CC: International Court of Justice, Hague
Endless Human Rights Violation against the Kemants in Ethiopia
I am writing this message to Human rights organizations, their stakeholders, individuals who are concerned with Human Rights, and all interested people to inform you about the endless human rights violation, including genocidal attacks committed by the government at different levels against the Kemant Ethnic group in Ethiopia. The Kemant ethnic group is really fund under a critical danger of human rights violation because of a continuous genocidal attack it faces.
As an introduction, the Kemant people is found in the North Gondar Zone administration of the Amhara National Regional State, Ethiopia. They are one of the Indigenous people in Ethiopia and the integral part of the Agaw society. According to linguists’ classification, they speak a Cushitic language that belongs to the Agew/Agaw language sub-family in northwest Ethiopia. The Kemants have several unique cultural and psychological makeups known to the world. They had settled in many parts of Northern Ethiopia since ancient time and ancestors of many of the northern Ethiopian population. However, these people slowly detached from their origin (the Kemant) due to several historical, political, cultural, ecological, and economic factors; and developed their own identity.
Although the Kemants have this much importance to the nation as well as the world, it has been systematically marginalized by the Ethiopian government, especially by the Amhara National Regional State since 1991. Immediately after the downfall of the Derg regime, the EPRDF government recognized almost all ethnic groups in the country and allowed to establish their own self-administration structures, preserve and develop their language and culture, and enjoy with the human and democratic rights endowed by the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. But, unfortunately, the Kemant People were not in such a position to enjoy with the benefits of the political changes made in the nation since 1991. Rather, different systematic and institutional conspiracies have been done against them by government officials networked from the federal to the District level government structures. Some of the indicators of these systematic attacks taken against the Kemant people since 1991 are the following:
#1. The Kemants have requested the Ethiopian government for identifying recognition and self-rule since 1991, but the government repeatedly rejected their quest. The reason, the government official gave for their rejection, was the argument that “the Kemants have lost their own language and speak Amharic so that they have become Amharas by default.” This argument was totally dead against the provisions of the constitution of the land. Although the Kemant language was found in a danger of extinction, several Kemants have been using in their day-to-day communications. In addition, the provision of Article 39 (5) of the FDRE constitution never states that ‘language is a decisive factor for ethnic recognition’.
#2. In 2007, the Ethiopian government removed the name Kemant and its language from the National Population and Housing Census report. This was a forceful and obvious measure taken by the government without the consent of the Kemant people which can be considered as a form of #systematic #genocide against the Kemant without physically killing them with weapons. Consequently, the mass of the Kemant became frustrated and organized themselves for a type of public movement that intends to save their ethnic group from the already shadowed danger of extinction. As a result, they formed a coordinating committee for the ‘Kemant quest for Identify recognition and Self-rule’, and started to struggle based upon the legal provisions of the country. But, the regional government continued to suppress the movement by hook or crook.
#3. The Kemant people continued their struggle for their rights and requested the Federal government for identifying recognition and self-rule since the Amhara National Regional Stated government had rejected their request. The House of Federation of FDRE accepted the quest and sent a committee to study the situation on the ground. In the meantime, the Amhara Regional state government officials imprisoned about 60 members of the Kemant movement coordinating committee with a special intention to stop the federal government’s current study so that the reality about the Kemant people will remain concealed. Fortunately, the federal government studied the Kemant ethnic group based on the criteria stated under Article 39(5) of the constitution tolerating the pressure created by regional government officials at the time. Based on the findings of its study, the House of Federation decided that the Kemant was deserved to be considered an Ethnic group and to have its own self-administrative structure as per the constitution.
#4. Being cognizant of the federal government determination to solve the Kemants’ quest as soon as possible based on the findings, the regional government officials requested the federal government to hand over the issue to the region so that it will settle the issue according to the direction of the House of federation; they were successful – the federal government allowed the Amhara region to deal with the issue independently believing that it had a genuine intention. However, the regional government passed a decision in which only half of the Kemant people would be included in the new Kemant administration. This decision allowed the Kemants to have a special Kemant District administration which was opposed by the mass of the Kemants.
#5. Therefore, the Kemants rejected this decision and continued to fight for their rights to the end. But, in 2015, the regional government organized an extensive military attack against Kemants using its special police force. During the attack the regional military force used machine guns, snipers, grenades, bombs, etc. during its genocidal attack against the Kemant. As a result, more than 115 Kemants were killed, many others got severely wounded, pregnant Kemant mothers were slaughtered at their womb at Maura, children were slaughtered by bayonet, elderly Kemants were killed with bombs at their homes, many houses were burned down, properties (including money, cattle, furniture, etc) were looted, crops were burned down, more than 25,000 Kemants (including, children, women, elders, PWDs, etc) were displaced from their homes and workplaces. All these facts were proved by the FDRE Human Rights Commission’s report to the House of the parliament in 2015. According to the report, the Amhara regional government was ordered to officially apologize the Kemant people for its unreasonable attacks on innocent people. In addition, it was also given a direction by the federal government to take legal measures against the participants and leaders of the genocidal attacks. Compensation was also considered to be done by the regional government, but none of these decisions were respected by the regional government.
#6. However serious the federal government decisions were, the regional government systematically rejected it and went on creating other types of attack against the Kemant people. It has organized outlaws in the neighboring area and started to kidnap the Kemants, including children, at different times, in different places. It also continued to create group-based conflicts with Kemant villages and killed several people, loot village properties, and so on. Meanwhile, they criminalized the Kemants who took self-defense measures. This was aimed at demoralizing the Kemants so that they will never take part in the emanate movement for identity recognition and self-rule which was assumed to have vital roles in weakening the Kemant movement in general.
#7. After a lengthened struggle, in 2018, the regional government reconsidered its previous decision and passed a new decision that stated: “the Kemant will have a Zone level administrative structure.” But, this decision excluded a significant number of Kemant Kebeles who had decided to be part of the new Kemant political administration during their referendum from the so-called New Kemant administration. As a result, the Kemant people opposed the regional government’s illegal decision that intended to sustain the ongoing systematic discrimination. The Kemant people also stood against the actions of the regional government that attempted to establish the Kemant administration without the consent of the people, even without considering the relevant legal provisions of the country. It tried to use its military forces for the second time to implement its decision. It also organized some corrupt people to be the leader of the new Kemant administration without any election. The Kemant people have gone on defending itself from the new conspiracies of the regional government. Still, now, the Kemant people are struggling to include the remaining Kemant kebeles as per the result of the referendum.
#8. Because of this resistance of the Kemant people, the regional government has started to violate human rights. It has confined prominent members of the Kemant committee for about 48 days in a police station in Gondar City without any crime reported to the court. This was against the provisions of Articles 14, 18, 19, 20 and 24 of the FDRE constitution. It has prohibited any peaceful demonstration to be held in Gondar city (the center of the Kemant) contrary to the rules of the nation. It also prohibited government and private mass media to have coverage on the issues. Rather, it has given its official media to air only negative images about the Kemants.
#9. More recently, more than 3000 Kemant public servants have been displaced from their jobs and their homes in different Amhara areas and settled in different temporary shelters constructed by communities at Meka (Meqa) and Aykel towns. The displaced Kemants are exposed to several health complications at the temporary shelters since there are no such services as medical and psychological services, food, and shelter, etc. The regional government officials have banned the Ethiopian Red Cross Society to provide aid services for the displaced people who have been in the shelter for about two months without any source of income. Displacing the Kemants forcefully from different parts of the regional state is still an ongoing phenomenon. Several Kemants have been abused and killed every day in the areas because they are Kemants, and because of their ethnic group fights for its human rights protection. More surprising, there is no any government body who dares to respond to our complaints, including the federal government officials. Today, it seems for the Kemant that there is no government in the country.
#10. Generally, the federal government of Ethiopia prefers to give its deaf ear to the Kemants’ agonies that have been lingering on for the last 27 years. The basic constitutional human and democratic rights are being violated by a government official at the region level without any federal government intervention or corrective measures. Therefore, it is a sundry fact that the Kemants are found in a state of being massacred in mass. If this situation goes on like this, the Kemants will definitely face the worst in the coming couples of weeks.
Therefore, the Kemant people request the international society and individuals to do whatever you can to save the Kemants in Ethiopia. Please do not delay to report this to Human rights organizations, agencies, institutions, officials who you know as soon as possible.