The Rights to Self-rule and Rights of Citizenship in Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa


The question of ethnic equality has been the apex of all questions for decades in Ethiopia. For this fact, the struggle to bring ethnic equality consumed the adorning and precious human life. This major and long lived historical issue seemed solved after the downfall of the Dergue through biller military struggle of a number of national liberation movements. Following this, in 1991, in order to address along lived historical question of ethnic equality, through restructuring the country into different state an ethnic form of federal formula has been adopted in Ethiopia. However a specific problem in the Ethiopian context is that every regional state now so designated under the federal arrangement is multi-ethnic, even Tigray (where Erob and Kunama as well as Amhara, Oromo and other minorities live with Tigray people), None of the nine regional states is mono-ethnic, so the protection of "minority and other individual citizen rights" under the power holding regional ethnic groups is at core of academic and political debate particularly on the scale of needed safeguards in the federal and regional constitutions and political practice of such states. Thus this showing the problem for a federa tion linking heterogeneous groups in a process of institutional dialogue is thereby just deflected towards another arena, a lower level, where the same problems of what the democratic exercise of rights means and how it can be guaranteed, come bouncing back. I Consequently, the neglect of these groups and individual citizens ' rights by the new power holders has resulted in inter-ethnic conflict and tension between those owners regional state and others non titular citizens (also referred as non-indigenous, settler or immigrants). These have raised the question of citizenship and resulting rights and still the major point of discussion in the country among political parties. The post 1991 federal regime has been implementing various mechanisms to accommodate minority at regional level who share contingent territory. But concerning those dispersed citizens (can also be settlers, non-indigenous or immigrant) there is a lot issues regarding the right to political representation, right to equality, the right to freely move and work and other dozens of universal rights still unprotected, devalued and sometimes violated resulting in the feeling of second citizenship and high tension. Thus resulting in the change of political demand by ethnic groups from so called "national question " to what Jon Abbink, Ethnicity and Constitutionalism in Ethiopia , Journat of African Law, Vo lA I : No.2, p. 163 1this paper calls it 'citizenship question in the post 1991 reign of self-governance of nations, nationality and people. In other words, citizenship question in Ethiopia can be explained as the plight of Ethnic minorities in any state that has most of the time been treated as aliens. This ill-treatment they receive is at the core of the constant manifestation of ethnic volatile engagements. In Ethiopia, this is fostered by the inability of the post-Derg elite to construct effectively, the philosophy of inclusive citizenship that will be capable of developing national identity with a cosmopolitan outlook. Other conflict generating factors can be located in the scarcity of cherished values and the differential opportunities that exist among competing groups intensified by ethnicity. Most reasons explicated for such upheaval are centred on the demand for recognition and inclusion in political bargain of states' resources allocation. This scenario calls for the understanding of constitutional bases of citizenship in Ethiopia. Thus the main objective of the study is investigating the relation between the rights to self-rule of ethnic groups( also referred as host, indigenous, titular ethnic groups endowed with a mother statelWereda/zone of their own) and other individual ( commonly referred as migrants, settlers or non-indigenes minority) rights of citizenship in the post Ethiopian ethnic federalism in light of experience in Asosa Wereda, Benishangul Gumuz Regional State (BGRS) vis-a vis to to eluciaadate the relevance of balancing the rights of individuals and groups within an umbrella of diversity - unity paradigm and the need for an overreaching concept of citizenship in Ethiopia. The paper by considering this research gap, examines the overall nature and relationship between the rights of self-rule and rights of citizenship in the multi-ethnic Asossa woreda. This is crucial because the area hosts different ethnic groups though the dominant ones are Bertha from the host and other citizens who due to different reason have lived for decades, particularly there is a lot Amharas settler communities resettled in Dereg regime. This study then investigates experiences of the right to self-rule and rights of citizenship in Asossa Woreda, which has the largest number of "host " self-governing ethnic groups and ethnic migrant, non-indigenous or "settler citizens. The study fully employed qualitative research approach. Relevant and reliable data were gathered through in depth informant interview, focus group discussion, non- participant 2observation and documentary analysis. The finding revealed that there were many instances where the rights of citizenship were systematically violated by officials and nationalistic members of ethnic groups due to lack of understanding on the right balance between the right to self-rule and the rights of every citizens guaranteed in the FDRE constitution. The source of the problems seems of practical application of universal rights and upholding group tendency in the ideology of the ruling regime and officials. For instance the claim for balanced representation in political office of citizens in BGRS in general and Asosa Wereda in particular shows that the decision of the HOF and the The institutional set up of BGRS wereda and stale council has greatest contribution for maintaining a sense of belonging and equality. Thus the primacy of individual right when there is a conflict with group rights particularly regarding universal right such as those discussed in this stud like, the right to movement, right to political participation, right to work and residence, ji-eedom ji-om discrimination and right to private property is essential for the stable and inclusive federal governance in Ethiopia. The paper recommended that beller protection can be achieved if the participation of all citizens is guaranteed in the regional assembly, judiciary and executive posts without regard to indigenity to the regional state. Further the establishments offederal institutions like that of the human rights commission, federal courts, federal police in the regions and enhancing the active role of FDRE Human Rights Commission and Ombudsman Institution can protect discriminatory practice and assure equality in the regional state



self-rille, rights of citizenship, political participation, eqllality, eth II ic federalism,self-determinatioll.