Protection of minorities in Ethiopia: Accommodation of minorities under the constitution The preamble of FDRE (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia) constitution: We, the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia: Strongly committed, in full and free exercise of our right to self-determination, to building a political community founded on the rule of law and capable of ensuring a lasting peace, guaranteeing a democratic order…….
Definition of Nations, Nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia
Art 39 (5) of FDRE constitution
A " Nation, Nationality or People " for the purpose of this Constitution , is a group of people who have or share large measure of a common culture or similar customs, mutual intelligibility of language, belief in a common or related identities, a common psychological make-up, and who inhabit an identifiable,predominantly contiguous territory.
Careful reading of the Federal Democratic republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) constitution reveals that only those minorities which can satisfy the definition of nation, nationality and peoples of Ethiopia under Art 39(5) of the constitution are protected well constitutionally and thus those minorities which are scattered over the country and don't inhabit an identifiable and predominantly contiguous territory are not given sufficient protection.
Still practically both types of minorities i.e. those concentrated over identifiable territory (nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia) and those dispersed are not protected.
Members of the Federation may by law determine their respective working languages.
Practically each regional unit (state) has only one official and educational language even though one could find more than one languages which is evidenced from the Southern state alone constituting a number of languages.
All languages are recognized equal but the constitution does not provide as to whether there is positive obligation to preserve language.
Each Nation, Nationality and People shall be represented in the House of the Federation by at least one member . Each Nation or Nationality shall be represented by one additional representative for each one million of its population.
As there is no maximum limit for extra seats in the upper house, it enables more populous states to control this house while they have already controlled the lower house through election of members based on population size.
No constitutional room for representation of other types of minorities.
Right to self determination including secession (political right)
Art 39 (1)
Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has an unconditional right to self-determination, including the right to secession.
Art 39: alternative for minority nation nationality and people.
Other minorities who are not nation, nationality or people under Art 39 (5)?
Constitutionally speaking there is positive obligation on state under Art 89(2) but only for nations, nationalities and peoples and not for all minorities. (eco and social assistance)
Art 91 This provision could be interpreted as imposing positive action on gov.t to support all types of minorities for preservation of culture and tradition as it doesn’t make reference to whose culture and tradition are protected.
But it is blurred as we have no definition of minorities and who have standing under art 91 is not mentioned.
Art 54 (3) while reserving 20 seats using the term minorities it clearly used the phrase “minority nations and peoples” shall have at least 2o seats in the HPRS (lower house) in effect excluding other minorities.
In February 2007, the Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Gay McDougall, published her report on Ethiopia, following a country visit. Among her findings were that some smaller minority communities were considered to be on the verge of disappearing, due to 'factors including resettlement, displacement, conflict, assimilation, cultural dilution, environmental factors and loss of land'. She noted that, 'An unknown number of minority communities are believed to have already disappeared completely.