Published: July 15, 2005
Exactly sixty days have passed since the people of Ethiopia overwhelmingly expressed their will regarding the direction of the country in the next five years. Sixty days have also passed with no final winner of the elections announced by the responsible office, NEBE (National Election Board of Ethiopia). Forty young students of Addis Ababa and a freshly elected MP (member of parliament) have also been brutally murdered by the incumbent government that, in the eyes of many Ethiopians, had lost the election. In the mean time, in sixty days alone, the government has incarcerated thousands of students, government employees, and opposition leaders. In sixty days alone, the prime minister Meles himself has successfully transformed himself – in the eyes of his Western supporters – from a promising leader to just another third world brutal dictator. In sixty days alone, Ethiopians in the Diaspora from Melbourne, Australia to Calgary, Canada had protested in hundreds of thousands to bring into question the legitimacy of the current government – to say the least.
In no other country in these modern times has there ever been a case where 60 days after elections, the final winner is not known. In an election where more than 25 million citizens voted, the numbers show that the only way that the final tallies could take this long is if only 3 votes were counted per hour per person by the more than 5000 thousands election officials in the past 60 days. Of course, the reason for the delay – as any Ethiopian would suspect – is that the government feels that it has lost the election and is doing every trick in the book to manipulate the numbers. Suspicious of a popular protest, the government is also determined to neutralize any potential uprisings by going after opposition figures in every possible way from fabricated charges to intimidation and in the case of the MP in Shashemene to outright assassinations.
For these reasons, we strongly feel that results announced after 60 days have elapsed since the people expressed their will can not win the trust of the constituents in the process. Even the proposed investigations into the election results in the more than 300 contested constituencies does not inspire confidence this late in the process. And the fact that NEBE owes its loyalty to the very person that created and hand-selected it, the Prime Minister, brings the fundamental question of impartiality and objectivity to the forefront once again – 60 days after the May 15, 2005 elections.
For the democratic process in Ethiopia to continue, for hope to see the day of light, for Ethiopians to be assured of a season of progress instead of a continued regress to the ugly days of brutal bloodthirsty dictators who are bent on killing 17 year old children and then demand money in return for their dead bodies, the only option left this late in the process is to call for a new election. And when we say a ‘new election’ we mean elections where there are at least 5000 independent observers from inside the country as well as outside the country. We mean elections where there are independent observers at each polling station. We mean elections where each ballot box stays within the sights of independent observers day and night until the election results are announced within a predetermined reasonable time frame (2 weeks, for example). By an acceptable new free elections, we mean an elections where the process of voting as well as counting is certified not by the usual impartial government supporters like the Carter Center but by EU, Donor Groups, and a ‘Peer Group’ comprised of representatives from African countries where democratic governance has been practiced such as Ghana and South Africa.
Only then, we feel, the current crisis can be averted and Ethiopia joins the emerging trend of democratization that our fellow brothers and sisters in South Africa and Ghana enjoy.
For that to happen, we advise that the opposition parties, CUD and UEDF in particular, get their acts together and assure Ethiopians on the specifics of what they will deliver and – most importantly – how they will deliver to provide hope for this country of 70 million people. It was not easy for them to come this far and build a coalition that shook to the cores the foundations of a brutal regime and expose its true barbaric nature to the outside world. Maintaining this coalition and transforming it to an effective and united political machinery is a difficult and challenging task which we hope the leaders of these groups strive to achieve in the days and weeks ahead of us. Among many other things, this will require a continued work on organizational issues where the charismatic leaders amongst them assume more public exposure selling their vision and matching (and surpassing) Meles’ rhetoric while the technocrats continue building a formidable countrywide organization. For the EPRDF, our simple advice is to listen to the People’s will.