Ethiopia postpones August elections as Kenya closes border with the country over COVID-19

The government of Kenya has closed its border with Ethopia at Moyale to avoid the virus from spilling over into the country through the porous border. While announcing the measures on Tuesday, Marsabit County Commissioner Evans Achoki said this was a mandatory move to help combat the virus.

Separately, the country has postponed its August vote, which had been regarded as an important test of the reformist agenda of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in what was once one of the continent’s most repressive nations.

“Due to the pandemic we were forced to suspend our activities,” said an Amharic-language statement from the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia. The board will announce a new timeline once the pandemic has subsided, it said.

The Horn of Africa nation has 25 confirmed cases of coronavirus and the government has closed schools and restricted gatherings to curb the spread of the highly infectious illness.

Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populous nation with 105 million citizens. Abiy promised to liberalise the state-run economy and oversaw reforms that saw thousands of political prisoners, journalists and opposition activists released.

Previous elections in Ethiopia, a parliamentary democracy, have been marred by allegations of rigging and intimidation of the opposition.

Abiy had promised to hold free and fair elections in August and has been positioning himself as a unity candidate whose reforms could replace state repression as the glue to hold together Ethiopia’s often fractious federal regions.

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