Evaluation: Incapacity rights activists hopeful as Electoral and Human rights fee vow to make sure group participation

Ethiopian NEBE logo for the 6th parliamentary elections

From Etenesh Abera @EteneshAb

Addis Ababa March 18, 2021 – The sixth national election, which should take place in August 2020, has been postponed indefinitely due to the Covid-19 outbreak in the country and is now set to take place in June 2021. According to Soliyana Shimeles, the National Election Committee advisor’s statement, “What sets this election apart from previous elections is efforts to help marginalized groups participate in the upcoming election. A special focus will be given to internally displaced persons and people with disabilities to encourage their participation in the sixth national elections. “

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) previously criticized the performance of regional and federal governments as well as the NEBE during the referendum on November 20, 2019 on key points, including their performance on polling station accessibility Two days after the referendum was published on the Commission’s official Facebook page, it was highlighted that most of the polling stations visited by the Commission’s observers were inaccessible to people with disabilities, while it was recognized that some had access.

Confident lawyer and disability rights activist Yetnebersh Niguse told Addis Standard, “This is different from the previous elections I have been in.” She noted that attention is paid to people with disabilities by referring to efforts to encourage parties to present people with disabilities as candidates by limiting the number of signatures that must be collected from community members. “The Ethiopian Commission on Human Rights and civil societies working with the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia on this matter are an initiative that needs to be encouraged,” added Yetnebersh.

According to the Federal Ministry of Health, there are over 4.9 million visually impaired people in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian National Association of the Blind is one of the oldest civil organizations in the country with more than 17,000 regular members. Wosen Alemu, the association’s president, said: “The proclamations of this election were printed in Braille. I hope that more documents will be made available to the visually impaired population. “Wosen shares Yetnebersh’s opinion on efforts to accommodate people with disabilities. He said, “Reducing the number of signatures collected for blind candidates is a good start and should be encouraged. ”

NEBE communications advisor, Soliyana Shimeles, explained that the board was working to make polling stations accessible to people with disabilities. “We have set up a department that is responsible for ensuring inclusivity at every polling station,” continued Soliyana, citing the electoral declaration of 1162’s candidacy. However, there is negligence on the part of the political parties registered to participate in this election. According to Soliyana, “the parties want us to change this requirement.” She stressed the role that the media, civil society organizations and other stakeholders can play in ensuring inclusion in the upcoming elections.

When asked if there would be a Braille voting card for the blind in the elections, Soliyana pointed to budget constraints and a tight schedule as reasons for her possible non-existence, but stressed that efforts are being made to help visually impaired people participate in the upcoming elections allow . She said, “It could be a method used by the board of directors to allow visually impaired voters to vote with the help of the person of their choice.”

Regarding the participation of people with disabilities in the upcoming elections, Daniel Bekele (PhD), Commissioner of the EHRC, told Addis Standard: “The Commission has found that three parts of society: women, internally displaced persons and people with disabilities are paying particular attention need during the election. “The Commissioner continued:” Particularly with regard to people with disabilities, information and polling stations should be made accessible to people with disabilities. “He stated that the EHRC not only monitors polling stations on election days, but also consults the NEBE and makes recommendations on them “The Commission is working closely with the Ethiopian Association of People with Disabilities and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor to ensure the participation of people with disabilities in the upcoming elections.” HOW

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