, this is a non-election that should not be conducted at all. There is no reason to conduct such an expensive election to be financed from the coffers of a poor country in which hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of its people are starving to death.
Therefore, as does the entire world, we already know that this election IS NOT free, fair, or credible. Nor does it make an iota of difference in ending the suffering of our people. Yes, it fails on all such accounts! However, the biggest problem with this election is not the fact that it fails to be free, fair, and credible. The election doesn’t just fail to be credible, it also puts the country on a path to more destruction and chaos. It does so because, after the election:
- Abiy’s PP will begin to masquerade as a legitimate party with a fresh mandate from the electorate
- PP will Intensify the heavy-handed crackdown against all forces that do not subscribe to the project of resurrecting the Ethiopian Empire
- Abiy and his right-wing comrades will move on to imposing a new political people of the country at the core of which will be the dismemberment of states—chiefly Oromia.
The action or inaction of the people determines the future of the nation. Therefore, the Oromo and all oppressed nations in the country should:
- Refrain from participating in this sham election
- As security threats loom large, stay at home and protect each other on election day
- Halt all transportations within and across cities and town on election day
- Use all means available to you to inform each other and the international community about the true nature of this election.
Victory to the Oromo and oppressed people!
June 18, 2021
OLF-OLA High Command