News: Somali region asks Electoral Board to reverse decision to call off polling stations; says will find it hard to partake in election

Mustefe Omer, President of Somali Regional State

By Siyanne Mekonnen @Siyaanne

Addis Abeba, March 25/2021 – In a letter addressed to the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), Somali regional state requested the Board to reverse its decision calling off voters’ registration in 30 polling station found in eight Kebeles which were demarcated under Somali regional state.

In a notice issued yesterday, the Board announced it has called off its earlier announcement establishing the polling stations listed under the Somali regional state after a complaint was filed at the Board by the Afar regional state saying that the polling stations should have instead been listed under its administration. 

The Board said it has called off voters’ registration in 30 polling stations located in eight Kebeles namely: in Gala’eto/Adayle; Adaytu/Adayitu; Teot/Alale; Gurmudali/Danlehelay; Undafo/Undufo; Gadamaytu/Garbaise; Afaso/Afuase; and Balaiti Gona/Medeni Kebeles. The Kebeles are known in different names in Afar and Somali regional states.

Three of the above Kebeles: Gadamaytu, Undufo and Adaytu are at the center of controversy between the Afar and Somali regional states as both lay claim on them. This came after in May 2019 Somali region, after an extraordinary meeting of the regional state cabinet, decided to unilaterally withdraw from a 2014 agreement reached between the two regions to hand over the Kebeles to Afar regional state.

However, in the letter, the Somali regional state explained that it would find it difficult to participate in the upcoming elections after the decision by the NEBE to call off 30 polling stations. In the letter, the office of the president of Somali regional state accused the board of trying to fulfill “Afar region’s unreasonable demands” by ignoring the facts provided by Somali regional state. According to the letter released this afternoon, a letter written on February 19, 2021, was sent to the NEBE explaining that the 8 kebeles that were claimed by the Afar regional state were under Somali regional state during the last 5 general elections where both regional states councils and federal parliament representatives were elected. The Somali regional government requested for the eight kebeles to be registered under Somali region for the upcoming election as well. 

The Somali regional government expressed its disapproval of the decision by the NEBE to call off 30 polling stations listed in eight Kebeles under the Somali regional state. The letter signed by the president of Somali regional state read, “The board made a one sided decision that exacerbates the problem and has saddened our people. It is making us lose hope on the efforts we are making to solve the issue in a legal manner.” 

According to the NEBE, polling stations were arranged based on proximity to voters and based on voters’ registration patterns of the last five elections. The voters who were planning to register and vote in these polling stations can now register and vote in different polling stations. The board had also cautioned regional governments to refrain from using its election preparation mechanisms to advance controversial boundary disputes. 

The letter concluded by urging the NEBE to revoke the decision and establish polling stations in the 8 kebeles the same way it did during the last five general elections. “Otherwise, we find it hard to participate in the upcoming election,” said the regional government. AS

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