A proposed draft law would impose prison terms of up to 15 years for obstructing or diverting aid to internally displaced people (IDPs) if passed.
This legal framework comes almost four months after humanitarian organizations, including the WFP and USAID, stopped providing aid in Tigray and other parts of Ethiopia due to concerns about aid diversion by regional and federal authorities.
Federal authorities later denied diverting aid.
The draft proclamation proposes up to 25 years in prison and heavy fines for violating IDP rights. This includes deporting civilians, forcibly transferring or evicting them; seriously injuring vulnerable groups; forcibly recruiting IDPs; and military activity in camps.
Titled the “Proclamation to Prevent Internal Displacement and Provide Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons,” the draft would also require funds embezzled from aid to be repaid three times the amount stolen.
Prepared by experts from the Ministry of Peace and Ministry of Justice, the draft still needs approval from the Council of Ministers and must be passed by parliament to take effect.
Ethiopia currently lacks legislation to protect and reintegrate internally displaced persons (IDPs). The new proclamation has been long overdue for a country with millions of IDPs due to protracted conflicts in northern Ethiopia, Oromia, and other regions in recent years.
The draft would authorize establishing several agencies to serve IDPs and authorize an IDPs Fund to cover expenses for preventing displacement, assisting and protecting IDPs, and enabling durable solutions.
The Fund’s income comes from government funds, partner support, private donations, and other approved financial sources. A new body is also slated to administer the Fund.
A National Coordination Council chaired by Demeke Mekonen, deputy prime minister, would also be formed, with the Ministry of Peace as its secretariat.
Council members include the Ethiopian Disaster Risk Management Commission, Ministry of Justice, Federal Police Commission, the Authority for Civil Societies Organizations, Ethiopian Statistics Service, Refugees and Returnees Service, and heads of regional states, among others.
The draft proclamation gives IDPs the right to vote, stand for election, assemble peacefully, participate in policymaking, and hold peaceful demonstrations, among other rights.