By Siyanne Mekonnen
March 26, 2021
The National Electoral Board (NEBE) issued a letter in response to the letter sent to the board by the Somali regional state regarding the board’s decision to call off polling stations in eight kebeles. The Somali regional state requested the board to reverse the decision and said that it would find it hard to partake in the upcoming election. The board described its reason for the decision as “a responsibility to maintain peace and ensure the rights of people who live in the disputed areas to vote at nearby polling stations.”
The Somali regional administration 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 accused the board of making a one sided decision by giving in to pressures by the Afar regional state. The board stated that its decision to call off the polling stations came after a complaint filed by the Afar Regional State saying that the polling stations should have instead been listed under its administration.
According to the letter, the board learned that these areas are prone to conflict based on the recommendations by the federal election security task force. “The conflict risk map that helps the board identify to prevent election related conflicts also backs up these findings.” the statement read, “Setting up polling stations in these areas knowing of the controversy surrounding border issues would amount to failing to uphold the board’s responsibility to ensure a peaceful election.”
The board stressed that the decision has nothing to do with demarcation of borders in favor of neither of the regional states. The board explained that polling stations do not symbolize jurisdiction and that the board doesn’t have the mandate to demarcate borders. In the letter addressed to the office of the Somali Regional State President, the board reiterated that polling stations should not result in a controversy between regional governments by reminding the board’s authority granted to it in accordance with election proclamation to decide where and how to set up polling stations.
The letter concluded by commenting on the statement by the Somali regional administration that said it would find it hard to participate in the upcoming election if the board doesn’t revoke its decisions to call off the polling stations. “The remarks are meaningless as it is obvious that parties and their candidates who participate in the election, not the regional government.”