The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has announced its decision not to participate in the upcoming legislative elections in Ethiopia, joining the boycott announced last week by the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), amid political tensions in Ethiopia.
The party said in a statement that “the minimum requirements for free and fair elections are not met” and that “the current state of the country is not up to the minimum standards of even illiberal democracies in other parts of the world.”
“If held, the elections will not make any significant difference in addressing the main contradictions and political problems of the country,” has pointed out the party, which in 2018 ceased to be considered as a terrorist organization after Abiy Ahmed came to power.
Thus, it has charged against Abiy’s governmental Prosperity Party, which it has accused of “looking the other way” in the face of the opposition’s demands, while calling for the “unconditional” release of political prisoners, the reopening of political party offices, the end of hostilities in the country to favor an “inclusive” negotiation, guarantee the independence of the electoral commission and open a political dialogue.
However, a faction of the OLF led by its vice president, Ararso Bikila, has rejected the announcement and said it will participate in the elections. “Much of the problem is internal, not external,” a spokesman for the faction told the BBC.
The OLF’s announcement comes after the OFC announced last week that it will not participate in the parliamentary elections, scheduled for June, if the authorities do not meet a series of demands, including the release of its jailed leaders.
Bekele Gerba, Jawar Mohamed and Dejene Tafa, all senior OFC leaders, are in detention and facing terrorism charges in connection with the wave of violence following the June murder of popular Oromo singer and activist Hachalu Hundessa. All of them recently ended a 40-day hunger strike to protest their imprisonment.
Ethiopia’s electoral commission announced in December its decision to set June 5, 2021 as the date for the general elections, scheduled for August 2020 and postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The postponement of the elections increased tensions with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which rejected the announcement and proceeded to hold polls in the Tigray region (north), in the context of an upsurge of its differences with Abiy since his accession to office in 2018. Thus, he subsequently said that he did not recognize his authority due to the absence of a vote on his mandate.
Finally, Abiy announced on November 4 the launch of a military offensive in the region, now concluded, to remove the TPLF from power following an attack executed by the group against a major Army base in the regional capital, Mekelle, which resulted in the death of a large number of military personnel.
ATTACK BLAMED ON OLF
Separately, at least eight people were killed in an attack executed Monday by the military wing of the OLF in the town of Amaro during a meeting to discuss reconciliation, the Ethiopian news portal Borkena reported.
The leader of the OLF, an organization considered terrorist until 2018, Dawud Isa, returned in September 2018 from exile along with several other leaders as part of the reconciliation process opened after Abiy came to power in April that year.
The OLF had been fighting for decades for the secession of the Oromia region, but last August announced that it was renouncing the armed struggle, accepting the prime minister’s offer of amnesty.