By: Hiwot Abebe Mekuanent
Ethiopia is an ancient country ruled by kings and king of kings. The kings ruled with tribal modalities and by laws offered by religious institutions. No constitutional procedures were maintained for centuries. The common people in all parts of the country suffered from the conflicts arose from rival feudal lords and kings to take absolute power in the country. The oppressed majority had faced property lootings and killings for centuries. Emperor Haile Selassie proclaimed constitution of 1930 and revised in 1955. Though it was a good beginning, there was no popular participation.
The military junta known as (DERG) in 1974 over throw the king and declared a socialist state. The DERG violated the universally accepted human rights. Privately owned companies were confiscated the right to organizes, the right to speak and writing were prohibited. The intellectuals, teachers, students, youth, and factory workers fight peacefully against the DERG. In response to the opposition, the DERG killed, imprisoned, and tortured thousands and fear and anxiety arose to the maximum in the population. In fear of the massacre thousands of people migrated to western countries and asked political asylums and others formed rebel groups and started guerilla warfare.
The DERG with no plan organized and resettled thousands of people from drought oriented areas of northern and central Ethiopia to the unsettled and sparsely populated areas in the southern and western parts of the country. The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Constitution was adopted by the Juntas in collaboration with their supporters. No practical implementation was maintained.
Among other rebel fighters Tigray People Liberation Front(TPLF) in collaboration with Ethiopian People Democratic Movement (EPDM) formed the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front(EPRDF) advanced to central Ethiopia. The other Oromo rebel group, Oromo People Democratic Organization (OPDO) joined EPRDF. Lastly, in 1991 EPRDF chased the dictator and took power and proclaimed Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia(FDRE)..
The FDRE Constitution which was adopted in 1995 is the supreme law of the land. This is clearly stated in Bold under Art 9 of the constitution. In other words, anybody including the prime minister or the president, who have the highest government power in the country, are under the constitution. The constitution has a chapter dedicated to fundamental rights and freedoms. These are rights given to all citizens of Ethiopia without any discrimination. Of course, there are exceptions where an individual might be banned from exercising his/her constitutional rights. For example, committing a crime and being under prison, a person can not exercise his right to movement, elect or be elected, etc. One of the fundamental human rights protected under the constitution is right to life. Government has three main responsibility regarding this right or any right in general; the obligation to respect individual’s right to life, to protect their right to life from other third persons, and the obligation to fulfill. When we see these constitutional rights from the perspective of Amhara ethnic minorities living in Oromiya, Benshangul, and Southern Nation, Nationalities and People region, it flashes a red light. The people who settled for hundred years in those areas are denied political participation, to teach their children in their mother tongue, to defend their cases in their own language in courts, etc.
It has been a while since innocent and defenceless civilians (women, children, infants, pregnant women, elderly, men, religious leaders) are brutally killed in different cities of these regions mainly because of their ethnicity and religion. It is almost a daily news to hear the alarming number of Amharas who are killed at the meeting place, their home, their farmland, church, etc. These places are not war zones! They are places where people do their daily life activities. Very recently, 26 individuals, who gathered at the church, in Horo Gudru, Wolega, were taken and brutally killed in the forest. The people leaving there and in these regions are still calling out the government to give them protection. In a region that have its own police force and tens of thousands Special Forces, it is a question how it is still impossible to wipe out the insurgent groups and protect the civilians. Those survival Amhara minority groups have equal constitutional right as each and every individual in the entire Ethiopia. However, they are in continues physical and psychological fear. They have no guaranty what is going to happen today let alone tomorrow. They lost their loved ones. Children are left with out parents, fathers, who are bread winner in most families, are killed and now the whole family has no means of survival. Their properties are selectively targeted and demolished. Their farmlands, houses, churches, etc. is burned down. They escaped to neighbouring cities fear of being the next victim. They left their village, which they have been leaving since birth, with nothing. Majority of them have never been outside of their village and have no relatives in other parts of Ethiopia. So, they are forced to shelter in churches. All these triggers basic constitutional questions. Where is their constitutional right ‘right to life’ (Art 14)? A right that is clearly described in the constitution as ‘inviolable and inalienable’. A right that is the mother of all right. A right that nobody can take it from us unless we have committed serious crime and punished with a death penalty. Where is their constitutional right ‘right to security of person’ (Art 16)? A right that safeguards everyone from any form of bodily harm. Where is their constitutional right ‘right to property’ (Art 40)? A right that allows individuals to own property and benefit from its fruit. Where is their constitutional right ‘Freedom of Religion, Belief and Opinion’ (Art 27)? A right that allows individuals to freely practice and manifest one’s religion. Where is their constitutional right “Freedom of Movement’ (Art 32)? A right that gives freedom to individuals to move within the territory of Ethiopia and choose their residence. Where is their right to ‘justice’? Under Article 58 of the Criminal Code, any individual who committed a crime with intention should be punished. Where is their right to ‘compensation’ (Art 2028, 2095, 2105, 2110, 2113, of Civil Code)? A right to be compensated for the moral and material damage inflicted on them. For their suffering due to the bodily injury and the loss of their loved ones. However, we have seen many cases where criminals are forgiven and even get the support from the government to re-establish their life. This shows how the justice system is paralyzed. I pinpointed these rights however there are so many rights violated in their situation.
The answer to these questions is simple for me. These civilians’ live is not a priority for the government. I say this because I have seen how the Prime minister promptly take action when the military camp in the norther parts of Ethiopia is attacked by TPLF. This is because it endangers his power. On the other side, there is nothing substantial action taken regarding the alarming killings of Amharas. So, a country that can not protect, at least to the minimum, the fundamental right ‘RIGHT TO LIFE’ of its citizens is a failed state. The government should fulfill its obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the constitutional rights of these citizens by taking serious action to STOP the killing of Amharas in Oromia, Benshangul and SNNP regions and also to ensure peace and security in the entire Ethiopia.