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Ahead of Ethiopia’s General Elections, Bishops Say Citizens “desire an upright leader”

An image showing vote casting in Ethiopia. Credit: Lex-Atlas/Facebook

Catholic Bishops in the Horn of Africa nation of Ethiopia have, in a collective statement days to the country’s general elections, outlined qualities of those to be elected to the House of People’s Representatives saying citizens desire leaders who are “upright.”

In their Friday, June 18 collective statement shared with ACI Africa, members of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Ethiopia (CBCE) say the people of God in Ethiopia who are expected to go to the polls on Monday, June 21 “desire an upright leader who will sustain our long-kept unity, solidarity and respect for one another.”

“The upright leader endeavors to ensure the prevalence of equality, justice, peace and governance in the community,” Catholic Bishops in Ethiopia further say, and add, “In order to get such a leader, we need to sow a good seed or upright moral in our children.”

Toward the upcoming general elections, the Catholic Church leaders “expect all contestants to be ready to implement the principle of the upright leader, in that they should work towards issues that enhance connectivity among citizens and restrain themselves from promoting dividing elements.”

“As a servant leader comes from the community and our children, we need to be steadfast in our prayers that the Creator may grant us a leader who observes equity, justice, good governance, and righteousness,” CBCE members say in their collective statement.

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General elections in Ethiopia were supposed to be held 29 August 2020. They were delayed reportedly because of COVID-19 pandemic. The House of People’s Representatives to be elected eventually determine who becomes the Prime Minister.

Ahead of the June 21 poll, the incumbent Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said the vote will be the country's first free and fair polls after decades of repressive rule, Reuters reported.

Statistics from the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) indicate that 37 million of Ethiopia's 109 million people have registered as voters, although some will have to wait until a second round of voting in September.

Voting has reportedly been delayed in 110 out of 547 constituencies because of violent conflicts and logistical problems.

No date has been set for voting in Tigray, where Ethiopia's military has been fighting the region's former governing party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), since last November.

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In their June 18 collective statement, Catholic Bishops in Ethiopia say the upcoming election “confirms that our people are not ready to shoulder discrimination, ethnicity, displacement, exile, and corruption on the basis of the same conflicts which take the lives of innocent civilians and destruction of properties.”

“It is the wish and prayer of all of us that the upcoming 6th national election be free, fair, peaceful and democratic and acceptable by all,” CBCE members say.

In order to organize a successful election, Catholic Bishops in Ethiopia call upon all stakeholders, contesting parties and the ruling party “to act responsibly to make the 6th national election free, fair, democratic and peaceful in all its standard.”

“We request the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) to ensure the fairness, inclusivity, democratic and peacefulness of the election by providing adequate and timely responses to all grievances related to the election,” they say in their message signed by CBCE Secretary General, Fr. Teshome Fikre Weldetensaè.

They remind eligible voters that “the criteria we set to vote for the incumbent should be on the basis of respect he/she gives to the common good, integrity of the nation and due respect to citizens of the country, but not on the basis of his/her ethnic group or language.”

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The members of CBCE invite the ruling party “to take necessary precautionary measures to ensure the safety of citizens and peacefulness of the 6th national elections for the integrity of the nation and enhance the country' s development.”

Turning to the National Defense Force, Federal Police, and to all peace and security organs, Catholic Bishops in the Horn of Africa nation urge commitment in standing for the “security of citizens and fairness and peacefulness of the election by renewing your affiliation to citizens rather than any given political party.”

They call on young people to exercise their voting rights in total independence “from any political affiliation for the only means to hold political position is through the ballot box, and not otherwise.”

“We call upon our mothers and sisters to play your positive role, refraining from any political affiliation, for peaceful completion of the 6th national election,” the Bishops say in reference to the role women have in a country’s general elections.

In the light of COVID-19 challenges, CBCE members advise Ethiopians “to abide by the government regulations in order to protect ourselves and be considerate to the lives of others as well.”

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“We recognize that the incumbent leadership after 6th national election shall bear responsibility to protect national interest and peoples' security in light of diversity; protect and promote interests and equal rights of citizens, to this effect, bearing in mind that we have only one country, we call upon all the citizens in their capacity to contribute to the nation building, by standing in support of the incumbent servant leadership,” the members of CBCE say.

They call upon all Catholic faithful and all citizens of good will to “play your unwavering role through diligence in fasting and prayers to ensure the 6th national election be peaceful, fair and acceptable by all parties.”

“May the Almighty God Protect and bless our country and its people,” the Bishops implore in their June 18 collective statement shared with ACI Africa.