Members of the Addis Abeba Chambers of Commerce & Sectoral Association (AACCSA) are to meet on Thursday, December 19, 2013, to elect their board of directors and president. Three candidates - Teshome Beyene, Israel Kassahun and Elias Geneti - will most likely be the candidates to win votes placed at the general assembly, to be held at the Hilton.
The candidacy of Teshome Beyene, however, remains uncertain. Teshome's bid has already been rejected by the committee on the grounds that he is neither a manager nor an owner of the Ethio Life & General Insurance SC - the company he comes from - according to sources.
"I have not been informed in any formal manner," Teshome told Fortune, although he admitted that he has heard it informally. "The reason is unacceptable, because I have a share in the Company and that qualifies me to have the status of ownership."
To date, Israel, who runs a private college, and Elias, who runs a farm, have already reached the final stage of passing at the table of the committee. In fact, the two have been formally summoned by the Credential Committee - one of the two committees formed for the election process, responsible for verifying nominees - while Teshome has not yet been approached.
Some members, who wanted to remain anonymous, accuse the Committee of being easily manipulated by people in the secretariat.
"These people have been tampering with acceptable rules and procedures to favour or disfavour candidates," said a member who manages a manufacturing firm.
The allegation that the Chamber's Secretariat, under Getachew Regassa, has dolled its nose in favour of a candidate against another has come to the surface, according to knowledgeable persons. It is unprecedented that the secretariat campaign and lobby on behalf of a particular candidate at the expense of another, with allegations now flying around.
Interestingly, the Secretariat wields huge influence at the beginning of the election campaign, for it controls the Accreditation Committee under Solomon Retta.
The Committee declined to provide the final candidates, although it said it has already selected them.
However, there are unconfirmed reports that whoever makes it through the cracks of the Committee, will have to win the confidence of those from the sectoral associations. Unlike the individual members of the metropolitan Chamber, these are entities created by tens of thousands of micro and small scale businesses in the craft and services industries. Their numbers far outweigh the individual members of the Chamber, thus they have the power to be kingmakers. Another issue of controversy is the quorum required to hold meetings, which remains unsolved to date. There is controversy about the full quorum of the over 10,000 members. An act of Parliament passed in May 2003 to establish chambers of commerce, requires meetings to have quorum when over half of the voting members attend.
"But that act does not mean that a meeting of the General Assembly could not be held unless 50+1 of the council members are present," argues a senior expert at the Ministry of Trade (MoT), who took part in the legislation of the act. "There was an understanding amongst those of us who took part in the legislation that it may be difficult to establish quorum in the way indicated in the act."
That the Secretariat of the Chamber chose the Hilton for its venue tells a story that no more than 1,500 members are expected to attend the assembly. In fact, only 600 seats have been reserved, according to sources close to the issue.
Following the passage of this act, there was an attempt by the board of directors, under the chairmanship of Zafu Eyesuswork, to develop a formula for representative election - a development that was repealed during the reign of his successor, Ayalew Zegeye. There is a high chance that the assembly will ignore this glitch and sign up for an amendment of the Chamber's memorandum of association, in order to continue general assemblies with fewer delegates. The current arrangement, whether through electoral colleges or popular votes, is deemed impractical.
"I still believe that the representative election is viable," Zafu argued.
About eight members signed a petition and submitted it to Kebede Chanie, minister of Trade on Friday, December 13, claiming that the way the board has been behaving is not legal, Fortune has learnt.
Whether the Mayor of Addis Abeba, Diriba Kuma, will honour the assembly with his presence, which is customary and used as an endorsement of the event by the government, remains to be seen.
Indeed, amending the bylaws of the Chamber to ensure an inclusion of a provision to set up an audit commission is another issue of contention expected to be tabled for the assembly next Thursday, according to sources.