Ethiopia Should Be Judged by Treatment of Its Minorities

As we all know, the human rights violations against the peoples of Qemant (Kemant), both knowingly and unknowingly, have started not recently. The big human right violation that has been committed against these peoples is directly linked with ‘identity denial’. In the language of human rights law, identity denial means denial of all rights that the peoples are naturally endowed with. The right to life, liberty, dignity, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, the right to language, culture, history, development in general the right to self-determination will be jeopardized if there is repression on identity. A true and normal man should know his identity without any confusion imposed against him internally or externally.

It is alleged that the Ethiopian Federal Constitution gives very much protection for all peoples of Ethiopia that claim their own distinct identities and the manifestations of such identities (Article 39 and Articles 19(1),20, 21 of Proclamation No.251/2001). The protection of minorities in terms of language or culture or ethnicity is not the concern of Ethiopia. Rather, it is big world agenda particularly aftermath world war II. History showed that 6 million Jews were massacred by the simple reason that they were Jews. Many lives and properties were destroyed by such atrocious war in the world. Then after, the world community started to give due attention to human rights protection for all human species, particularly for the protection of minorities. Countries in the world persuaded themselves to bind themselves by signing agreements for the protection of human rights at large. Accordingly, Ethiopia signed many human rights instruments to enforce such fundamental rights as per its agreement to be bound.

Unfortunately, the Ethiopian Constitution have guaranteed those rights in the same language as the international human rights documents have incorporated. Especially, the Ethiopian Constitution is applauded for is extensive guarantee given for minorities like that of European Community have done. But, when we come to the practice on the ground, the Ethiopian Constitution is seen to be silent for the protection of rights minorities in Ethiopia like Qemant in North Gondar, Amhara Region. This situation may arise from two angels: one is originated from the leaders at all levels that they have become so reactant and lost commitment, at least for their own political aim, to enforce the constitutional rights. The second reason stems from lack of mass consciousness on the part of victims themselves—( all Agaws). The situation shows that there is no as such strong unity and commitment on sides of all members of Agaws to enforce such rights consistently.

Administrators at zone and woreda levels in North Gondar have always been not happy and resistant for the identity recognition movement as human right or constitutional right in case of Qemants. They have used different techniques to abort the movement due to unknown reasons. We can guess that such reasons may emanate either from their gross ignorance of such human rights concept and the spirits of the constitution or from their purposive oppression in order to unlawfully enrich themselves at the expense of Agaws’ rights as was done in previous history.

But, this all is emanated from being ignorant of the realities on the ground. All nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia do have equal rights and opportunities to properly benefit from such fundamental human rights guaranteed in Ethiopian Constitution too. The right to self-determination includes all rights in the area of political, economic, social and cultural lives of all nations, nationalities and peoples.

Surprisingly, it is not only those human rights violations mentioned by the writer are committed against Qemant peoples. Farmers are being snatched their own Identification Cards. Farmers are being arrested by the simple reason that they are actively asking their rights. Farmers are being falsely categorized as members of opposing political parties like “Arbegnoch Ginbar” to attack them. Violation of human rights with no justifiable grounds against ethnic minorities in Ethiopian could not be a panacea!!

“A country should be judged by the treatment it gives for its minorities”

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