The House of People’s Representatives (HPR) on Tuesday endorsed the draft proclamation named ‘Reconciliation Commission Establishment Proclamation’ that intends to establish an independent institution with an exclusive power and responsibilities to inquire, disclose the truth and take measures on human rights violations so as to ensure reconciliation and lasting peace.
During its 14th regular session, the House heard Foreign Relations and Peace Affairs Standing Committee’s resolution to which the draft bill was referred to for further revisions earlier in November.
While presenting the resolution, Chairperson of the Standing Committee, Tesfaye Daba, told MPs that the main objective of the reconciliation commission is to help the nation from the current political, economic and social upheavals.
“The commission is believed to play a pivotal role in bringing national reconciliation and strengthening unity among the people by promoting forgiveness while helping the ongoing reform,” Tesfaye told the House.
However, few of the MPs raised questions over the need of establishing the commission. Among those MPs who raised their arguments against the bill, Kassa Gugsa questioned who the commission will reconcile.
“I wonder who those people are to get reconciled. Yet the people of Ethiopia have never been engaged in a quarrel with each other? He asked stating that it is meaningless to talk about reconciliation in the absence of people who are in conflict. “As a citizen of this country, our people have had neither hate nor deceit,” Kassa said.
On the other side, other MPs presented their own support for the bill arguing that it is time for the House to compensate for turning a blind eye to the social harms and grievances that were committed in the past.
While responding to MPs who argued over the existence of hatred among the people, Tesfaye said that, “it is not possible to conclude that there is no problem among the people. There have been various conflicts in various parts of the country that caused mass displacements and killings. Hence, the very rationale to establish this commission is to undertake investigations that would eventually identify the basic causes and problems of these conflicts while bringing perpetrators to justice at the same time.”
Accordingly, Tesfaye further stated that “establishing the commission is timely to promote forgiveness at the national level, build national consensus, and more importantly not to repeat blunders and misgivings that prevailed in the past.”
Meanwhile, Tesfaye explained that the commission does not serve to give or recommend amnesty or pardons for perpetrators who are accused of gross human rights violation.
“This does not mean that forgiveness will be presented for individuals or groups who committed mass killings and related serious crimes. As we all know, we approved the Amnesty Proclamation last June,” Tesfaye said citing the proclamation which stipulates that criminals who are accused of killings of people should be tried in court accordingly with the extents of their crimes they are charged with.
The bill, In its preamble, states that it is necessary to reconcile based on truth and justice the dis-agreement that developed among the peoples’ of Ethiopia for years because of the different social and political conflict.
The bill has also been designed with the aim of identifying and ascertaining the nature, cause and dimension of the repeated gross violations of human rights so as to fully respect and implement basic human rights recognized under Ethiopia’s constitution as well as other international and continental agreements that are said to be important for the reconciliation.
“It is believed that providing victims of gross human rights abuses in different times and historical events with a forum to be heard and perpetrators to disclose and confess their actions as a way to reconciliation and to achieve lasting peace,” the newly endorsed bill says in its preamble.
According to the provision of the bill, the commission will be accountable to the Prime Minister while it will have its own members to be determined by the government. Similarly, a chairperson, deputy chairperson and other members of the commission will be appointed by the HPR upon recommendations by the Prime Minister.
After an apparently moderate discussion, the House approved the draft bill with a majority vote, one against and one abstaining.
The bill comes after six months, in which time the government approved an amnesty law issued in June for exiled Ethiopians who had been wanted by the former administration.
According to latest information obtained from the Office of the Attorney General, over 800 people have been pardoned during the grace period they had been given to report to the Attorney General. The pardon period will expire in two weeks’ time.