U.S. Election Observer Found Dead in Ethiopia

An ambulance drives in a border reception centre (Village 8), housing Ethiopian refugees who fled the fighting in Tigray Region, in Sudan's eastern Gedaref State on November 29, 2020. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP) (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty Images)
ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty

Addis Ababa police confirmed on Tuesday that a U.S. citizen working as an election observer in Ethiopia was found dead in the capital city on Tuesday, Kenya’s EastAfrican newspaper reported on Wednesday.

“An American citizen was found dead in his bedroom at the Radisson Blu Hotel,” the Addis Ababa Police Commission wrote in a statement issued June 22, according to the EastAfrican.

“A worker at the hotel, who requested anonymity, had said: ‘At about 7 o’clock in the morning, our hotel room cleaner saw him on the ground next to his bed when she went to clean the bedroom,'” Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reported on June 22.

“She reported what she saw to the police, who immediately came to the scene, where they found him dead,” according to the newspaper.

“Police said they found medicines at the scene and that the death may have been natural. They noted that the body did not have any visible injuries,” Daily Nation reported.

The Addis Ababa Police Commission, in collaboration with Ethiopia’s Federal Police Commission and the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, are working jointly to investigate the victim’s cause of death.

“Sadly, we can confirm the death of a U.S. citizen in Addis Ababa,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters at a regular press briefing on June 22.

“Out of respect for the privacy of the family, we’re not able to offer anything further at this time, however,” he said.

Various African news outlets on Tuesday claimed to identify the deceased U.S. citizen as a man named John Marsh, who reportedly worked as a member of a team of election observers sent to monitor Ethiopia’s parliamentary poll on June 21.

The team works on behalf of the U.S.-based Carter Center, which is a non-governmental, non-profit organization that aims to “enhance freedom and democracy,” according to its official website.

“Police earlier said a special election observer’s badge, various identity cards and a driver’s licence, with the words ‘National Driving License in California, USA’, were found in Marsh’s pockets [sic],” the Daily Nation reported on June 22.

Ethiopia’s parliamentary election was officially scheduled for June 21, but “logistical problems” forced voters in the Ethiopian region of Sidama to vote one day late on June 22, according to Reuters. Four of Ethiopia’s ten official regions, including Sidama, were unable to carry out elections on June 21.

The Ethiopian government’s inability to successfully hold a parliamentary election reflects the country’s current war-torn status. Ethiopian federal troops launched a military campaign against fighters associated with the separatist Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a Marxist militant group, in November 2020 after TPLF-tied forces allegedly attacked an Ethiopian federal military base in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region. The civil war has displaced tens of thousands of people from Tigray and Ethiopia since fighting began late last year.

“Almost all polling stations in the capital had finished counting ballots [as of June 22],” an electoral board spokesperson told reporters when asked about the status of Ethiopia’s parliamentary election on Tuesday.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s recently formed national Prosperity Party “is widely forecast to defeat the fragmented opposition of dozens of mostly ethnically based parties,” according to Reuters.

“The ruling coalition and its allies won all 547 national parliamentary seats in the last election under Abiy’s predecessor six years ago,” the news agency noted on Tuesday.

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