House Approves Bill to Establish Boundary and Identity Commission

Boundary-Identity-Commission-EthiopiaDecember 20, 2018 ( - Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives (HPR) approved a new bill to establish boundary and identity commission, according to Ethiopian News Agency report.

According to the report, the aim of new commission established is to study and resolve border and identity issues that are increasingly coming up and becoming sources of tension and conflict in various parts of the country.

The bill was approved by the House of Representatives by a majority vote, with 33 against, and four abstentions.

According to the bill, the boundary and identity commission is accountable to the Ethiopian Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed.

Ethiopia is facing heightened ethnic tensions in most regions of the country like never before. According to many, this poses the gravest of dangers to the unity and stability of the country.

The boundary between the Benishangul-Gumuz and Oromia states is one front where numerous conflicts arose as recently as this month and still active. Hundreds of citizens have died and hundreds of thousands displaced. The issue is, in part, between the Kamashi people living across the border from Oromia and ethnic Oromos and Amharas living in the state. But the bigger issue is that regional leaders are also part of the fray, as demonstrated by the recent, strongly-worded warnings coming out from the leading parties in Oromia, the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), and the recent arrest of some Benishangul-Gumuz leaders.

In Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region, several ethnic groups have passed resolutions indicating their wish for separate statehood, including Sidama and the Wolayta. There were ethnic clashes this year in the regional capital, Hawassa, in connection with identity questions. There were also clashes between Oromo ethnic groups and other ethnic groups living in the region.

The Oromia-Somali border was one of the earliest flashpoints of conflict in the country. Hundreds died over the years due to recurring conflicts, which resulted in one of the largest mass dislocations in Ethiopian history. The conflict subsided with the arrest of long-time Somali region leader Abdi Illey.

In the north, the Wolkite and Raya enclaves, currenting in the Tigray regional state, are contested by some activists from the Amhara region, perhaps with some backing from the Amhara regional government behind the scenes. There have been armed clashes in the Wolkite area a few years ago, and clashes in some parts of Amhara, especially in Gondar, related to this issue. There were protests in the Raya area in Tigray in late October this year, where three people were killed.

It is unknown what powers the new commission will have to enforce decisions, as any settlement will ultimately depend on the goodwill of the regions or enclaves in question.

So far, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has been showered with praise as a reformist, appears to be unable or unwilling to take decisive measures to enforce the rule of law and guarantee the safety of citizens throughout the country. In addition to ethnic tensions, there are areas, particularly in Oromia, where properties and businesses are not protected and subject to the justice of local vigilantes.

In a related report, the House of Representatives also approved a new draft bill to amend existing Defense Forces Proclamation.

The new bill amends more than 28 articles and allows for the establishment of naval, space and cyber forces.



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