Joint UEDF-CUD Press Release July 19, 2005
Source: ER on UEDF-CUD Press Release, July 19, 2005
The people of Ethiopia had a definitive decision on May, 15, 2005 Election. They emphatically denied EPRDF a mandate to continue to rule the country. They said in no uncertain terms no to dictatorship, no the usurpation of power by the EPRDF. However, the refusal by the EPRDF and its lackey, the National Electoral Board (NEB), to accept the voice of the people has derailed the electoral process. It goes without saying that the refusal has immensely angered the Ethiopian people. This led to a limited, albeit absolutely, peaceful public reaction in early June 2005. Instead of addressing the people’s demand to have their votes respected in a peaceful and constitutional manner, the EPRDF and the government it leads opted to respond to the reaction in a heavy handed manner on June 6, 2005, and the subsequently escalate the suppression, which resulted in mass killings on June 8, 2005. During this brutal suppression and the immediate aftermath not only many have lost their lives, but also a large number of people sustained major and minor injuries and thousands were imprisoned.
It is well known that the root cause of all this is the EPRDF cunning manipulation of the electoral process and the attendant fraudulent acts it unleashed in the pre-and pot election periods. In order to address the Ethiopian people’s democratic and constitutional question in the proper and legal manner, an agreement was signed among EPRDF, UEDF and CUD to investigate all electoral frauds and to resolve the problem peacefully. UEDF and CUD were of the sincere belief that this tripartite agreement, signed to create an atmosphere free of fear, anxiety, violence, imprisonment, would resolve many of the problems. UEDF and CUD signed the agreement in good faith believing this would bring about respect to the personal security of the public; upholding of citizens’ democratic and constitutional rights; release of those imprisoned illegally; just and fair use of the mass media; and the resolution of issues before a court of law. We accepted the agreement to ensure the people’s voice was respected in a peaceful and legal manner.
UEDF and CUD entered the fraud/complaint investigation process with a lot of reservations concerning the openness, impartiality and individual capacity of the panelists representing the Electoral Board. Even though at the time UEDF and CUD had voiced these reservations during the discussions held on how to go about the investigation process, we entered into the implementation phase believing that problems ensuring during the process would be addressed as they occur in a responsible and conscientious manner. It was not however to be that way; during the course of the investigations our initial reservations have all been confirmed. There has been nothing but naked biased decisions/voting on the part of the NEB in all of the investigating panels.
The investigation has been conducted all along in a manner that put pressure on UEDF and CUD to pull out of the process. It was indeed a predetermined, intentional and calculated pressure from the Electoral Board. We are forced to come to this conclusion based on the complete disregard EPRDF and NEB in unison made to the agreed procedures and guidelines that CUD and UEDF representatives observed at each and every site where investigation took place. As a result of this, some representatives of UEDF and CUD have been forced to discontinue their involvement in the investigation. UEDF and CUD have repeatedly informed the National Electoral Board of what has been happening, and they have kindly asked the board to rectify these problems and devise a way to conduct the investigations befitting the seriousness of the task at hand while there were verbal promises to look into the matter and take appropriate measures from the Board, nothing was done to that effect. We find ourselves at this juncture in an extremely difficult position and we seriously believe that not only the process is in an utter jeopardy, but also neither would the results of the process to date serve the purpose they were intended for. The following are the main problems that have put the process in futility.
In almost all of the panels the representatives of the Electoral Board were blatantly biased. The representatives not only have acted outside of the agreed upon guidelines but have also ignored their impartiality by denying established truths, disregarding documentary evidence and arguing openly against UEDF and CUD representatives. To cite an example of 31 constituencies in the Amhara Region where CUD filed complaints, the Electoral Board representatives have voted against the CUD in 30 of the constituencies even in places where all EPRDF witnesses testified against it.
UEDF and CUD representatives and witnesses have been harassed, thereatend, and were openly reminded of harsh days ahead of them unless they behaved properly. In some places they have been barred from appearing as witnesses, in still some beaten and in a few places killed upon their return from the hearing. In some of these instances. In all of this, the connivance of the Electoral Board was quite evident.
To cite some instances: in Metu, CUD representatives in Panel No. 15 were threatened in their hotel by the woreda administrator, police commissioner and other armed personnel. Some were taken to be police station for questioning and intimidation. The same has happened to CUD witnesses in Gatira ena Gera-Panel No. 11.
It was observed that some of the panelists and presenter of cases on behalf of EPRDF were public prosecutors, justices, and security officers. The psychological strain that this puts on the witnesses (farmers, civil servants) of the CUD and UEDF is undeniable.
Although it is clearly stipulated in the investigation guidelines that each complainant would be allowed to have 5 witnesses not per Electoral district but per contested site, NEB panelists and EPRDF representatives have in complete disregard to the guideline chosen to proceed with their own interpretation. As a result of this, UEDF and CUD were left with no choice but to leave the investigation in various constituencies. In addition, opposition panelists have been forced to sign minute/proceedings than did not truthfully reflect testimonies of witnesses.
Documents complied by the Electoral Board and sent to the investigating panels were incomplete. This has been another issue of contention. To cite an example: in East Gojam, Dejen Constituency, while our documents showed complaints in 38 polling stations, the Electoral Board only sent documents on 18 of the polling stations.
It is to be recalled the NEB developed a list of items that the complainants can lodge for investigation by the panels. Accordingly, the types of complaints were marked in advance in the format NEB prepared for the purpose. Only these were to be used during the investigation. Instead NEB representatives in the panels identified new complaint types that were petty and thus confusing and not strong not good enough for the panels to arrive at credible decisions. We believe that this has severely weakened the position of CUD and UEDF in a large number of contested polling stations. Requests form UEDF and CUD panelists to the electoral Board panelists to correct the situation, the latter were unwilling to rectify the error. In many panels the Electoral Board panelists were un willing to record the dissenting opinions of UEDF and CUD panelists the minutes/proceeding. The investigation in Iteya can shade more light on this. In Iteya constituency, EPRDF presented 3 new complaints in addition to those registered with the Electoral Board. IEDF, in order to resolve the issue amicably, accepted the new complaints. However, while legitimate written evidence of UEDF complaints were being rejected, there was pressure on the UEDF panelist accept other written evidences presented later, which were copies of original documents and whose authenticity could not be verified. Due to this untenable situation. The UEDF panelist was unable to continue on the panel.
International observes were not observing the decision making process and were not able to clearly follow the whole investigation. In addition, presentations were not able to clearly follow the whole investigation. In addition, presentation of cases was conducted in the absence of international observers and opposition representatives.
To recap, the environment in which the panels conducted the investigation was too flawed to ascertain that there was no vote rigging. CUD and UEDF strongly believe that the investigation process was a complete failure. EPRDF, the Electoral Board and the government were bent to make the election undemocratic and the investigation worthless. Yet as usual they left no stone unturned to make the opposition accountable for whatever wrong has happened to the investigation process. The course they are taking in one that shows unwillingness to put in place a democratic system in Ethiopia, a disregard for the constitution, inability to accept the verdict of the people, and a blatant disregard for the rights of citizens. It is a course that should be salted and reversed. It does not help EPRDF, the government, the national electoral Board, the Ethiopian people or the opposition. It will lead us all to an unpleasant end. It is a course that incites the public to get away from the peaceful path in chosen.
UEDF and CUD feel that, unless the problems are addressed, continuing in a process that may lead to the disruption of the public’s peace is unacceptable. Therefore, the plot to drive the opposition out of the investigation process by the electoral Board and EPRDF should immediately cease and problems in the process should be addressed. It is our belief that the Ethiopian people, all interested parties and international observers will give this request its due attention. Both UEDF and CUD strive to see the voice of the people respected and a peaceful and legal transfer of government installed.
Respect the people’s voice for the peace of our country
Joint statement of CUD and UEDF, July 27, 2005
The race is to form a government not by vote but by force
Much was said by EPRDF and by the National Electoral Board (NEB) about the May 15/2005 election being just, democratic and flawless. On the other hand, opposition parties and the people had struggled and even died to expose the lack of neutrality on the part of NEB and to ensure that political power emanated from the will of the people. Unfortunately, anti-democratic forces bent on frustrating this effort have succeeded in thwarting the desired outcome. They have succeeded in doing so through the barrel of the gun and through the grossly prejudiced decision of the National Electoral Board. As a result of the unjust decisions of the National Electoral Board, the people have been robbed of their voice. In some places, they have been prevented from voting or forced to vote for the ruling party. Now these anti-democratic forces are busy in their determination to form a government by force.
CUD and UEDF had made it clear in their joint press statement of July 19, 2005, that the investigation process was not designed to do justice to the people's voice but to give EPRDF an additional chance to be able to take away more voice from the people. In the July 19 joint statement, the following points have been made clear:
1. In almost all of the panels the representatives of the Electoral Board were blatantly biased. The representatives not only had acted outside of the agreed upon guidelines, but have also ignored their impartiality by denying established truths, disregarding documentary evidence and arguing openly against UEDF and CUD representatives.
2. UEDF and CUD representatives and witnesses have been harassed, threatened, and were openly reminded of harsh days ahead of them unless they behaved properly. In some places they have been barred from appearing as witnesses and in still some instances beaten or killed.
3. It was observed that some of the panelists and presenters of cases on behalf of EPRDF were public prosecutors, justices and security officers.
4. Although it is clearly stipulated in the investigation guidelines that each complainant would be allowed to have 5 witnesses per a contested constituency. NEB panelists and EPRDF representative have, in complete disregard of the guideline, chosen to proceed with their own interpretation.
5. Documents compiled by the Electoral Board and sent to the investigating panels were incomplete thus being a cause for serious misunderstandings.
6. It is to be recalled that NEB had developed a list of items that the complainants could lodge for investigation by the panels. Accordingly, the types of complaints were marked in advance in the format of NEB had prepared for the purpose. Only these were to be used during the investigation. Instead, NEB representatives in the panels identified new complaint types that were petty and thus confusing and not strong and good enough for the panels to arrive at credible decisions.
7. International observers were not allowed to observe the decision making process in full and clearly follow the whole investigation. In addition, presentations of cases were conducted in the absence of international observers and opposition representatives.
Not only this, it is to be recalled that the June 10 tripartite declaration and the June 14 additional version to the same document was signed in order to create a conducive environment of the peaceful investigation of the election irregularities. Article 4 of the additional document of the joint declaration has been fully abrogated in complete disregard of the serious complaints lodged by CUD and UEDF, and the anti-democratic forces are set on forming a government by force. Article 4 of the additional joint declaration says:
"The signatories confirm that they stand ready to implement their 10 June 2005 declaration in an open, constructive, inclusive, and consensual manner. The signatories agree to discuss the precise modalities for implementing their declaration in a conducive environment."
The above provision was meant to enable the people to give their witnesses without fear and to move about freely without the intimidating presence of the armed militia. It was also meant to prevent the cajoling of people on the one hand, and the imprisoning, beating and harassing them, on the other. But all this effort has been made to go down the drain. We, on our part, have done our best to play the pacifying and stabilizing role while the ruling party was fully engaged in creating tension among the people. The tension has turn seriously affected the investigation process. Consequently, the investigation process has failed. The objective was to give victory to EPRDF and this has been successfully achieved.
In their July 26 statement, NEB officials had said that representatives of opposition parties had not lodged their complaints on the spot. They said that the representatives made their complaints after they returned from the investigation places. The truth is that the representatives had lodged their complaints to the investigating committee on the spot. It was only when their complaints were rejected by the team there that they came to Addis Ababa. Some of the representatives had handed their complaints to the investigating teams in writing. Whether the complaints were lodged on the spot or at the center, the NEB has done nothing about them.
In short, the investigation process has been conducted outside the agreed declaration. It is true that during the investigation process, homes of witnesses have been burned down. Witnesses have been killed. Families of witnesses have been harassed. On July 16, 2005, Ato Wuddu Delelegn had reported to the investigation panel and complained that the local militia had threatened to kill him if he did not leave the area by July 22, the day when the investigating committee would have finished its work. He was told that the investigating committee would come to his place and that he should go there and wait. He was assured that he would not be harmed. But he was killed on July 16. Our representatives had asked to go to where Ato Wuddu was killed, together with other witnesses. Their request was denied. Instead, a team of journalists went alone to the place and came up with the drama that was presented on television yesterday and before yesterday.
Ato Belete Ejigu from Awangi Zone, Killage Constituency, was killed on July 16, 2005. The killers are Yibeyin Ayalew and Abbayneh Birara. The organizer of the criminal act is the kebele chairman.
In Arsi Negelle, the killers of member of parliament-elect have not been detained according to the law, and the Jeldu wereda murders have been rewarded.
Another murder has been committed in Gindeberet wereda. Along with the killings, innocent citizens have been beaten, imprisoned and displaced.
The ruling party is busy disseminating false propaganda through its monopolized government media against the opposition parties and pressuring them to accept the outcome of the election, whatever it may be, with grace. What does this mean? It means that they should accept the result regardless of however it is obtained.
The NEB and EPRDF have gone to the extent of discrediting decision made by conscientious election executives and judges. Some NEB officials said that final decisions can be made only at the main office. Other NEB officials said decisions can be made on the spot in the field. It is the decisions made in this state of confusion that we are being forced to accept.
During the investigation, in constituencies where EPRDF had lodged complaints to save its high level officials who were ignominiously defeated, it was decided that there should be a rerun of the election. In areas where the opposition parties had lodged complaints, their requests were rejected, with few exceptions, by a majority decision on grounds of insufficient evidence.
What does it mean when EPRDF says that the opposition parties have taken votes away from it? The security forces, the weapons, the prisons, the administration, the police are all in its own hands. How can it accuse the opposition parties when on the contrary, it is the one that rigged the election and robbed the people's vote? The NEB, which is created by EPRDF, is sitting as a judge and making sure that its creator wins the election.
The voice of the people cannot be protected while the NEB stands as a loyal agent of EPRDF. If the people's voice is to be respected and peace and stability to prevail, the contested constituencies must be re-examined by a neutral body or there should be a reelection in the 299 contested constituencies in an atmosphere free from beatings, imprisonment and harassment. We call upon domestic and international observers to contribute their share in participating actively and observing the reelection as they have done in the past. We issue this call in the name of the Ethiopian people who have been robbed of their voice.
27 July 2005