November 10th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Andnet Party

It is to be recalled that in UDJ UPDATE 13 we reported that, on the 21st of October, 2008, UDJ had started, throughout the country, a campaign of:

1. remobilizing former CUD members,
2. opening branch offices,
3. organizing transitional organizing committees,
4. registering new members.

A correction is needed here. The campaign actually started on the 20th of October.

The campaign was launched in 5 directions: central, north, south, east and west. It started on October 20 and ended on November 6, 2008. The aim was to open 30 branches within this period. By the end of the campaign 35 branch offices have now been opened and made operational. Each office has an active transitional organizing committee that is in direct contact with the main office in Addis.

The 35 branch offices do not include the 10 branch offices that are opened in the 10 sub-cities of Addis. To conserve on resources, these branches will have to operate under one office within the head office at least for this year. Given adequate resources, these 10 branches will be operating as additional 10 branch offices of UDJ.

Following is a list of the places where the branch offices have been opened.

A. Northern Ethiopia

1. Bahir Dar Zone
2. Gonder Zone
3. Debremarcos Zone
4. Debretabor Zone
5. Dessie Zone
6. Woldia Zone
7. Kemissie Zone
8. Dega Damot Wereda
9. Dembecha Wereda

B. Central Ethiopa

1. Debrebirhan Zone
2. Ataye Wereda

C. Eastern Ethiopia

1. Assella Zone
2. Bale Zone

D. Western Ethiopia

1. Mettu Zone
2. Jimma Zone
3. Mizan Zone
4. Masha Zone
5. Ambo Zone

E. Southern Ethiopia

1. Awassa Zone
2. Dilla Zone
3. Tercha Zone
4. Soddo Zone
5. Sawla Zone
6. Arbaminch Zone
7. Jinka Zone
8. Hossa’na Zone
9. Amaro Special Wereda
10. Derashie Special Wereda
11. Yirgalem Wereda
12. Hageremariam Wereda
13. Kibremengist Wereda
14. Shone Wereda
15. Bodditti Woreda
16. Selam Ber Wereda
17. Angacha Woreda.


23 zone offices
2 special wereda offices
10 normal wereda offices

TOTAL 35 branch offices

Letters of notification.

Each team that went in the 5 directions carried 4 letters of notification (plus a copy of the certificate of accreditation issued by the National Electoral Board) and of request for cooperation to be delivered to the zonal (wereda) administration, zonal (wereda) police, city administration and city police. In almost all cases, the teams tried to meet the top officials of the above bodies and to hold brief discussions. In almost all cases, the meetings and discussions were cordial. At least in words, the officials said the right things and promised to cooperate. But, as seen repeatedly later, many of the promises were not kept.

Problems encountered

1. Team members detained: Members of the team lead by Eng. Gizachew Shiferaw, Deputy Chairman of UDJ and Head of Organizational Affairs, that went to the north via Gojjam, were detained in Dembecha Wereda (Amhara Region) for 3 hours by the police.

Excuse? They were accused of conducting party activities without notifying local officials. UDJ being a legally recognized national party, does not have to notify officials to conduct its normal party activities. But based on past experience and knowing the realities on the ground, UDJ had notified the regional offices in advance, in writing, of its planned activities. The regional offices had not communicated the information to the lower offices. When they realized the mistake, they apologized and released the team.

Among the members of the UDJ team was the Hon. A’miro Aweke, a member of the House of Peoples Representatives, representing the very people of the wereda in which he was being detained, and with immunity! For the local officials, that did not make a bit of a difference. So, when is a law a law?

2. UDJ members imprisoned: In Mettu Zone, Oromia Region, 3 UDJ members: Ato Daniel Woldegabriel Bobassa, Ato Tamene Mengesha and Ato Gobezie Damtie, were illegally imprisoned. All are very active members of UDJ. When news reached Mettu that a UDJ team would be coming to open a branch office and to establish a transitional organizing committee, EPRDF cadres are said to have been disturbed. Soon after, the police imprisoned Ato Daniel and Ato Gobezie under fictitious charges. The purpose was clear: to frustrate their activities and to prevent the imminent opening of the UDJ office. Ato Gobezie was released after 3 days of detention. Ato Daniel is still in prison for almost 3 weeks now. He has been brought before a court but denied bail. Ato Daniel has been elected chairman of the transitional organizing committee. Ato Gobezie is secretary of the committee while Ato Tamene is head of finance.

Ato Tamene was detained after the team had arrived in Mettu, opened the branch office, seen the establishment of the transitional organizing team and left, again under fictitious charges. One common and easy charge, but not so easy to defend, is being an OLF organizer. Ato Tamene is still in detention, for almost a week now.

3. People who rent their houses for UDJ offices are intimidated: This is the most common and vexing problem. Many duly entered rent contracts have been cancelled because the owners of the houses have been threatened by administration officials, the police or other EPRDF cadres. A typical example is what happened in Mizan town (Oromia Region). Ato Jemal Mohammed is a merchant in the town. He rented his house to a UDJ member for 250 birr per month, knowing full well and agreeing that the house would be used as an office by UDJ and took an advance payment of 1000 birr for 4 months. When the team arrived in Mizan, it was received by the UDJ members there and taken to the newly rented house. When a meeting was about to start with the members, Ato Jemal came to the house all nervous and his eyes full of fear. He said he had spent the whole day being summoned by one government office after another (the police, the kebele, the town council …) and being intimidated for renting his house to an opposition party. He held the folded1000-birr wad in his stretched-out right hand and declared: “Here, take your money. I can’t rent the house to you. I know what I have been going through the whole day today. I can’t go through that hell again for another day. I can’t bear it.”

The local UDJ members and the members of the guest team tried to plead with Ato Jemal to exercise his constitutional right and honour his contract but he wouldn’t hear a word of what was being said. They had to take back the money and leave the house. Fortunately, one of the UDJ members agreed to rent part of his house to be used as an office. A contract was signed and the next day, the branch office was officially opened, accompanied by a flag-raising ceremony. UDJ has confronted this office problem several times not only in the regions but also in Addis itself.

What is clearly evident from the above examples is that peoples’ constitutional rights are being blatantly violated by EPRDF officials. People are being locked up on fabricated charges, insulted and humiliated. Citizens cannot use their properties in any legal way they see fit. There seems to be a well orchestrated campaign, in the regions as well as in Addis, to spread fear among the people, designed to discourage them from having anything to do with opposition parties. This clearly in preparation for the 2010 election. If this trend continues, there are hard times ahead. UDJ is ready to face those hard times but unnecessary prices may have to be paid and there may be serious damages to the democratic process.

What is next?

The next step is to consolidate the existing 35 branch offices and, at the same time, to get ready for the next campaign to open the remaining 82 (of the total of 117 for the year) within the next few months.

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