On the 13th of December 2022, the Coalition of Ethiopian Civil Society Organizations for Elections (CECOE) conducted organized a one day training of for trainers (ToT) for trainers who will train referendum observers. The training is part of CECOE’s preparation to observe the referendum in the  South Nation, Nationalities and  People’s Regional State (SNNPR) slated for February 2022. The 15 trainees drawn from different  zones of the SNNPR regional state and CECOE’s staff will cascade the knowledge they acquired to more than 1,300 observers through training scheduled to be held in Wolaita Sodo, Araba minch, Jinka and Dila towns. 

The topics of the ToT covered the three phases of the referendum: pre-referendum, voting day and post referendum phases. To acquaint the trainers very well with the referendum concepts they were provided with practical examples and video materials. 

It is to be recalled that in August 2022 the House of Federation had given green light for 6 zones and 5 woredas that were under the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR) to hold a referendum and establish a new region, if supported by the inhabitants.

The other zones and special woredas, namely Hadiya Zone, Hallaba Zone, Kenbata Tenbaro Zone, Gurage Zone, Silte Zone and Yem Special Woreda, would remain in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region, it further decided. 

Previously CECOE observed the Sidama, the South West Ethiopia Peoples’ Region referendums  and the 6th Ethiopian general elections that were held in 2019 and 2021 respectively. During these electoral processes,  CECOE trained and deployed different types of election observers — namely: Long Term Observers (LTOs), Election Day Observers (Mobile and stationary), mobile  and post-election observers.  In order to observe the election with a high-level of professionalism, all CECOE’s observers  had taken several training sessions in different rounds. During the training sessions, the observers took part in different simulation exercises which were  based on real-case scenarios.  

As part of its efforts to set an exemplary election and referendum observation system in Ethiopia, CECOE established an Election Situation Room (ESR) in which it received and analyzed election observation data sent via text from observers. On the voting days, the observers, who went through  meticulous training on election and referendum observation and reporting, were sending observation data to the ESR in real-time. Data – clerks working in two shifts were also receiving, organizing and analyzing the received data. The  data was analyzed using Apollo software and the findings were communicated to media outlets, members and partners as the voting process was underway.

It is with the same zeal CECOE is making preparations to systematically  observe the upcoming referendum.  Furthermore, CECOE has planned to organize  consultation forums whereby key stakeholders deliberate on  the role of CSOs and higher education in the referendum.