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NewsMillions of IDPs unaddressed as critical IDP legislation dawdles in Prime Minister’s...

Millions of IDPs unaddressed as critical IDP legislation dawdles in Prime Minister’s Office

Draft legislation endorsed by the Office of the Prime Minister seeks to impose stringent punishments on perpetrators of crimes that cause the displacement of people from their land and livelihoods. If ratified, those found guilty could be sentenced to life in imprisonment.

“The penalties will apply to anybody who participated in the displacement of people. Government officials, armed groups, or anybody who enabled displacement will be held accountable when the proclamation is ratified,” Eshetu Dese (Amb.), an advisor to the Peace minister who participated in the drafting process, told The Reporter.

He disclosed it had been under review by peers at the Justice Ministry for eight months before it was forwarded to the Office of the Prime Minister. The legislation will be reviewed by the Council of Ministers before it is tabled to Parliament for a vote.

Human rights bodies say the legislation is crucial and has been delayed by more than a decade. The IDP proclamation is Ethiopia’s implementation of the Kampala Convention adopted by the AU in 2012.

Ethiopia ratified the convention in 2020 and the Peace Ministry was tasked with implementation. But the absence of legislation like the IDP proclamation meant the Ministry could not carry out the work, which entails providing protection and assistance to IDPs.

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Sources say the government has been dragging its feet in ratifying the IDP proclamation in order to put off activating the Kampala Convention and the subsequent burden of assisting IDPs.

The country hosts over 3.25 million IDPs, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Most are concentrated in Tigray (nearly one million), Oromia and Amhara.

Two thirds of the IDP population were displaced by conflict and security issues, according to Rakeb Messele, deputy head of the Commission.

This week, Her office deliberated with the Peace Ministry and the Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations (CEHRO), a group of 18 CSOs, on the state of IDPs in Ethiopia. The meeting focused on how to rehabilitate displaced populations effectively – a topic that participating IDP representatives were quick to put down.

They called for the need to prioritize shelter and food needs for short-term survival.

Human rights bodies and regional officials described the severe living conditions in IDP camps and blamed the absence of institutional responsibility and legal venues, coupled with security issues and a lack of resources, for the crisis facing millions of displaced Ethiopian citizens.

Most IDPs uprooted from the disputed regions of Wolkait, Raya, Tselemt and others are suffering in schools, IDP centers and the streets of Mekele, according to Zewdu Kiros, head of the Social Affairs and Recovery office in Tigray.

“The crimes perpetrated on the people of Tigray from all directions was immense. We have no words to describe the types of dangers IDPs are suffering currently. We could not return them to their former homes and land. We could not reintegrate them. We could not give them shelter and food. We can only hope they will return to their land soon,” he said.

Though there are nearly one million IDPs in Tigray, nearly five million people in the region need immediate humanitarian assistance. A further 15 million people require urgent aid across the rest of Ethiopia as they suffer from the consequences of conflict, drought, and natural disasters.

Zewdu disclosed that no less than 70,000 residents of Tigray who fled to Sudan during the war are caught up in another conflict as Khartoum hosts its own bloody civil war.

There are significant IDP populations in other regional states as well. People displaced by protracted conflict in western Oromia have fled to Amhara and Benishangul-Gumuz. There are also IDPs spread across the Somali and Afar regional states.

Peace Ministry officials and other entities recently began facilitating the return of IDPs to western Oromia, mostly those who were sheltered in the town of Debre Birhan in the Amhara Regional state. However, people representing the IDPs say they cannot return because the security concerns that pushed them out in the first place are still a real threat.

Government officials conceded they cannot cover food, medicine, and shelter needs, or compensation, for IDPs due to a lack of funding.

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