No Level Playing Field in the 2010 Election – Dr. Negaso Gidada

October 13th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

The Current Political Situation in Dembi Dollo

I visited Dembi Dollo, in Qelem Wallaga Zone of Oromia Region from September 18-28, 2009. During my visit, I tried to gather as much information as possible on the current political situation. (more…)

The Current Political Situation in Dembi Dollo

I visited Dembi Dollo, in Qelem Wallaga Zone of Oromia Region from September 18-28, 2009. During my visit, I tried to gather as much information as possible on the current political situation. I was unable to hold public meetings because the local administration was unwilling to cooperate. I therefore tried to meet as many individuals as I could. During the 10 days I talked to over two dozen individuals including cadres of the OPDO/EPRDF, business leaders, community elders, government workers (teachers and health workers), local qabale officials, vacationing university students, church leaders, private professionals, NGO employees and members and supporters of the OFDM.

This descriptive analysis summarizes and focuses on a few major issues. My general conclusion is that the OPDO/EPRDF totally controls and dominates the local political arena, and therefore, there could no level playing field for the opposition in the Dembi Dollo area. Unless the situation changes dramatically in the next few months, I do not expect the 2010 election will be fair, free or democratic. The first step in correcting the current situation is by appointing well trained election officers to different levels of the election administration.

I. Strict Security Control and Surveillance

The OPDO/EPRDF which claims to have won the 2005 and 2008 elections seems determined not to allow any other political organization which could compete against it in the area. This goes as far as not welcoming individual visitors to the area. Visitors are secretly followed and placed under surveillance to determined where they go, whom they visited, and what they said. The visitors will rarely be called for interrogation or approached by the security people. It is the local people who had contact with visitors that are summoned and grilled by security officials. In my case, my brother-in-law with whom I stayed made a copy of the letter I brought with me from the parliamen to the security office. He also received telephone calls from the Dembi Dollo and Naqamte security offices. He was asked why I came, whether I came for preparation for the coming election or for any other purpose.

About two months ago Professor Haweitu Simeso of the USAID visited Dembi Dollo with colleagues from the Irish and Canadian embassies. The visiting group was followed from the time it arrived in Naqamte. After the group returned, several security officials interrogated leaders of the Dembi Dollo Bethel-Mekane Yesus Church who had spoken to Haweitu and his colleagues. One of the church leaders was even summoned to the zonal administrator’s office and asked detailed questions about the visitors from Addis. Three weeks before I went to Dembi Dollo, Dr. Belaynesh (member of the OFDM and an MP) was in Dembi Dollo. After she returned to Addis, all the people who went to her father’s house to greet her and others she greeted on the streets in the town were arrested, interrogated and held in custody for a period of 24 to 48 hours. The houses of some of these individuals were also searched. A building contractor who arrived in Dembi Dollo on September 28 to inspect the construction of the new Bethel Church was also followed. He left the next day fearing that he will be summoned to the security office.

OPDO/EPRDF in Dembi Dollo, besides using the police and security offices and personnel, also collects information on each household through other means. One of these methods involves the use of organizations or structures called “shane”, which in Oromo means “the five”. Five households are grouped together under a leader who has the job of collecting information on the five households every day and pass it on to a higher administrative organ called “Gare”. There are 30 to 40 households in a “Gare” group which has a chairperson, a secretary, a security chief and two other members. The security chief passes the information he collected to his chief in the higher administrative organs in the Qabale, who in turn informs the Woreda police and security office.

Each household is required to report on guests and visitors, the reasons for their visits, their length of stay, what they said and did and activities they engaged in. The “shane” leader knows if the members of the households have participated in “development work”, if they have contributed to the several fund raising programs, if they have attended Qabale meetings, whether they have registered for election, if they have voted and for whom they have voted. The OPDO/EPRDF mass associations (women, youth and micro-credit groups) and party cells (“fathers”, “mothers” and “youth”). The party cells in the schools, health institutions and religious institutions also serve the same purpose.

II. Organizational Structures

Understanding how the OPDO/EPRDF itself and its Woreda administration are organized is very important. There is the OPDO/EPRDF Qellem Wallagga Zonal office in Dembi Dollo. This office receives information and instruction from the regional office in Addis Ababa. It passes messages to the lower structures and oversees the propaganda and organizational activities of the party. This office has branches in every village, schools and health institutions. These branches are subdivided into basic cells. The branches of these cells are organized into supporter groups, candidate groups and full members groups.

Additionally, the party has organized the people into youth, women and micro-credit associations for tighter control and easy dissemination of its propaganda and to do party activities. Dembi Dollo town is a special Woreda Town Administration. The Administration is sub-divided into four large “Ganda” (Villages). The town used to have seven Qabales but was restructured just before the Qabale election in 2008. Each Qabale has 15 in the Woreda Council. It is said that the OPDO/EPRDF presented the names of pre-selected council members to the Qabale Council and had them endorsed. There is also the Sayyo Rual Woreda (24 Qabales). The administration of Sayyo Woreda also has its seat in Dembi Dollo town. These are all appointees of the party and are believed to be “strongly committed” to it. The four “Ganda” (villages or some times called Kifle Ketema) have each their own councils. A council has 300 members. The members were “elected” in 2008. All the people I talked to confirmed to me that the party pre-selected the candidates. The Qabale has its own cabinet and these are also party members. A Qabale is further sub-divided into different zones. The zones are sub-divided into “Gare”. There are up to 17 “Gare” in a zone.

III. Misuse of Public Property, Finance and Civil Servants

The party’s propaganda and organization committees are located in the Zonal, Woreda and Qabale Administration building. The party does not pay rent for the rooms it uses. The committee members are party cadres but their monthly salary and per dimes are paid by the administration from public treasury. Their secretaries, cleaners and messengers also get their salary from public treasury. All civil servants are also members of the party. Monthly contribution of the members to the party are collected by the Woreda finance office at the time they pay the workers their monthly salaries. The party officials use government office materials, supplies and equipment, including official transport vehicles. The party uses town and qabale halls with out paying rent. Meeting halls in health and educational institutions are also used with out any payment and at will. This system is practiced from Zonal to “Gare” levels. But opposition to the OPDO/EPRDF are not allowed to rent rooms for offices from private owners or rent public halls in the town for meetings. Plasma televisions supposed to be used for school-net and Woreda-net are used for dissemination of party propaganda.

IV. Dissemination of OPDO/EPRDF Political Programs

All adults in the qabales and government employees are forced to participate in different seminars and workshops. The same is true of all school children who are in high schools and vocational training institutions. University students on vacation are also required to participate in such programs. Lessons in “Tarsimo” (Strategy) and “Bulchiinsa Gaarii” (Good Governance) are given to all residents (school children, collage and university students, and private and government employees). Workshops on BPR have been held and each government employee given Birr 25 for participation. The seminar for university students lasted five days. The per diem for this seminar was supposed to be Birr 35 per day for each participant for nine days. Every two weeks on Friday afternoon, all government employees participate in study circles of the party and cell meetings during work hours and in the public meeting rooms. No rent is paid for the use of the rooms. Fund raising programs are organized once in a while for support of the party. It is the administration’s finance officers who deduct the pledged amount from employees and transfer the money to the party.

V. Elections

During the 2005 election, I have witnessed that civil servants were deployed for two weeks for election campaign for the OPDO/EPRDF and that government vehicles (cars and motor cycles) were used for this purpose. OPDO/EPRDF members and cadres were busy disrupting public meetings I called in the field. One of my observers was bribed with Birr 200 and agreed to give the votes I received to my opponent (OPDO/EPRDF). In one qabale, I was forbidden not to hold election campaign meeting 500 meters away from a market place. The qabale officials told me that my meeting will disturb “their market”. My posters were removed from several places and leaflets I distributed were collected and destroyed. I persistently appealed to the election officials to correct the OPDO/EPRDF illegal activities or cancel it from the election in accordance with the election law but no body heeded to my appeals.

According to the people I talked to, the election office chief during the 2008 election is a member of the OPDO/EPRDF. There is a rumor that the same person is being appointed to the office by the OPDO/EPRDF for the 2010 election. The OPDO/EPRDF appointed a supporter or a member to each polling station to stand by the voters and tell the voters in which box they should put voting signs or signatures.


Semhal zenawi to help out her dad in the 2010 Election.

VI. Situation of the Opposition

The office of the OFDM has remained closed since 2005. Members and supporters were beaten up and imprisoned several times. They were intimidated or bribed. During the three weeks before my visit to Dembi Dollo, 60 people in Sayyo and 15 people in Dembi Dollo were arrested and kept in police custody for up to 48 hours. They had to pay one hundred Birr as bail before being released. They were reprimanded and warned for the 2010 election. They were told, “Be careful, do not support, be member of or vote for the opposition as you did in 2005. We shall not give in like then. We defend ourselves even with guns.” OFDM is equated to the OLF while the CUD or the “Qindomina” as it is called in Oromia is equated with the “Nafxagna”. The campaign against the UDJ as a “Nafxagna” organization has already begun.


VII. Media

No private or independent news papers are to be found in Dembi Dollo. Alternative news sources to the Federal and Oromia public media are only VOA and Deutche Welle. The Oromia information office and the OPDO send their press media to the area by bus. These are picked by a government employee and distributed to different institutions and offices. All workers are forced to buy these news papers.

VIII. Conclusion

It is plain to anyone who has been to Dembi Dollo and surrounding areas that there is no political level playing field. I can not imagine how the opposition can enter into an election process under such conditions. If the ruling party is serious about having a peaceful, fair and democratic election in 2010 it has much to do including the release of all political prisoners and putting a stop to new illegal arrests, intimidations, detentions and bribery of members of the opposition, immediate reopening of offices of the opposition, providing immediate equal access to the public media, allow public meetings organized by the opposition to take place freely, amend the Election Law so that neutral election officials can be appointed and make it possible for international election observers free access to ensure fair elections and put into place control mechanisms so that its supporters and members respect the constitution and the election laws. It must also start repaying rent for offices and halls it has used for its party activities over the past several years as well as for use of government office materials and equipments, fuel, telephone and electricity. Salaries paid to government employees from the public treasury must also be repaid.

  1. Dawit
    | #1

    Meles has made it clear by stating “be dem yetegegne siltan be card anisetim bileawal” so, if people are genuinely fed up with him, they should do what he did-chaka megbat ena metagel.
    Or else not get involved in politics and just lead a private life.
    The good news is, unlike the era of the Derg, people can be neutral and not partake in politics.

  2. mateos
    | #2

    It took the dear doctor nearly 19 years to find out the true color of Abebe/Legesse/Meles and his boss Bereket so called election, revolution, democracy and so on. Did the dearest doctor anticipated democracy or election practice to come out of the aiga jungle? the monkies in the jungle of aiga have better democracy than the ones in Addis; at least the monkies in the jungle of aiga don’t kill each other or don’t act like they are sophisticated human being; if there is anyone that believes that there is going to be a fair election in 2010 in Ethiopia either they are weyane mafia beneficiaries or all other organizations that make their living in the name of “SAVE THE CHILDREN IN ETHIOPIA”. What Meles and his boss are doing in Ethiopia is just looking to survive one day at a time with their protectors agazi herds. Ethiopia and Ethiopians do not need election but what they need is peace among each other, neighbors, respect, and take their own affairs. Until then Ethiopia’s election or democracy is just like the look-alike of Meles and his boss: ugly, midget, bald, killer, lier, and Bush/Blair pet!

  3. endalu
    | #3

    What a joke from Dawit,? you need treatment!!!!!!!!!Bunch of agazi hula endet new yemtasbew yematreba weyane!

  4. Dawit
    | #4

    Endalu,
    Next time, it’s fruitful if you give a constructive criticism rather than blindly accusing me of being woyane. I still stand by the notion that woyane is not going to give up its power by an election. They believe they have sacrificed a lot while the opposition haven’t nearly made the same amount of sacrifice. So, rather than trying to imagine the situation the way we want it to be, it’s best if we listen to our enemies and act accordingly. Having said that, Meles made it clear: “siltan lay lemewatat ke chaka mejemer alebet”

  5. Anti-woyane
    | #5

    Yes! Dawit is right.This stupid terrorist said this before 10 years.
    We have to think again and again and take a rimedical action to remove them from the face of the earth(not from Ethiopia only).

  6. Semhal Zenawita
    | #6

    This is Doctor of yours is a junk. He never had ideas of his own. For me he was a parrot. Now he retreates at times when his personal interest is in conflict. I know he will not emanicipate himself from this personal agony of egoism. Once I remember he was weeping when he was denied the fringe benefits when he was kicked out from his lame duck presidency. He is just a jerk. He doesnot think as his age.
    This guy is a stouge, a boot licker and never had a notion of his own. His brain is as little of a chicken as one thinks of.
    Good Luck the German Doctor

  7. Aster
    | #7

    Why don’t shutup if you have nothing constuctive to say. All Of your comments above reflect your ignorance and I suggest, you should gain more knowledge before you display your ignorance. Cultivate & mature first!!!!

  8. Yaberal Girma
    | #8

    An elected party in many countries occupies a working residence for
    the presidency and his/her close associates. Any other party activity
    is mainly covered by fund raising or public funding for party meetings
    and election campaigns with additional capital allotted to legally
    participating parties by the government. Things like surveillance of
    activities for security reasons are done in any country; the
    difference being it is done in a rather more effective way through the
    use of advanced digital technologies in places where they are
    prevalent. Every movement is accounted for since it is somehow
    recorded in one’s own background as an individual history. If
    something goes wrong, they track the history with the help of which
    they can easily connect the dots. The case of Ethiopia and other
    developing countries is different in that it gets done predominantly
    manually. The Soviet era KGB did similar spying of its citizens to the
    level of identifying them with communist membership ID cards. What
    makes Ethiopia’s case distinct is there are obviously more sensitive
    problems as it can be easily destabilized by those who wait for weak
    points. It is a very sad situation. There are so many diverging
    attitudes that have sprouted in the last three decades. A common
    ground for working together is becoming none existent.
    So, what is to be done? Let’s hope the many Universities and colleges
    that have been built will eventually show promising improvements to
    yield a new and dynamic generation that will make a difference in
    creating cohesion. Otherwise, there is going to be a continued show of
    dominance by a least expected group

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