According to the wlka’s informant from Metema, the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has scheduled the Kemant Referendum for September 17, 2017. The referendum is planned for 12 kebeles (sub-districts), where Kemants, Amharas and others are co-existed. The purpose of the referendum is to identify kebeles that want to join either incoming Kemant Self-Rule or non-Kemant administrative areas. In a principle, the referendum supposedly could resolve outstanding conflicts between the regional government led by Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and the Agaw-Kemants who have been struggling for the last 8-years to secure Self-Rule.
According to the informant who has been observing the process for the last 5-days there, the process of the referendum is in violation of the Ethiopian election law. For instance, the Kemants at Negade Bahir are banned from registration for voting on the referendum. The local officials who claim themselves as the representatives of Amara declined to register Kemants. There is also an armed group terrorizing the Kemants (house to house) not seek registration for the upcoming referendum. Thus, Kemant voters were unable to register for voting. on the other hand, the officials have registered non-Kemant groups who claim themselves Amaras including under age children, below 18-old persons and non-residents of respective referendum constituencies by issuing false IDs in violation of the current election law of Ethiopia.
The informant says the Kemant Coordinating Committee reported to the NEBE delegates all these violations and inconsistencies, but the NEBE so far has failed to take concrete measures to reverse the problem.
According to the informant, Shinfe in Metema Woreda has been facing almost similar problems. The Agaw-Wags and Lastans were strictly warned that they would be expelled from Shinfer if they vote for the Kemants. The Tigrian returnees whom were displaced during the 2015 & 2016 conflict are rejected for registration in various pretexts. The ANDM cadres have been also bribing Gumuz community leaders with white meshila, to bias their votes. Despite, the NEBE passed a fair resolution the displaced Kemants to qualify for voting at Shinfe and other areas, in reality, there is no conducive environment to exercise their rights. Niether the regional government nor the federal government has made financial arrangements the Kemants return to their villages, register and vote. Given the shortage referendum date, the displaced Kemants will not able to vote on the upcoming referendum. According to the informant, unless the NEBE considers these major problems and takes corrective measures including the extension of the referendum date, the process of the referendum is not free and fair. Consequently, the outcome is expected to be fraudulent and the referendum is failing to meet its objectives, says the informant.
In related news, the informant added, the status of Metema Yohannes is the disputed city. The Kemant representatives have insisted referendum on Metema Yohannes, but the regional government representatives declined to agree on the referendum,but want to keep out of Kemant Self-Rule. The NEBE that has received the report on Metema Yohannes said that it was beyond its duty and would report to the House of Federation, which has a legal mandate to resolve such disputes.