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Civil war, famine, elections VG

Civil war, famine, elections VG

Last electoral meeting: Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during his last electoral meeting last week. Foto: Mulugeta Ayene / AP

The government is accused of genocide and more than a hundred electoral districts have been closed due to war and conflict. But the Nobel laureate and prime minister promise to hold “Ethiopia’s first free elections”.

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Ethiopia will elect a new National Assembly on Monday at a time when hundreds of thousands of people are starving in war-torn Tigray province, where elections, like many other regions, are very difficult to hold.

– If one is to believe that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed still has a vision of a more democratic and moderate Ethiopia, he can hold elections now, Country Director of Norwegian Church Aid in Ethiopia Evind Aalborg tells VG

The Prime Minister described the elections as “Ethiopia’s first attempt to hold free and fair elections”.

There is civil war, violence and boycotts. But it may be the freest choice, with the biggest turnout since the 1990s. Ethiopia is in the process, and it has a very authoritarian background, Aalborg explains by phone from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

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Civil war and famine

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway in 2019, after peace negotiations with neighboring Eritrea. distribution It was highly criticized distance A bloody conflict erupted in Tigray last fall.

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The conflict, which developed into a civil war, also meant that emergency aid did not enter the province. as many as possible 350,000 at risk of starvation, warns the United Nations Food Program (WHO).

– The situation in Tigray is very, very dangerous. Aalborg says hundreds of thousands are at risk of starvation, and millions have been affected by the war.

– The Ethiopian leadership is accused of committing genocide in Tigray. How does this affect the elections?

– The government says that its struggle with the rebels of the Tigray Liberation Front is only in Tigray, not with the civilian population. But in the 35 constituencies in Tigray, elections cannot be held now.

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Preparation for the elections: Ballot boxes are being carried out in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Photo: EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP

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In addition to Tigray, another 64 constituencies have postponed Monday’s elections to September due to conflict and unrest.

In other words, there are more than a hundred constituencies in Ethiopia’s 547 constituencies, which will not hold elections now. In addition, several opposition parties are boycotting the elections.

– The prime minister is being criticized for holding elections in such a situation, but they have already been postponed twice, and postponing them again could lead to more unrest, Albork believes.

The United States, which has long been considered a close ally of Ethiopia, is among those concerned about the upcoming elections, NTB writes. The European Union is also concerned and has made clear that it does not intend to send observers to the elections.

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It seems that criticism from the US and the EU is making the prime minister more popular here in Ethiopia, so he is more likely to win the elections, says Aalborg.

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Many Ethiopians and the outside world had high expectations when Abiy Ahmed took power in 2018. The Tigray Liberation Front has been in power since the group ousted military dictator Mengistu Haile in 1991.

Tigray family members make up only 6-7 percent of Ethiopia’s population, and Abiy has accused TPLF of rampant corruption, abuse of power and abuse of power.

Abi himself belongs to the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, and has promised comprehensive political and economic reforms. He also signed a peace treaty with neighboring Eritrea to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and promised to lift millions of Ethiopians out of poverty.

But today Ethiopia is burdened with an external debt of about NOK 250 billion thanks to the exorbitant war in Tigray, the Corona epidemic and several major infrastructure projects. NTB wrote that most of the debt is owed to China.