We Still Strongly Believe that National Dialogue is a Key to a Successful Democratic Transition
(A Statement by the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) Regarding Ethiopia’s Upcoming Elections)
The Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), which was created out of a merger of two Oromo-based parties: the Oromo People’s Congress (OPC) and the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) in 2012 have participated in most elections held in the country for the last 30 years. In 2005 ONC (renamed OPC) won 43 seats in the National Parliament and 105 seats in the Oromia regional Council while OFDM won 11 seats in the National Parliament and 10 seats in the Oromia Regional Council (winning between them 54 parliamentary seats and 125 Regional Council seats). Sadly, we could not get any seat in the successive elections as the result of the ruling party’s determination to win 100% through its machinations of massive rigging. However, despite such open robbery of our people’s votes and when many people lost hope in the struggle – our party had continued the struggle with commitment and determination by mobilizing the Oromo youth (aka Qeerroo) with the other Oromo democratic organizations for which we paid very dearly. We think, our immense contribution to the present change is known to every organization in the struggle and the Ethiopian public at large.
OFC had been prepared to participate in the suspended 2020 elections as well preparing itself to participate in the upcoming elections and sure to make reasonable showing in any ‘free and fair’ elections. All along, it has been tirelessly calling for a genuine national dialogue that can help us to write a new history by ensuring the conduct of both peaceful and credible democratic elections. To put it differently, OFC strongly believes that a successful national dialogue is a bed rock for both durable peace and stability as well as a successful democratic transition. Furthermore, given the existing Ethiopian situation as this is a major point of departure, OFC has been expressing its intentions and concerns at all meetings and engagements – from the smallest to larger meetings that included the Prime Minister himself. Over the course of the past three years, it also used all available opportunities and venues, such as press releases and conferences to advise the ruling party to abandon the legacy of its authoritarian past and help us create a common road map for the success of the hoped-for democratic transition. However, the ruling party with its lust for power has refused to take our advice seriously and address our concerns as the result of which the country is pushed to a political dead-end.
In a nutshell, to wholeheartedly participate in the elections, we have been asking the following very basic and straightforward questions – the PM office, the country’s Election Board, the other concerned authorities, which if genuinely addressed facilitate our participation:
- Our party offices throughout the country from districts to regional levels have been ransacked, looted, and forcefully closed by government cadres through direct and indirect threats of our members. We have been asking for the stoppage of such outrageous and illegal actions, especially during election season.
- Our party members, who can campaign, mobilize, organize, and compete in the planned elections – from district all the way up to central and executive committee members are detained, forced to run away from their places. In this regard, from our main party office, among the five higher party officials who were assigned to coordinate our election campaigns – four of them, Mr. Bekele Gerba, vice chair of our party, Mr. Dejene Tafa, secretary and executive committee member of our party, two media activists, Mr. Jawar Siraj Mohammed and Mr. Hamza Adane are currently in prison. We think, the action taken against them is a deliberate act to push us out of the elections. For the last seven months we have been asking for their release, but no action is taken by the government. Incidentally, they have been under hunger strike for more than a month at the time of the writing of this statement.
- There is a fusion of party and state in the country, which totally undermines the separation of powers and check and balances thereof – a sin quo non for the existence of any representative government in our time. Sadly, there is a dangerously narrowed down political space and our appeal to the ruling party to take necessary measures for the levelling of the playing field is ignored.
- Election officers, who are supposed to be independent and impartial so as to conduct “free, fair and credible” elections are selected without enough consultation with the opposition parties as per the Electoral law of the land by a pro-government Election Board. Here too, we repeatedly asked the country’s Election Board to rectify its actions, but no correction is taken to date.
- Our repeated demands to end the systematic attack against our members and supporters by the ruling party cadres – submitted to the Prime Minister, the Election Board and the country’s Human Rights Commission, etc; have not received positive responses. On the contrary, the government cadres have increased their pressures as the election date is coming closer. They also engaged in a false propaganda campaign by labeling our members as supporters of the now ousted TPLF forgetting that while we were fighting the TPLF- led regime, they were the ones who were their accomplices.
- Except a few homegrown and diaspora media, all the main media outlets that are run by our taxpayers’ money are inaccessible to our party while the ruling party is daily bombarding the citizens with all kind of propaganda. This is also despite our requests for its correction and demand for reasonable access.
Therefore, as any political party, intended to win election and govern the country democratically, we demand our party offices made open, our members released from prison and our outstanding political problems addressed through genuine national dialogue that helps us reach a better national understanding by taking more time including rescheduling of the election date.
OFC once again reiterating its commitment and determination to struggle for the creation of democratic Ethiopia, which equally treats all its citizens and call upon all honest and committed Ethiopian democratic forces as well as the international community to stand with us at these difficult times to help us to cross the crossroad.
Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC)
March 4, 2021