News: Electoral board invalidates decisions made at the general assembly called by the OLF’s splinter group

Ararso Bikila (far right) and Qejela Merdesa (second from left) at the general assembly held on March13, 2021. Picture: Social Media.

By Siyanne Mekonnen @SIYAANNE

Addis Abeba March, 29, 2021– The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia issued a statement regarding the recent controversy surrounding the division within the leadership of Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). In the statement released yesterday, the NEBE announced that the new appointment of leadership by the splinter group as well as amendment of the party’s bylaws are not recognized by the board due to procedural deficits. 

Early in February, the board recommended that the party’s leadership settle the internal split through a general assembly and reach a consensus.  According to the statement issued on March 28, 2021, the board outlined that it received a letter dated March 13, 2021 that explains that the party has elected a leader through a general assembly. The letter also requested an extension to the deadline for the registration of candidates of which ended on March 9, 2021, asking the board to take into consideration the ‘difficulties’ the party has been going through. The board inspected the documents that were sent to it about the amended party bylaws as well as the signatures of 500 participants of the assembly that was organized by the group led by the deputy chairman of the party, Ararso Bikila. 

The board pointed out that the assembly convened by the deputy led group on March 13-14, 2021 was attended by only three members of the executive committee as opposed to the party’s bylaws that requires the attendance of 2/3rd of the executive committee to hold a general assembly. The board also cited the party’s bylaws, Article 16.2 that stipulates that the attendees  of the general assembly (the number which is to be decided by the executive committee) need to be people who are members of the party at different ranks, members of groups that are affiliated with the party or personalities who have contributed to the Oromo struggle.  

Batte Urgessa, the public relations head of the party who is now in jail, told Addis Standard that the party was planning to hold a general assembly before the fallout and the seizure of its headquarters by Addis Ababa police. The board, in its statement noted that the assembly held by the deputy led group is not recognized by the organizing committee set up prior to the controversy. 

Batte also confirmed that the general assembly was not attended by members of the party at all organizational levels nor was it requested by the central committee as per the party’s bylaws. Similarly, the board, in its statement, explained that it wasn’t able to confirm that the attendees of the assembly organized by the deputy led group fulfill the above criterias. The board also wasn’t able to confirm that the attendees of the congress have served the party for at least two years in accordance with Article 17.1 of the party’s bylaws. Additionally, the setting up of an organizing committee by only three executive committee members falls short of the proposal made by the board on January 27/2021 to settle the dispute in the leadership based on the party’s legal and procedural instruments. 

The board’s decision that both the general assembly and its subsequent outcomes including the appointment of a new leadership will not be recognized by the board comes despite claims made by the splinter group that representatives of the NEBE attended the general assembly, the board did not make a mention of it in its statement. However, the statement addressed the request made by the splinter group to extend the deadline for candidates registration, the board said, “The requests were not reviewed by the board as it does not recognize the leadership that presented the request.” AS

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