15 July 2012

Ethiopia: Parliament Approves New Electoral Board Chiefs

The Secretariat of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has new chiefs, whose nominations were approved by Parliament on July 11, 2012.

Nega Dufissa and Wondimu Golla will replace Tesfaye Mengesha and Ermyas Assefa as chief executive officer (CEO) and deputy CEO, respectively. The two were nominated by the nine members of the board, chaired by Merga Bekana (Prof).

Nega is a 1996 law graduate from Addis Abeba University (AAU). He obtained his master's degree in law from the Institute of Federalism & Legal Studies at the Ethiopian Civil Service College in 2009.

He headed the NEBE's Oromia Branch from 2008 to 2010. He, then, became a judge at the Cassation Bench of the Federal Supreme Court from March 2011 up to the present. Previously, he had been an Oromia Supreme Court Judge and president of the high courts in West Wellega, Arsi, and Southwest Showa Zones of Oromia.

Wondimu earned his first degree in economics from AAU in 1992 and a master's degree in development studies in 2010 from Mekele University.

He had been head of the NEBE's Tigray Bureau since 2008. He has also worked as senior expert for the Central Zone's Office of Planning & Economic Development of Tigray; macro planning team leader for the South Omo Zone Office of Planning & Economic Development of Southern Nations; head of the South Omo Zone Trade Department; and marketing, infrastructure, and technology promotion department head of the Tigray Agricultural Marketing Promotion Agency.

"I am very happy and have received the responsibilities that were given to me by my country and the people, as well," Wondimu said. "I am ready to share my experience that I got from the business process re-engineering (BPR), and, also, I know the gaps in the office from before because I was involved in past elections."

Nega declined to comment on his appointment.

The board said in its nominations to Parliament that the two people had professional competence and were nonpartisans, but the opposition party members disagreed in the comments they gave to Fortune.

"All of the political parties have to be aware of the nomination and decide on the nominees," Hailu Shawel (Eng), Chairman of All Ethiopian United Party (AEUP) said. "But, they did not do that; they just did what they had done before, and we even did not know who was nominated."

His party will meet to discuss the affair, he said. Merara Gudina (PhD), deputy chairman of Forum for Justice & Democratic Dialogue (FJDD), a.k.a. Medrek, was of the same opinion as Hailu. Nominating election officials, he said, is problematic, all the way from the kebele level to the NEBE.

"This has to change into a fair and democratic nomination, which can give opportunity for the other parties," he said. "The government has to be ready to discuss with us; otherwise, it will continue the trends of the past 20 years."

The NEBE was established in 1993 as an independent body for conducting, in an impartial manner, free and fair elections in federal and state constituencies.

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