The House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) approved a controversial bill to establish a separate commission with a mandate to carry out scientific findings and recommendations related to identity and regional boundaries, on Thursday.
However, a heated debate was sparked after Tesfaye Daba, Chairperson of Foreign Relation and Peace Affairs Standing Committee, presented a resolution before the House reflecting a political dispute surrounding the proposed proclamation and by extension among members of the ruling EPRDF.
Apparently, the fierce debate opposing the bill came mainly from members of parliament representing Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Particularly, members representing TPLF repeatedly expressed their concern regarding the proposed bill which accordingly contradicts the constitutional powers and responsibilities entrusted to the House of Federation (HoF). Meanwhile, other members from Amhara Democratic Party (ADP) and Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), both members of the ruling front EPRDF together with TPLF and Southern Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Movement (SPEDM), downplayed the concerns of constitutional contradiction stating that the draft bill to establish the Commission would, in fact, realize the enforcement of the constitution by contributing scientific findings which would help the HoF resolve outstanding issues related to the identity and boundary administration.
TPLF members referred to the draft law as “something that has some hidden intentions behind.”
Reacting to this assertion, an MP representing an opposing view said, “There is no hidden intention behind; and that it is all there for everyone to see.”
The session was attended by 350 MPs out of the 547. And hence, 33 MPs, almost all associated with TPLF, voted against the Bill while four abstained. All the abstained votes are by members of SEPDM.
The Commission, accountable to the Office of the Prime Minister, is expected to come up with research-based recommendation and solution to disputes over identity questions and regional boundaries in the country when it commences its work.
Those issues have become one of the causes of conflicts in different parts of Ethiopia leading to civilian deaths and displacement of tens of thousands of people particularly in inter-region border areas.
The HoF, which is meant to have powers to resolve matters related to the ethnic based Federal states, is criticized by analysts and political pundits alike that it has been largely ineffective in terms of mitigating and averting conflicts with its structure.
In September of 2017, more than half a million people were reportedly displaced due to conflict in the areas adjoining ethnic Somalis and ethnic Oromos in the South Eastern parts of Ethiopia.
In the North West and North Central parts of Ethiopia, there is an ongoing tension over identity questions of Wolkait and Raya, respectively.
In the south, Guji and Gedeo areas have experienced recurrent ethnic based violence which is believed to be linked to boundary issues, among other things with nearly a million ethnic Gedeo’s displaced several months ago.
In the Ethio-Kenya border town of Moyale, there has been a frequent violence between the Borena (ethnic Oromos) and Garri (ethnic Somalis).
Ethiopia’s ethnic based Federalism divided the small border town into ethnic Oromo and ethnic Somali administrations with a police force and administrative structures of their own. In the past week alone, over 50 people are reportedly killed, dozens wounded, and thousands of people displaced, a significant number of them crossing the border to Kenya.
Benshangual Gumuz region of Ethiopia, in the western part of the country, is another area that has been experiencing violence of ethnic in nature involving the Amhara, Oromo and Gumuz. In this region too, tens of thousands of people have been displaced.
In a related development, the Ethiopian Parliament approved a bill today to amend the Defense Forces Legislation. Some 28 new articles are added as part of the amendment with some related to the establishment of naval, space and cyber divisions in Ethiopian defense force.