Oromo: Election Board Refuses to Recognize OFC
The Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) is a coalition that was formed by the Oromo People’s Congress (OPC), led by Dr. Merera Gudina, and the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM), led by Mr. Bulcha Demeksa, in January 2009. Both OPC and OFDM are currently member parties of the newly formed national coalition party – the Forum for Democracy and Dialogue (FDD).
According to the press release published at the time of its formation, the move to create the coalition – the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) – between OPC and OFDM was: “to work together in the upcoming election.” Specifically:
* to organize public meetings together;
* to coordinate our activities in the Oromia Regional Council and at the Federal Parliament as well as stand together in case of challenges at both levels;
* to solicit support both in side the country and abroad and share equally resources mobilized together;
* to coordinate our activities when dealing with other political groups;
* even if, there are only few differences in our political programs agreed to sort out whatever differences we have in the future;
* to compete in the upcoming elections with a common platform and field candidates in common.
The State of Oromia has 178 seats in the House of People’s Representative; out of these seats, OPC and OFDM currently have 53 seats, a fraction of the seats they astoundingly won in the State of Oromia in the 2005 election, which was rigged by the ruling party (TPLF) not only in Oromia, but also throughout the country.
In addition, the Regional Council of Oromia has 534 seats, out of which 10 were won by OFDM in the 2005 election. OPC has 105 seats in the Regional Council of Oromia as a member of the UEDF, the Union of Ethiopian Democratic Forces, the coalition that OPC was aligned with previously before abandoning it to create the new coalition with OFDM.
The National Election Board of Ethiopia, an entity which has long ago lost its impartiality, has now refused to recognize the grand coalition between the two independent Oromo political parties that operate within the framework of the repressive TPLF regime. The refusal to recognize OFC is a setback for the 2010 election and a testament for the absence of any “political space.”
These two parties will mount real opposition to the ruling party in the State of Oromia in the upcoming election; consequently, both of these parties regularly report that their members are harassed and imprisoned by government forces throughout Oromia. In addition, any form of gathering is not allowed in that State; and members of OPC and OFDM are often accused of being “infiltrators” of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), the organization that struggles for the self-determination of the Oromo people and left the Ethiopian government coalition with TPLF in 1992.
It is to be remembered that TPLF security forces imprisoned more than 100 members of OPC and OFDM, including the General Secretary of OFDM, Mr. Bekele Jirata, and several other civilians in November 2008.