Ethiopia: Opposition Party Oromo Federalist Congress Says It Will Not Take Part in Coming Elections Under Existing Conditions

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa in 2018.

Addis Abeba — In a statement it released today, the opposition party, Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) says despite having the willingness, it finds it "extremely hard" to take part in coming elections under the existing conditions in the country.

The OFC led by its chairman, veteran opposition figure Dr. Merera Gudina, said its party cannot take part in the election whereby many of its leadership as well as rank and file members remained jailed, most of its offices are closed by the government, and the free movements of its members are restricted. OFC has therefore outlined its demands and suggestions for a peaceful and democratic elections take place.

Currently, the OFC has some of its influential leaders and members in prison most notably Bekele Gerba, its first vice chairman, and Jawar Mohammed, its member (featured in the cover picture) facing terrorism and criminal charges. They were arrested following the government crackdown in the aftermath of the violence that gripped Ethiopia following the June 29 assassination prominent Oromo artist Hachalu Hundessa. By the government's own account, close to 10, 000 people were arrested in Oromia regional state, in Addis Abeba and in Oromia Special Zone Surrounding Finfinne. In September, OFC said close to 80% of its members outside of the capital Addis Abeba were among those jailed across the Oromia region.

The statement the party released today read: "As the OFC has repeatedly expressed in the past, it finds it extremely difficult to take part in the election when the majority of its members from federal to Kebelle (small districts) level who are competing, coordinating, and observing elections are imprisoned, and majority of its offices, except for its headquarters, are closed." The OFC has also requested an immediate effort to reach at a national consensus before holding the election.

The OFC further said that it was willing to participate in the election provided that its leadership and rank and file members are released immediately, its offices are reopened and its members are granted the right to operate in peace in order to prepare for the election. AS

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