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