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‘Cartoon Democracy – Authoritarian Rule and Elections in Ethiopia’ at the European Parliament in Brussels on 23 April 2015

Little Hope for Change: Unfair Election Procedures and Decision Making in Ethiopia - Ethiopia is the land with out democracy, freedom , free election and human rights. (Dr. Getachew Jiggi)
Mr. Chairman dear distinguished guest speakers, esteemed members of European parliaments.
Ladies and Gentlemen

I was Member of Ethiopian Parliament of the House of People’s Representatives of Ethiopia, run and elected as candidate of the Oromo Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM) from Mana Sibu-Kiltu Karra district of Western Wallagga, Oromia region during third National election in May 2005. I am one of the founders of the Oromo Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM) and a member of its Executive Committee. As the founders of OFDM by then it was my believe that the Constitution of the country will be respected and supremacy of law will prevail, that we decided to join the legal political system. It was also our firm belief that democracy and working federation would solve the problems of Ethiopia. Unfortunately all our aspirations were dashed, hopes turned sour and our morale crashed within few months before, during and after May 2005 elections. We learned in the hard way that there is no democracy or supremacy of law in Ethiopia.
Even if I managed to escape from the inhuman treatment and shadow of death and left for exile in November 2006 it always remained to me very painful to live long way away from the people who elected me mainly Oromo people and Ethiopian peoples at large. It was a matter of hours that saved me from inhumane planned up on me otherwise my fate was not different from that of my colleagues Bekele Jirata and Bekele Garba.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous country, and ethnically, religiously and culturally just as diverse as Nigeria. Ethiopia will go to the polls to elect a new government on 24th of May 2015. However, there is very little hope that Ethiopia will follow Nigeria’s footsteps when it comes to organizing free and fair elections, with a free and fair outcome.
In accordance with the topic given to me I speak out what in the regional and federal parliament of Ethiopia failed during last successive elections and why I say little hope this time as well. In this statement, I want to give my honest and sincere testimony of the conditions prevailing in Ethiopia before, during and after election considering May 2005 elections as particular reference. The main purpose is to expose the hidden realities in Ethiopia and in Oromia in particular under façade of democracy.
As an elected member of the Ethiopian Parliament I witnessed first hand how the ruling Ethiopian EPRDF/TPLF party rigged the 2005 elections.

EPRDF follow multi track controlling system for the outcome of the election not to be out of its will. That is, short term and long term. Short term is directed to atrocities of human rights while long term is promulgation of some proclamations to justify its atrocities.
The pre-electoral period
During the pre-election period candidates are discouraged from running by intimidations and disqualified being labelled as ‘under police investigation’ for unspecified offence. In various instances family members getting warnings or threats and May also are dismissed from their jobs. Kebele councils are the primary unit of administration and they are a crucial mechanism for control over the rural communities that constitute 85 percent of Ethiopia’s population. Voters are warned, harassed and discriminated against access to services and resources such as safety nets by kebele officials. Kebele officials determine eligibility for food assistance, recommend referrals to secondary health care and schools, and provide access to state-distributed resources like seeds, fertilizers, and other essential agricultural inputs. The EPRDF provides a wide range of seminars, courses and educational function for state, party officials and bureaucrats with high payment of daily allowance to disseminate and streamline an EPRDF way of thinking.
Qualified candidates may be limited to travel or arrested under pretext of “illegal agitation”. Closure of offices, breaking up of meetings and limiting access to any media outlet are some out of many repression on the oppositions. The TPLF/EPRDF regime is not only preventing opposition political organizations from operating freely and peacefully by sheer physical repression, but it also subjects the public at large to intense intimidation, detention and killings so that they won’t side the opposition in any sense. Documented records show that most of human rights abuses are persistently directed to Oromo people and for the others with increase in political competition notably in the run up to local and national elections.
During Election or on voting date
Election Day is likely to be far less meaningful. A veneer of democratic pretension hiding a repressive state apparatus. Key developments affecting the result of the elections will have occurred long before Election Day, and will impact their lives long after the last vote is counted. Ballot stuffing and vote count fraud is common.
Those elections were marked by violence and became a turning point for Ethiopia as a whole. As it became clear that the opposition parties at that time won an unprecedented third of the seats, the announcement of the results was delayed. The final results – 372 seats for the EPRDF, 172 seats for the opposition – led to more accusations of vote rigging. The mass protests turned violent, as the police fired on the crowds using life ammunition. At least 200 protesters are believed to have died in Addis Ababa alone, and around 400 people were silently killed in rural Oromia. Thousands of people, including MP’s, in Oromia and elsewhere were arrested. 131 political detainees and journalists were charged with attempting to overthrow the government.
European Member of Parliament, Ms. Anna Gomez, here present today, was a close witness herself of the suffering of the Ethiopian people – always choosing sides of the oppressed, not of the ruling masters in Ethiopia, and she deserves credit for that.

After voting
Voters face revenge from authorities they may feel discrimination in public services or arrested or dismissed from their jobs. For instance from area of my constituency Ms Biraanee Dhufeeraa, Isqeel Gammada and Mr. Asfaw Banti and Adamu Bekele were students supporters of Oromo Federalist Movement (OFDM) killed at Kiltu Karra and Manasibu district of Western Wollega Zone of Oromia region on 21 December, 2005 by the security forces
Mr. Adane who was an elected MP representing the Oromo National Congress (ONC) in Arsi Negelle District was shot dead by the police in broad day light shortly after the May 2005 election. Police began harassing the opposition MPs after the February 2006 Regional Council meeting. There were no developments since the 2006 beatings of 6 regional MPs, one from an opposition political party Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) and five others from ONC by the state agents. These are a few examples out of many that contributed for my exile.
During the year 2006 OFDM chairman Bulcha Demeksa was precluded not to visit his constituency in Wollega District, Oromiya Region. The government that if he chooses to go his security could not be guaranteed told him. Some local officials denied access opposition MPs’ to visit their constituencies
Decision making process in a parliament or government
Policy decisions go straight from TPLF leadership to EPRDF from that to the government or parliament. Rank and file party members hear about them just like everyone else.
Even as elected parliamentarians in parliament we did not have the right to speak, we were forced to leave the parliament and we were forced to leave our houses. I myself was forced to flee the country, and MP’s Abiyot Shifrew, Girma Chala, Gezany Bekele and Habtamu Bedhasa Olbana Lelisa became victims of torture.
After 2005 election its long term controlling system have resulted the following promulgated laws, namely, the Civil Society Law (CSO No. 621/2009), Anti-Terrorism Taw (No.652/2009), The freedom of the mass Media and Access information proclamation (No, 590/2009), the political Parties registration proclamation (No. 573/2008), the Amended Electoral Law (No, 532/2007) and the Electoral code of conduct for political parties (No. 662/2009) these are the main instruments to serve the uncontested power of EPRDF.
Partiality in Annual budget allocation, Health and Education services
Statistical enrolment ratio of children for primary education of ever studied year shows impartiality for instance if we take the data in the year 2002 (Grade 1-8) in Oromia is 62.8% it is 77.6% in Tigray. Secondary education enrolment (grade 9-12) of the same year Oromia is 11.6% while it is 24.8% for Tigray. While students in Tigray are enjoying freedom in their schools forcing Oromo students and their families to become a member of the ruling party has become a common cause for conflicts to end up with the dismissal, arrest and killings of many students.
For instance the Physician: Population Ratio during 2009 is 1:44,880 in Tigray and1:76,075 in Oromia.
Budget allocation and infrastructures
TPLF ethnic based government of Ethiopia from the beginning still now use unfair and un proportional government subside for Regional states and infrastructural and capacity building, In 2006/2007 Federal budgets subside for Oromia, 3,000,000,000 birr or 50 Biri per Person, for Tigray 824,000,000 birr or 500 Biri per person, In 2008/2009 Federal subside for Oromia 5,774,760,000 or 45 Biri per person, for Tigray 1,175,590,000 or 700 Biri per person
The near loss of power by the EPRDF in 2005 marked the beginning of a much harsher consolidation of power by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. It came hardly as a surprise that the EPRDF/TPLF faced almost no opposition in the 2010 elections, securing a 99.6% majority.

Ethiopia is still colonizing its people today. There is no room for freedom of speech, or freedom of movement. Ethiopia’s human rights record and lack of media freedom is appalling. Ethiopia is the second biggest jailer of journalists after its neighbor, Eritrea. Its broadcasting and telecommunications sectors are dominated by the state, and the private media sector is heavily regulated and censored.

The Ethiopian ruling party EPRDF/TPLF is highly corrupted. The European and USA aid money is not being used for the development of the country, but is flowing to foreign bank accounts. According to the Global Financial Integrity Report, Ethiopia lost 11.7 billion US dollars in illicit financial outflows between 2000 and 2009. More worrying is that the study shows Ethiopia’s losses due to illicit capital flows are on the rise. This amount of money lost is a great tragedy, yet the EU and the USA government are still supporting the corrupted regime in Ethiopia.

Ladies and Gentlemen
The 2015 election is already hacked by the EPRDF/TPLF government

The Ethiopian government in 2005 and 2010 was grabbing the votes under the eyes of the international observers. Who expects it to be different this time?

I don’t see any signs that the political climate in Ethiopia has changed for the better. I truly fear that the coming election of May 24th 2015 is another waste of time, another waste of international aid money, and that it is bound to bring more illegal arrests and detentions, more harassment, loss of jobs, displacement, suffering, and killing of innocent people in Ethiopia.

The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) is under tight government control: the people within the NEBE are for the most part ruling party members or members of the security forces. The NEBE is complicating election procedures for no good reason, and thus raising doubt that the elections will be fair and free. The NEBE announced it was registering 35.8 million voters – out of 43 million Ethiopians of voting age, yet we have obtained information from the ground that the registration of groups of students and active opposition supporters is being denied by the NEBE Tigray Ethnic based.

A total of 6,000 parliamentary candidates have been fielded by 58 political parties across the country, according to the NEBE figures, 23 of them are national parties while the rest are regional. 12 of the regional parties are official affiliates of the EPRDF and support implementation of the EPRDF’s programm in the various regions. Yet we have obtained information from the ground that some opposition figures suffer from harassment, that they recently lost their jobs in government organizations, or that they are being denied the right to visit their constituency.

Political parties are not allowed to use the state-owned media, proportional in line with a set timetable for providing air time or newspaper space.

Tigray Ethnic based TPLF –EPRDF led Ethiopian government is not ready for elections or democracy now or in the future, because:

The EPRDF/TPLF government is controlled by the ethnic minority group of the Tigray, who consist only of 5 % of the entire Ethiopian population.
The minority based government is very keen on further exploiting the country’s resources and richness, in further imposing political and military control, in keeping power by gun forever.
All the Federal and Regional Government structures are serving the EPRDF/TPLF party with all their resources.
Both the Army and the Security Forces are tightly controlled by the Tigray minority.
Thousands of special Agazi forces – well trained and ruthlessly violent - are ready to protect the interests of the Tigray minority.
The Federal and Regional Police structures are ready to protect the interests of the ruling EPRDF/TPLF party.
The EPRDF/TPLF government is not ready for negotiation with the internal and external opposition groups.
Most media – both public and privately owned – are serving the interests of the ruling EPRDF/TPLF party.

The EPRDF/TPLF government is closing all doors and windows for a free and fair election and a peaceful transformation of power in Ethiopia. I sincerely fear for a Syrian, Yemen, or Libyan worst case scenario for Ethiopia, should things not change in the near future.

Ways Forward for Ethiopia Post-2015: Status Quo or an Opportunity for Change?

For these elections to be a starting point for fundamental change in Ethiopia Post-2015, the following issues should be tackled without delay,

The Oromo question: although the Oromo people are half of the Ethiopian population, their political and cultural rights have been oppressed for the past century in Ethiopia, and Oromia is still under Ethiopia’s colony.
A most urgent matter in this ongoing denial of acknowledging the Oromo rights is the Addis Ababa’s Master plan – a plan to further marginalize the Oromo people by expanding the city’s territorial boundaries under the guise of development. The plan violates the letter and the spirit of the Ethiopian constitution on many levels. Owing to its being an Oromo city, the constitution clearly recognizes Oromia’s ‘special interest in Addis Ababa’ particularly in relation to social services, natural resources, and joint administrative matters (art 49(5) in the Constitution of Ethiopia).
The prime victims of Addis Ababa's far reaching Master plan/land grab are Oromo individuals and families. Displacing Oromo farmers from their land without any consent or sufficient compensation violates their fundamental rights to life, property, health and housing.

The land grabbing question in rural Ethiopia: the EPRDF/TPLF government is not only discriminating and harassing innocent Oromo people, but also Sidama, Gambela, Somali, Ogaden and other nationalities within its borders. Some of these ethnic groups are losing their land in the name of so called investment programs for 99 years: their land is sold to foreign investors by the EPRDF/TPLF government who share the money amongst themselves.

The importance of freedom of expression: full respect for the freedom of expression is vital in any democracy. Citizens appoint a government by voting for their preferred candidates at election time. To be able to do so, the citizens must be fully informed about who is contesting the elections and about their proposed policies. For this to succeed, a democracy needs a free and pluralistic media. However, freedom of expression in Ethiopia cannot be guaranteed until substantial legal reforms are carried out, including the reform of the Anti-terrorism law, the Criminal Code, and bringing the restrictions which supposedly protect national security into line with international standards on the freedom of expression.
Thousends of Oromo foced for exil every day these innocent peoples are sufring in Yemen, Libiya, Somalia, Djouti, Sudan, Kenya, Egypt, Saudi Arabiya, Uganda, South Africa etc. This situation foces our people for vioàlens near future.
A Young Oromo writers abdicated...tereraized..prisoned..and their books are also in prison with them, Oromo Intellectuals are targeted being suspected to OLF, Free writing and speech are denied and all universities found in Ethiopia become centre of Politics than research and academics...

My Recommendations to the EU

The EU is one of the biggest development aid donors for Ethiopia. The development aid that comes from the EU and its member countries accounts for more than one third of the total development aid to Ethiopia.
I read a new and interesting scientific working paper, the other day, on “Chinese Aid and Africa’s Pariah States’, by Roudabeh Kishi and Clionadh Raleigh from the University of Sussex.

The study is taking a close look at the increase of Chinese aid to African countries, and the relationship between Chinese aid and political violence in African states in particular. Chinese aid impacts conflicts in Africa through promoting state repression: it is making states into pariahs through providing resources to state leaders who are unafraid to use state repression.

In short, their working paper concludes that China does not support rogue African states, it creates them. Chinese aid is ‘increasing the ability of the state to engage in violence’, the study says, because the Chinese aid is ‘typically directed towards bolstering the central state, and regimes can use these aid resources to repress competition.’

It is no wonder the University of Sussex’ study is focusing on the case of Ethiopia as well: ‘a higher rate of violence against civilians may be reported in areas where the Ethiopian state has directed its Chinese aid over traditional aid packages’, and it concludes that states that receive increasing levels of Chinese aid may falter on a democratizing and human rights agenda.’

Why am I citing this study extensively? Because in the past, the EU has always been a strong advocate for human rights in Africa, spending aid money on the condition of institutional change towards democracy and an anti-corruption policy. At least, on paper that is. When it comes to action, that strong advocacy is often limited to expressing ‘serious concerns’ regarding this or that situation in a press statement.

If the EU wants to start changing the way it is perceived by most Africans, it should make some bold choices in its policy. For the case of Ethiopia, my recommendations are clear:
Stop all support except humanitarian aid to the EPRDF/TPLF government or any of its government related organizations.
Redirect the EU Aid to grassroots organizations working on Education, Health, Water, Women’s & Children’s Rights, and promotion of democracy.
Support those human right activists that are trying EPRDF/TPLF leaders accountable for the atrocities it committed by bring to the International Criminal Courts.
Exert diplomatic pressure on Ethiopian government to solve the political problem of the country peacefully.
Support liberation fronts and freedom fighters in Ethiopia because they only fight for their freedom and autonomy. If the international community would have supported the Kurdish freedom fighters 20 years ago, we would not be suffering from the Islam extremists of IS today. The same goes for the Horn of Africa: no stability or lasting peace and development is possible in Ethiopia and the rest of the Horn of Africa without addressing the Oromo case in a serious matter.
Therefore, I recommend meaningful diplomatic pressure on Ethiopian regime by EU and western countries will help in search for a long lasting peace and stability in Ethiopia. That is to uphold the right of nation to self determination must be respected in practice.

I thank you for your attention,

Dr. Getachew Jigi Demekssa


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