ADDIS ABABA, November 8, 2017 – The Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) will hold its much-anticipated, much-devised, 10th Ordinary General Assembly on 9 -10 November at Intercontinental Addis Hotel in Addis Ababa. It won’t go without controversy.
Ahead of the General Assembly, there were many questions, which require every stakeholder to make the right call. Especially members of the General Assembly who have the power to decide on the future of the sport loved by millions in the country.
Even though there are several ordinary agendas on the table during this two-day meeting, all attention will be on election of the president and executive committee members of the federation, to lead the institution for the next four years. This was the main agenda that leads to the involvement of different parties, including world football governing body FIFA, who was forced to intervene in the process.
What went wrong in the electoral process?
The current executive committee members, led by Junedyi Basha for the past four years finished their terms at office this weekend, as leaders of Ethiopian football. However, almost 80% of them including the president and the vice president are not ready to go. What they did next was try eliminate any real threats to their positions. They did so by jeopardizing the statues of the federation, and make sure that it seemed they were re-elected according to the laws in the eyes of the public.
Based on the facts witnessed, we can’t say that the whole electoral process is free, fair and based on the rules and regulations of the federation and the FIFA electoral code standard. Where there is no independent, electoral commission set up, to study the eligibility of candidates, and an independent appeal committee, to listen to grievances of any individual who may be seeking one of those positions but was blocked inappropriately.
The above-mentioned independent bodies were much needed, considering what is currently happening. Clear violations of the rules were visible, aimed at block the path for potential candidates, such as limiting the number of candidates that any member of the federation has to submit. EFF members were allowed to send only one candidate for the presidency and another for the executive committee membership, and surprisingly, the majority of those who seek the second term in office, some even for third time, re-nominated themselves. It is now more of a representation than an election, especially when we have only 11 candidates for 10 executive committee membership spots, however, article 30.2 and 31 of EFF’s Statues state that there are no limitations in number for sending in nominees for both positions.
Nominees on the Run
If social media users in Ethiopia had a say, if they had the mandate to elect the leaders, chances are that none of them among the five candidates would stand a chance to become the president of the Football Federation.
Many experts fretted that, despite Ethiopian football’s constant slip into further despair – proof of this being that the national team is currently 151st in the FIFA world rankings – the candidates were short of new and feasible ideas during their pre-election campaign. Ideas capable of changing the fortune of Ethiopian football.
Out of the five presidential candidates, three are coming back for the post again. One is Dr. Ashebir Woldegiyorgis - along with being former president of the football federation, Woldegiyorgis was elected as president of the Ethiopian Olympic Committee just five months ago, after becoming president of Ethiopian Basketball Federation two months earlier. This and other related situations bring up a series of eligibility questions about the majority of the candidates from different bodies.
After all the aforementioned and other unheralded misdeeds through the whole electoral process, the case of irregularity and of the EFF’s incumbent executives sins were exposed, and FIFA intervened. After it received an official letter from the president himself, indicating that the electoral process lacks transparency and rationality especially regarding the eligibility of the candidates. Many suspect that it is the result of recently created division between the executives, which lead to FIFA getting to know the case.
The response for that letter from FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura, which stated the notion that the world governing body “strongly advises EFF to postpone the scheduled presidential election, which is due on the 10th of November 2017, until necessary democratic tools are in place to proceed.”
After this letter reached Addis Ababa there were some reports of, physical altercations among the executives during their emergency meeting called to deal with the issue. And they were divided in two opposite groups, the first group was led by the president – in support of FIFA’s recommendation, while the other group led by his vice president Mr. Tekleweyni Assefa, who advocated that the status quo to be continued and denied that there was anything wrong with the process, despite the vivid examples of wrongdoings.
The situation escalated to new levels during the week, after the latter group led by vice president Assefa replied to Ms. Samoura on 6 November, without the consent of the president and members of the executive committee, emphasizing that FIFA was ”misinformed by the president of EFF, and that the electoral process was going only according to the regulations.” Nevertheless, they said this without any single activity done to manage things according to the laws and statutes.
Retaliation came that same day in the form of a letter from the president, explaining what had happened in the three days since his last communication with FIFA, including the fact that the letter she had received earlier was sent without his consent.
To further illustration the division, that is beyond logic and repair, a group of executive committee members who support the president, wrote a FOURTH letter to FIFA in just 10 days’ time on Tuesday. Confessing that their leadership had make huge mistake in the process, citing the breach of laws and even include detailing to FIFA that there was indeed government interference in the approval of the candidates.
There were reports that indicate that FIFA had given the green light to EFF to go ahead with its planned election after accepting the second groups’ letter on 6 November. This was not confirmed, nor was any more light shed on whether and in what manner the elections will go ahead.
In any case, Ethiopia’s football is at a crossroads of sorts. Members of the general assembly have this crucial –almost impossible - responsibility of making an informed judgment that will see no negative consequences, of seeing things beyond personal interests and make the right decision that will help the development of Ethiopian football.
Considering the whole conspiracy theory given by the candidates and the executives, throughout the heightened pre-election campaigns, there is an intense need among ordinary citizens to ask, what is it in EFF? Why is there so much turmoil?