Amhara Association of America Statement on Ethiopia’s June 21, 2021, General Elections
June 19, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Amhara Association of America (AAA) expresses its deep concern regardingthe legitimacy of Ethiopia’s upcoming elections on June 21, 2021, for the House of Peoples’Representatives and regional and municipal councils.
In the months following Abiy Ahmed’s appointment as Prime Minister, his government announced an agenda to try furthering Ethiopia’s democratic transition after years of authoritarian rule. This included the Prime Minister’s commitment to facilitate the country’s first free and fair elections, which were initially scheduled for August 2020. However, after a first postponement to June 5, 2021, due to COVID-19, multiple developments have occurred that indicate the elections will be neither free nor fair.
First, the government’s inability to manage various security crises – including the massacres of more than 2,000 Amhara’s since July 2020 – led to yet another postponement of Election Day to June 21, 2021.Several million internally displaced Ethiopians – including up to one million Amhara’s – will be unable to vote due to these crises. Furthermore, the immediate threats to these Ethiopians’ lives and livelihoods means that participating in elections is low on their priority list.
As of writing, the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has announced that 97 parliamentaryconstituencies will not hold polls until September 6, 2021 due to insecurity and logistical andadministrative issues, including a “defect in ballot papers.” These constituencies include the entire Hararand Somali Regions, the referendum on establishing the South West Region, and many parts of thecountry where Amharas reside. This also comprises the Tigray Region, where elections remainindefinitely postponed.
Finally, the government’s treatment of opposition movements and candidates gravely concerns AAA.This includes Eskinder Nega, who has been detained for nearly one year on “terrorism” charges marredby due process violations. These concerns are bolstered by the multiple killings, arrests, and harassmentof peaceful opposition parties in recent months, including the National Movement of Amhara.
The combination of overt political repression, logistical mistakes, and insecurity raises significantquestions about the legitimacy of the election results. While Prime Minister Abiy’s Prosperity Party willlikely be declared the winner, it will only be due to an electoral environment of fear, repression, andvoter apathy.
In order to salvage Ethiopia’s democratic transition and ensure a safe, stable, and prosperous future forthe country, AAA continues to support calls for an inclusive national dialogue. This dialogue must befacilitated by neutral third parties, rather than the Ethiopian Government itself. Representatives ofnonviolent political movements, ethnic and religious groups, diaspora communities, women, and youngEthiopians must be given a seat at the table.
About AAA: The Amhara Association of America (AAA) is a nonprofit organization that represents the Ethiopian Amhara diaspora in the United States. Visit www.amharaamerica.org for more information.
Important questions regarding the balance of individual versus group rights, the relationship of the Stateto ethnicities, and the protection of cultural heritages for all of Ethiopia’s peoples must be on theagenda. A new constitution or amendments to the current one that reflect the will of the people shouldbe adopted. Only through this process will consensus be reached among Ethiopia’s diverse population.
Furthermore, the various violent conflicts across Ethiopia must be brought to definitive ends. Thisincludes the war in Tigray, the targeting of Amharas across the country, the insurgencies in Oromia andBenishangul-Gumuz, and the border disputes between various ethnic-based Regions and Zones. Thenational dialogue process must provide for mechanisms of transitional justice to all Ethiopians who havebeen victimized by conflicts and persecution for the last three decades, including full accountability forany and all government officials complicit in human rights abuses.
While AAA does not recognize the upcoming general elections as free or fair, we urge Ethiopians inEthiopia, the United States, and elsewhere to refrain from any rhetoric or actions that may stoke furtherviolence. Instead, constitutionally protected acts of free speech and demonstration must be utilized.
AAA will continue its advocacy work with the United States Government and Congress on behalf ofvictimized Amharas and other Ethiopians who have no voice. We will also continue to push the UnitedStates to support the recommendations outlined above.
Media Contact: Tewodrose (Ted) Tirfe, Chairman, Amhara Association of Americatewodrose.firstname.lastname@example.org
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