ADDIS ABABA (HAN) March 23. 2021. Public Diplomacy and Regional Stability Initiatives News. Monitoring Regional Issues.  In a notice published today, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) said it has called off its earlier announcement establishing 30 polling stations listed in eight Kebeles under the Somali regional state.

Today’s decision came after a complaint filed at the Board by the Afar regional state saying that the polling stations should have instead been listed under its administration.

Accordingly, the Board said it has called off voters’ registration in 30 polling stations located in eight Kebeles namely: in Gala’eto/Adayle; Adaytu/Adayitu; Teot/Alale; Gurmudali/Danlehelay; Undafo/Undufo; Gadamaytu/Garbaise; Afaso/Afuase; and Balaiti Gona/Medeni Kebeles. The Kebeles are known in different names in Afar and Somali regional states.

Three of the above Kebeles: Gadamaytu, Undufo and Adaytu are at the center of controversy between the Afar and Somali regional states as both lay claim on them. This came after in May 2019 Somali region, after an extraordinary meeting of the regional state cabinet, decided to unilaterally withdraw from a 2014 agreement reached between the two regions to hand over the Kebeles to Afar regional state.

The Board said its organization of the polling stations was based on orienting the stations on proximity to voters and based on voters’ registration patterns of the last five elections. In its latest statement the Board has announced that voters who were planning to register and vote in these polling stations can now register and vote in different polling stations and that it will facilitate the process by providing the appropriate directives to its elections officials.

In a tweet on March 21, Kontie Moussa, a senior member of Afar People’s Part, expressed his dissatisfaction with the Electoral Board saying: “The Election Board has neither the responsibility nor the authority to demarcate Kebels. It’s saddening to see an Electoral Board we had pinned our hopes itself become the source of conflict.”

However, the Board has now called off the polling stations and said “this decision is taken by the Board prioritizing peace and will be implemented taking into consideration the right of voters.” The Board also cautioned entities to refrain from using its election operations and polling station organizations to advance controversial boundary disputes.

It is to be remembered that in a notice published on February 18, the NEBE said that following its announcement of nationwide polling stations, a complaint had been filed by Afar regional state indicating that some polling stations were inaccurately listed under the list of polling stations in Kebeles under the Somali Regional State. The Afar Regional State has submitted a list of polling stations in the eight kebeles and requested the Board to revisit its list. The National Election Board of Ethiopia said at that time that it will evaluate the complaint submitted by the Afar Regional State and announce its decision before voters’ registration began.” AS

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