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Is Ethiopia Fit to be a Member of the United Nations Human Rights Council?

Ethiopia was among four African countries that were elected as members of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 12 November, 2012. Other countries that were elected for a three-year term are Argentina, Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, Estonia, Gabon, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Montenegro, Pakistan, the Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Venezuela.

However, Ethiopia’s election to Human Rights Council did not go down well with most Ethiopians. Writing about the election the Ethiopian satirist Abe Tokichaw wrote in Amharic [amh]:

Ethiopian blogger and journalist Eskinder Nega was sentenced to 18 years in jail with 23 other activists on On 13 July, 2012. Photo courtesy of FreeEskinderNega.com

ኢትዮጵያ የተባበሩት መንግስታት ሰብአዊ መብት ኮሚሽን አባል ሀገር ሆና ተመረጠች።
የትኛዋ ኢትዮጵያ!? የትኛው ሰብአዊ መብት!? የትኛው የተባበሩት መንግስታት የሰብአዊ መብት ኮሚሽን!?

እኔ የምለው ኢትዮጵያዊው የዩልኝታ ባህላችን ያለው ህብረተሰቡ ዘንድ ብቻ መሆኑ በጣም አሳሳቢ ችግር አይመስላችሁም? እንዴ መንግስት እኮ ይሉኝታ ቢኖረው ኖሮ “ተመድ የሰባዊ መብት ኮሚሽን አባል አድርጌ መርጨሀለሁ!” ሲለው… “አረ በህግ አምላክ እኔ አልሆናችሁም ሀገር ተሳስታችሁ ነው! ወይ ደግሞ ባታውቁኝ ነው የመረጣችሁኝ…!” ማለት ነበረበት። ነገር ግን መንግስቴ “ምን ይሉኝ” ያልፈጠረበት ነውና አሜን ብ
ሎ መቀበሉ ሲገርመን፤ ጭራሽ በአደባባይ “እንዲህ ነን እኛ ሰብአዊ መብት ጠባቂዎች” ተብሎ ተነገረን!

Ethiopia has been elected to be a member the United Nations Human Rights Council. Wait, Wait! Which Ethiopia? Which Human Right? Which United Nations Human Rights Council?

Is it not worrisome that an Ethiopian sense of discomfiture is not shared by our government? If our government had any Ethiopian sense of discomfiture, they would have rejected [the seat]  when they got elected as a member the United Nations Human Rights Council! They would have admitted that the Ethiopian government would not fit in the Human Rights Council but our government never had an Ethiopian sense of discomfiture and accepted the membership to United Nations Human Rights Council gladly! They even went on to declare that the Ethiopian government has a good human right record!

Zerihun Tesfaye, an exiled journalist and blogger, described the conundrum of Ethiopia’s election in an extended Amharic note on Facebook:

እስቲ ልነሳና ልበል አልቸም አልቸም
እሷ የኔን ነገር ትተዋለች መቼም” የሠፈራችን አዝማሪ።

አንዲህ ነገር ዓለሙን የተዉ ግለሰቦች፣ ዓለም አቀፍ ተቋማት እና መንግሥታት ሲያጋጥሙ አዝማሪውን ተቀብሎ ማንጎራጎሩ ሳይቀል አይቀርም። ስለኢትዮጵያ መንግሥት ሰብዓዊ መብት ረገጣ አንዳንዴ እኛን ባለጉዳዮቹን በሚያስደንቅ ኹኔታ የዓለም ዓቀፉ ማኅበረሰብ ሲያቀነቅን “ወይ ጉድ ለካንስ እነዚህ ሰዎች የልብ አውቃ ኖረዋል” ብለን ተስፋ እናደርጋለን። አንድ ቀን የለውጡ አካል ሆነው የነጻነታችንን እንቀዳጃለን ብለንም ልባችን በሐሴት ትሞላለች። እናም የጋዜጠኝነት ሙያችንም የረዳንን ያህል “የማቃጠር ሥራ” እንሠራለን። አልፎ አልፎም “መንግሥት በቃሊቲ 50 ንጹሃን ዜጎችን አጎረ” ብለን ስናውጅ፤ “አይ መረጃችሁ አልተሟላም እኛ የደረሰን 120 ሰዎች ነው” ብለው ከነስም ዝርዝራቸው ሲያሳዩን እንደመምና አሁንም ተስፋ እናደርጋለን-ከኛው ከጭቁኖቹ ጋር ናቸው ብለን።
ሌሎች የማይጠቀሱ ጉዳዮች ተደራርበው ትላንት የተባበሩት መንግሥታት የሰብዓዊ መብቶች ካውንስል ይህቺን በሰብዓዊ መብት አያያዝ “የማትጠረጠር” አገር አባል አድርጎ ሲመርጥ ግን የሠፈሬን አዝማሪ ማስታወስ ግድ አለኝ። በእውነት እነዚህ የመብት ተሟጋቾች እና ተቋማት ተስፋ ሊያስቆርጡን እየሞከሩ ነው? ወይስ በየትኛውም መስፈርት አገርን ለማስተዳደር ብቃቱ የሌለው ቦዘኔ መንግሥት ምን አልባት አባል ሲሆን የጠባይ ለውጥ ያመጣ ይኾን ብለው? አሁን አሁን “እየተፎጋግርን” ያለን ያህል ተሰማኝ።
ክፋቱ አሁንም የእነሱን ድጋፍ የምንፈልግ መሆናችን፤ “የለማኝ ስልቻ ቢንከባለል ከለማኝ ደጅ” እንዲሉ።

Let me chant, I can’t, I can’t as she has forgotten my cause! Says a local songster.

I find it easy to join this local songster and chant with him when we fall upon international organizations and governments who deafen their ears to our cause! But paradoxically, sometimes international organizations have a better understanding than Ethiopians themselves, about horrendous human right situations in Ethiopia and we feel better as we consider the international community is recognizing our great efforts. Sometimes we even think the international community is part of the revolution we aspire to in Ethiopia and our hearts fill with joy! So through journalism we used to report a lot on human rights abuse in Ethiopia. For instance, if we report fifty innocent Ethiopians are jailed in a famous prison called “Kality” some of the international community members correct us with more accurate number (120) of innocent prisoners including their names! Then we feel these people are with us and hope good things are yet to come!

But when I heard of the news of Ethiopia’s election to the United Nations Human Rights Council last evening, the hymn of our local songster rang a bell! Are these intergovernmental human rights organizations trying to destroy our optimism? Or do they think a bad-mannered government will get better when it becomes a member of United Nations Human Rights Council? Nowadays I feel everybody has become politically correct to everybody! But the worse thing is still we need their help!

And another concerned netizen, Yohanes Molla, wrote [amh]:

እማር በሰር ጫሪም፣ ጒቸ ገግት ቧሪም፡፡” የጉራግኛ ተረትና ምሳሌ (ወማካ) ነው፡፡ ወደ አማርኛ ሲመጣ “አህያ ላይ ስጋ ጭነው፣ ጅብን ሸኝ አሉት፡፡” ማለት ነው፡፡ እንግዲህ ይህ ሲሆን ውጤቱ ግልፅ ነው፡፡ ጅቡ አህያዋ ላይ የተጫነውን ስጋ ሁሉ ይበላዋል፡፡ ምናልባት አህያዋንም ጠግቦ ካቆያት ነው እንጂ እርሷንም በጊዜ ይበላታል፡፡

ትናንት ማምሻውን በእንቅልፍ ልቤ አንብቤው…. ‘ህልም ነው!… ቅዠት ነው!’ እያልኩ ተኝቼ፣ ዛሬ ስነቃ እውን ሆኖ የደገመኝና እስካሁን ድረስ በአህምሮዬ ላይ ተተክሎ ቀኔን ያጠቆረብኝና፣ እያቃጨለብኝ ያለውን ኢትዮጵያ የተመድ የሰብዓዊ መብት ካውንስል አባል የመሆን ወሬ ጉዳይ ከዚህ ተረትና ምሳሌ የተሸለ ምን ይገልፀው ይሆን?!

There is a local proverb which says: A fool makes a donkey carry red meat and sends her along with a hyena! So the hyena will chomp through the red meat and later turn on the donkey!

Last night I read about Ethiopia's election to the United Nations Human Rights Council being heavy-eyed so I thought of it as a nightmare. However, when I woke up this morning I could not escape this story! It keeps coming back to me and makes my day horrific! So what could better describe Ethiopia’s election to United Nations Human Rights Council other than the proverb I cited above!

Jawar Mohammed wrote a detailed analysis of how Ethiopia secured a seat in the council. But Daniel Berehane disagreed with those opposing Ethiopia's membership to the council:

I see no anomaly with Ethiopia being elected to the UN Human Rights Council.

Both Ethiopia and the Council have good Constitutions.

They both have capacity (political, financial, etc) limitations implementing it.

Perfect match.

Human rights groups have been criticizing Ethiopia as one of the most serious human rights violators in Africa with huge number of dissidents, activists and journalists languishing in jail.

  • nahom woldeyohannes

    it is so ridiculeoues to hear ethiopia is one of the members in this stage.i cant understand why the western countries are so friendely while the dictatorial regime of ethiopia is still oppress individual rights at the very stage.someone should have to stop this at the very begning before it is too late and oppose the regime from doing such a brutal crime on its own citizens.

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