Legal and Practical Responses to the Rights of Ethno-National Minorities in Federal Ethiopia: Case Study of Amhara and Oromia National Regional States

Source: Legal and Practical Responses to the Rights of Ethno-National Minorities in Federal Ethiopia: Case Study of Amhara and Oromia National Regional States

Sisay Mengistie Addisu

Abstract

Beginning from the agreement of Westfalia to the Second World War,there was an international attempt to address the claims of minorities. Unfortunately, the end of the Second World War, which had heralded a new era for individual human rights, did not sustain the continuation of addressing minorities’ problems. On top of that the postWorld War I political order of the international community,the recognition and protection of minority rights remained only in asserting the right to equality and prohibition of discrimination. As a result, the present international human rights instruments are not as such inclusive of minority rights. Ethiopia, as an independent state and part of the world community, its successive regimes were not ready to recognize and protect the rights of ethno national minority groups until 1991. However, following the adoption of federal constitutional framework of the country that recognizes and legally guarantees the rights and freedoms of all ethno national groups of the country, almost all regional states of federal Ethiopia have adopted their own regional state constitutions by recognizing the existence and protection of the rights of minorities settled in their respective administrative territories. Ethiopian federal constitution formed regional states mainly along ethno-linguistic basis. The idea is to allow each ethno national group to exercise the right to self-government. However, not all ethno national groups have their own separate regional states. Hence regional states are supposed to provide constitutional space to create institutional arrangements for managing intra-regional ethnic diversity. But, the regional state constitutions and practical implementations of their respective governments in this regard do not comply with the basic principles of FDRE constitution and properly address the rights of existence, equitable representation and self-government of ethno national minorities settled in their region. Considering this reality, the writer of this dissertation frames a research question as follows: how do the legal frameworks of both federal and regional state governments address the rights of ethno national minorities and how have the national regional states under consideration implemented them?To answer the main research question of this dissertation a qualitative approach of data analysis was employed in consolidating and analyzing this dissertation. As a result, various laws (international, continental, national and regional) and other related documents are utilized as important data sources in addition to the semi-structured interview. Based on their political and social knowledge of the issue at hand,the respondents of the interview,were selected by the researcherusing purposive sampling method. Therefore, the study generally attempted to address three interrelated issues on the rights of ethno national minorities such as the right to existence, equitable representation and self-government. It not only investigates the constitutional basis of the aforementioned fundamental rights and freedoms of ethno national minorities but also the perception of the regional state government officials and ethno national minorities covered in the study. The findings from the two case study national regional states of federal Ethiopia revealed that the current political system of Ethiopia -both in terms of its federal design and the operating politico-legal practices have largely failed to respond to the strong demands of ethno national minorities. The federal design of granting autonomy to ethno national groups of the country has fallen short of giving territorial autonomy to all nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia- even to those regarded as indigenous ethnic groups to their respective regional states. Apart from the granting of territorial autonomy, it has also, to a certain extent by design, excluded non-indigenous ethnic groups from effective and equitable representation in the respective regional state legislative councils. Even in circumstances where they have been given restricted representation rights, their decision making powers remain ineffective. Hence this dissertation argues that despite the promises made by the federal government to empower all ethno national groups they continue to face consequences of lack of equitable representation and the right to self-government even in the territory they are considered indigenous. The Ethiopian federal system in this regard has not kept its promise. Because as clearly witnessed in the national regional state of Oromia, only the Oromo nation is political recognized and legally allowed to control territorial autonomy of the region. As a result, even the indigenous people of Zay in Oromia region and Kemant community of Amhara region are not politically recognized and represented in the regional councils of the same national regional states respectively. Although it has certain accommodative legal and political system, the Amhara region too restricts the rights of self-government of ethno national minorities. In circumstances where the historic ethno national minorities have participation at regional council, the majoritarian decision-making process of the region makes them unable to counter any determination even sometimes that goes against their interest. The Kemant case is a living experience in this regard. Therefore, unless the various demands of such ethno national minorities living in those regional states are properly addressed through political and legal mechanisms that accommodate the interest of ethno national minorities, the existing discontent may distablize the federal system.

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