Local Ethiopia group votes

The election will move away from the traditional Ethiopian method.

Angela Gray

The Ethiopian Community in Minnesota task force will have elections Saturday at the St. Paul Student Center. The elections will conclude with the filling of nine executive positions from among 17 candidates.

Mistir Mulatu, president of the Ethiopian Student Association, said the Ethiopian task force has existed for a long time, but has not been “very productive.”

“With the newly elected positions filled, we hope to create a more helpful and resourceful organization,” she said. “We want to unite the Ethiopian community.”

Mulatu said she expects a minimum of 300 attendees Saturday.

Tadael Emiru, a member of the Ethiopian task force, said the upcoming election is different from past elections because they have moved from the traditional Ethiopian method ” which usually involves electing a singular elder adviser ” to a transparent and democratic process.

The new election “will be considered the gold standard in our current environment,” he said.

Emiru said the election process began several months ago when the nomination of candidates started.

“We had ample time for the candidates to introduce themselves and their agenda using various media outlets such as our community newspaper, Mestawet, and the weekly Ethiopian radio show on KFAI.”

Rahel Melesse, a task force candidate running for volunteer coordinator, said there are many reasons she is running.

“I know the value of volunteerism and the importance of building a good community,” she said.

Melesse said that during elections, after the candidates give a three- to four-minute speech, there will be a ceremony honoring the current task force leadership consisting of cultural dances, skits and a poetry reading.

She said that if elected, she hopes to find ways to help new Ethiopian immigrants adapt to mainstream American society.

“For Ethiopians, it is not easy to integrate into a different country with language barriers and then try to get into college and make a living,” she said.

Joel Wurl, head of research collections for the Immigration History Research Center at the University, said the surge of Ethiopians in the Twin Cities started in the 1990s.

According to a City Pages report from 2003, the Ethiopian population in the Twin Cities is approximately 8,500, which makes it one of the largest in the nation.

Wurl said the numbers tend to underestimate and be on the low side when calculating the number of immigrants and refugees because of the way in which censuses are taken.

Emiru said he hopes the election will set an example for subsequent elections.

“We also would like to set a good example for other immigrant communities in Minnesota, other parts of the U.S. and even to the people back in our country.”