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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Ethiopia -The Undemocratic Electoral System

It is well known that Ethiopia is presently structured along ethnic lines, a situation akin to the apartheid system in the vicious old days of South Africa.

The on-going election process unfolding in Ethiopia yields an abundant evidence that unquestionably demonstrates the prevalence of an apartheid system in Ethiopia. For this, you only need to have a look at the election results presented by the Ethiopian Election Board on its website: www.ElectionsEthiopia.org (see footnote for details).

One of the so-called regional states within the current federal structure of Ethiopia is the Harari Killil which is estimated to have a population of 200,000 of which only 9,000 (less than 5%) are Aderes who reside in the "Jegol Medebegna" area while the remaining majority of 191,000 (comprising people from various other Ethiopian ethnic groups) is located in the "Jegol Zuriya and Hundene" area both within the same Killil (locality).

The Board's election result shows that a parliamentary seat is to be reserved for an Adere who is elected by 3,266 Aderes (registered Adere voters: 5,516) within the Jegol Medebegna area while the vast majority of the Killil's residents having registered voters numbering 58,182 living in the Jegol Zuriya and Hundene area will also have a solitary parliamentary seat voted for by 15,244 residents. The only other comparative situation is the case of another lopsided election in Benishangul Killil, Bulen district in which a parliamentary seat is to be allocated to a person elected by only 1,355 voters in a nation of 75 million people!

Such is the state of "democracy" in the present days of Ethiopia!

That is not all. Despite the Aderes' miniscule number relative to the total population of the "Killil", the current regime's apartheid system has facilitated their total power monopoly on the regional state's governance. Typical to the apartheid system, the minority Aderes are subjecting the majority to abuse of power including a great deal of corruption, injustice and incompetence. A clear evidence of this predicament is the fact that for some years now, Harar which is surrounded by abundant water resources, does not have a water supply system, thanks to the total ineffectiveness and inefficiency of the Adere leadership. What is even more disturbing is the fact that according to the present Ethiopian constitution, this tiny group of Aderes could veto any amendment such as the proposed reforms aimed at achieving an improved parliamentary representation.

Numerous decent Ethiopian Aderes are embarrassed, appalled and even disgusted by the current obviously unjust and undemocratic system. One of them has in fact written a book condemning the whole setup. The opportunist Aderes who are engaged in perpetuating the odious abuse of authority should give heed to his advice lest they incur the wrath of the majority sooner than later. They should know that the current injustice cannot continue and that their days are numbered.

The odious apartheid system in Harer and elsewhere in Ethiopia should be done away with forthwith!

- Note: To access election data in the Harari Killil, go to www.ElectionsEthiopia.org, click on "election results", then click on "Harari", then click on the constituency for which you require data.

Sudan Tribune

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Elections in Ethiopia – Truth Should Never be a Casualty
By Mohammed H. Durri

I read the article that was written by Hibret Selamu,
and published by Sudan Tribune on May 27, 2005 under
the title of “Ethiopia - The undemocratic electoral
system.” To say the least I found the article to be
factually inaccurate, and demeaning to millions of
South Africans who suffered under the brutal apartheid
system.

The main argument of the article is that the current
system in existence in Ethiopia is similar to that of
the former apartheid regime in South Africa. The only
proof presented to support this claim is the special
affirmative action based status that was awarded to
Harar by the Ethiopian parliament after examining the
injustices that the Harari people have faced during
the previous regimes.

Ethiopia encompasses an area of 1,127,127 sq km. Harar
makes up only 400 sq km or 0.035% of the total area.
Even if we assume the claim that Ethiopia has a system
that is similar to that of the apartheid regime
because of the way the Harari regional state is
administered, that still leaves the remaining 99.965%
of Ethiopia, which does not have such a system.
Therefore, it would be inaccurate to state that
Ethiopia has “undemocratic electoral system” based on
these facts. The special arrangement in Harar is the
exception to the rule in Ethiopia, and was
necessitated due to exceptional circumstances, which
will be discussed below.

Throughout his article Mr. Hibret keeps on referring
to the Harari people as “aderes.” I will give him the
benefit of the doubt, and assume that he genuinely
does not know the fact that “adere” is an imposed name
on the Harari people subsequent to the defeat and
annexation of their homeland in 1887 at the hands of
the Ethiopian king, Menelik.

The subsequent leaders of Ethiopia after Menelik
imposed great political repression on Harari people
causing them to leave their hometown, Harar. During
the reign of Haile Selasi some Hararis were arrested
and abused in prisons. Others were exiled to other
parts of Ethiopia, and prevented from ever returning
to Harar. Also, economic opportunities were denied to
Hararis in systematic ways so they can leave Harar and
settle elsewhere.

While such policies of systematic displacement and
disenfranchisement were in effect against the Hararis,
the opposite was true for the ruling ethnic group, the
Amharas. They were encouraged and given incentives
such as land grants to settle in Harar. Almost all
government jobs were given exclusively to Amharas.
Specifically, all civil services, administration, law
enforcement, education, down to the lowest menial jobs
were given to Amharas. Moreover, military personal
received higher pensions if they moved and settled in
Harar when they retired. It is because of such
despotic and oppressive actions that the Harari
population dwindled to the level it has today.

From 1877 to 1994 the Harari population in Harar is
reported to have decreased by 88%, while that of the
Amharas increased by 371%. These are conservative
estimates.

Any fair-minded person can see that a great injustice
has been committed against the Harari people. Today
they are on the verge of extinction due to crimes that
were committed against them for over a century. It is
after examining these facts that the Ethiopian
parliament voted to allow Hararis to administer Harar
in a special affirmative action based system. It is
quiet a stretch of imagination to associate a minority
indigenous group of people ruling a fraction of their
ancestral land with apartheid. Affirmative action is a
legal means to redress past injustices that have been
committed against group of people. It is by no means
intended to oppress anyone. To claim otherwise is
tantamount to some white supremacists in the US
arguing that affirmative actions are reverse
discriminations.

Hararis have no desire, nor the capacity to oppress
others. They are peaceful and law-abiding citizens who
are willing to work with all Ethiopians no matter what
their ethnic and/or religious affiliation are. It is
to the testament of the fair-mindedness of the Harari
leadership that the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) awarded
the 2002-2003 UNESCO’s Cities for Peace Prize to
Harar.

According to UNESCO’s website, “The UNESCO’s Cities
for Peace Prize recognizes municipalities that are
strengthening social cohesion, improving living
conditions in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and
developing genuine urban harmony and diversity.”
http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=22559&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

That does not sound like apartheid, does it? To accuse
Harar of having anything that resembles apartheid
system is a great injustice not only to the long
oppressed Hararis, but also to the millions of South
Africans who suffered and died fighting for liberation
and justice. Such accusations are unfair to
personalities like Nelson Mandela, Steven Biko,
Desmond Tutu, and countless other heroes of the
liberation movement who paid heavy prices in their
struggle against injustice and narrow-mindedness.

If anything could remotely be compared to apartheid
system in Harar, it was the system that was in
existence during the regime of Haile Selasi and
Mengistu, which heavily discriminated against the
local population of Harar and decimated their number.
What happened in Harar was nothing short of ethnic
cleansing.

Mr. Hibret also accuses the Harari leadership of
corruption and incompetence. To prove his point he
raised the issue of the water shortage that exists in
Harar. He claims that Harar is “surrounded by abundant
water resources,” but that the problem persists due to
incompetence of the Harari leadership.

When one makes an accusation, it is only fair for that
person to at least do a minimal investigation in
search of the truth. Truth should never be casualty
in politicking for election and jockeying for power.
Rudimentary research would have revealed to anyone
that is interested in truth, that there is no
abundance of water that is surrounding Harar, as
claimed by Mr. Hibret. The only major body of water
that was in existence close to the Harari regional
state was Lake Alamaya. That body of water has dried
up at the moment, and is in no position to supply
water to the population of Harar or its surrounding
region. The residents of Harar are aware of the source
of the problem, and they know it is not from the
leadership.

The Harari Regional state has managed to secure a loan
from Africa Development Bank (ADB), and is working
hard to resolve the long-term water needs of Harar.
The project is scheduled to be completed in the next
four to five years. Meanwhile it is incumbent upon all
Ethiopians and humanitarian organizations, no matter
what their ethnic and religious persuasions are, to
assist the residents of Harar by alleviating the water
shortage that they are facing at the moment. Building
water wells and providing other intermediary solutions
could achieve this. The budget allocated for the
Harari regional state is simply not adequate to solve
the existing water shortages.

Instead of threatening and inciting others against
Hararis, Mr. Hibret will be well advised to work with
all Ethiopians to preserve the beautiful heritage of
the Harari people, which in fact is an Ethiopian
heritage and treasure. Harar has a very good potential
to be a tourist attraction center for Ethiopia due to
its magnificent walls that surround it, its beautiful
artifacts, and its hospitable people.

Subtle threat of violence and incitement will not take
us anywhere, except to the path of disaster to the
entire nation. Harar is an important Islamic city with
spiritual importance to Ethiopian Muslims, and any
violence against its people will have grave
consequences for the entire nation in the long term.