News: NEBE reports majority vote in favor of new region in recent referendum, irregularities in Wolaita zone 

Voting in Arbaminch during the 06 February referendum, Photo: NEBE

Addis Abeba – The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has announced that majority of the people in five zones and five special districts in Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) region voted for the establishment of a new “Southern Ethiopia Region” during the referendum held on 06 February.

The referendum was held in six zones and five special districts, but NEBE said it is pending a decision on the results of the election in Wolaita Zone due to massive irregularities pre and during election process and complaints of vote fraud. 

According to  a statement it released on Monday, NEBE has verified and approved the results of the referendum held in five zones (Konso, South Omo, Gamo, Gedeo and Gofa) and five special districts (Burji, Basketo, Ale, Amaro, Derashe) where the majority voted in favor of coming together in cluster to form Ethiopia’s newest state.

Notable rejection of the new regional state was seen in Gedeo zone where 46,749 people voted against the establishment of the new region out of 241, 695 valid votes.

However, the board announced that, “activities considered as serious operational violations” were committed in several polling stations in Wolaita Zone where there has been long lasting quest of statehood.

In August 2020, regional security forces arrested leaders of the statehood movement including the then zonal Administrator Dagato Kumbe, consequently, these arrests were met with protests where security forces killed 21 people according to the Wolaita People’s Democratic Front party, and 18 individuals were injured in the deadly violence.

NEBE’s report on the outcome of the recent referendum in the zone emphasized that due to procedural violations in some polling stations during the voter registration and voting process, the board ordered further investigation.  

According to the Board, difficult conditions have arisen to ensure the accuracy of the referendum held in the zone and actions that could be considered serious violations of the electoral law and other guidelines were committed in several polling stations.

Mismatching of voters signatures, deleting and reconfiguring election result papers, suspicious 100% voters turnout, involvement of local officials by handing out temporary IDs for voters on the election day etc, are among the many serious procedural violations that NEBE reported to have occurred. AS

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