Analysis: Electoral Board upholds decision to nullify OLF splinter group, urges main party to convene assembly, solve leadership split

Dawud Ibsaa, chairman of OLF (left), Ararso Bikila, deputy chairman of OLF (right)

Addis Abeba – The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) issued three pages statement addressed to Dawud Ibssa, Chairman of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), on its verdict to uphold the Board’s decision from March 2021 in which it ruled that the appointment of new leadership by a splinter group, led by Ararso Bikila, as well as amendments of the party’s bylaws were not recognized by the board due to procedural deficits.

The NEBE’s letter detailed events surrounding the controversy and division within the leadership of the OLF and what followed the board’s decision to deny recognition to the newly appointed leadership by the splinter group led by Ararso Bikila in March last year. The letter recalled that the group led by Ararso took the case to the court of law and that the Supreme court returned the case back to the board to pass administrative decisions. Accordingly, the letter summarized the outcome of the investigation made by its team set up in January to look into the matter. 

Following the second round of investigation into the general assembly chaired by the deputy chairman Ararso, NEBE issued its decision reconfirming that the assembly was not organized by the party’s national congress as per the party bylaws. The team of experts therefore presented two options for the OLF to settle the internal split and reach a consensus. 

The first option was to notify the party of the legal consequences of failing to convene a general assembly in a manner that goes with the party’s bylaws and the preconditions required by the board, whereas the second option was for the board to assist the party organize a general assembly in the spirit of providing a solution and without contravening the party’s internal bylaws. The board therefore offered to facilitate the conditions to locate the 48 members of the national congress, which has the mandate to convene a general assembly. 

Accordingly, the board requested both groups to present a list of 38 individuals who are members of the national congress excluding members of the executive committee and individuals with foreign citizenship. Subsequently, the group led by Ararso presented 7 names in a letter dated March 18 ,2022. Similarly,  the group led by the party’s chairman Dawud Ibsa explained in a letter dated March 20,2022 that it can not present the list of individuals who are members of the central committee because most of its executives and rank and file members are arrested.  

The board finally conceded that it can not locate members of the national congress which is the body with the mandate to organize a genera assembly. Therefore the letter concluded by cautioning that the party needs to organize its general assembly carefully with inline with the party’s bylaws. The board also demanded that a document showing the plan and schedule of the general assembly and a record of the procedure that shows the planning was done by the right body with the mandate to organize an assembly. The board gave a one month deadline for the submission of the aforementioned documents before April 24, 2022. 

Dawud has his first in person meeting with NEBE officials last week after spending a year in house arrest. “The OLF has been asking the Election Board of Ethiopia for over a year to open its offices that were illegally closed and to release OLF members and members of Central Committee (Member of National Council) as well as to free the OLF Chairman Mr. Dawud Ibsa from house arrest and allow him to freely move as a citizen and excel his duties as a chairman of a legally registered political party,” the OLF said in a statement yesterday.

Any institution or media interested in working with the OLF must follow legal structure and accepted communication channel with the OLF


Following the decision by the NEBE, the OLF cautioned against “any action or media campaign on OLF issues and in the name of OLF without the knowledge of the OLF and its legal Chairman is not acceptable. Any individual or entity who wants to speak or act in the name of the OLF should not be entertained apart from the legally registered OLF led by Mr. Dawud Ibsa. Also, we would like to highlight that any media should refrain itself from misleading the facts and aggravating the situation. Any institution or media interested in working with the OLF must follow legal structure and accepted communication channel with the OLF.”


A letter dated August 07/2020 signed off by the deputy chairman, Ararso Bikila was submitted to the board by some of the OLF executive committee members banning the chairman of the party, Dawud Ibsa. Similarly, another letter signed off by the chairman of the party was submitted to the board on September 12/2020 stating that the party held an assembly and banned the deputy chairman, members of the executive and central committee until the party held its general assembly. 

In February 2021, after NEBE’s attempts to settle the dispute based on Proclamation No. 1133/2019 and establishment of political parties and Code of Conduct proclamation No. 1162/2019, failed, it asked the party to convene general assembly. 

The group led by Ararso Bikila elected a leader through a general assembly and notified the board in a letter dated March 13, 2021. The deputy led group requested an extension to the deadline for the registration of candidates of for the June 2021 elections, asking the board to take into consideration the ‘difficulties’ the party was going through. The board inspected the documents that were sent to it about the amended,ent of  party bylaws as well as the signatures of 500 participants of the assembly that was organized by the group led by the deputy chairman. 

The NEBE however announced that the 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 prompting the deputy led group to take the matter to court. AS

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