The stand out feature of the tenure of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) since he ascended to power in April 2018 has undoubtedly been the eruption of civil war and other forms of deadly conflicts that have threatened at times to take Ethiopia over the precipice.
Hundreds of thousands have been killed with millions more uprooted from their homes and left deeply traumatized in insurgencies and targeted attacksin practically all the regional states of the country. Unfortunately, the expression of sorrow and condemnation of the appalling acts of violence has not galvanized a concerted action to end their recurrence.
In fact, Ethiopians have by and large become numb to the sickening level of violence and tend to view the victims as just another statistic. Despite the vows made by the administrations of Prime Minister Abiy and the governments of the affected regions to put an end to the atrocities and restore peace and security, Ethiopia continues to figure among the countries most at risk of vulnerability.
As in any armed conflict, it is civilians who have borne the brunt of the senseless violence that has been racking Ethiopia for over five-and-half years now. From wanton killing to torture, sexual violence, forced displacement as well as the destruction of essential infrastructures, defenseless citizens have been suffering no end from all manners of egregiousacts.
The parties to the ongoing conflicts that have wrought large-scale destruction, particularly in the Oromia and Amhara regions, are obligated under both domestic legislation and international humanitarian laws which Ethiopia has adopted, to afford civilians the protection from the hazards of the conflicts. Whether it‘s the government, rebels, insurgents and other armed opposition groups they must distinguish at all times between combatants and civilians.
They should never deliberately target civilians. As such they should take it upon themselves to take all feasible precautions to avoid, or at least to minimize, harm to civilians and civilian objects and to not carry out attacks that indiscriminately target civilians.
All the sides in the ongoing conflicts in Ethiopia are responsible for complying with the requirements of the relevant domestic and international humanitarian laws. It’s incumbent on the parties to respect the requirements even if the opposing side abides by them.
Honoring the obligations under these laws also is not predicated on the reason driving the conflicts or why any of the parties resorted to use force to achieve their objectives. Moreover, irrespective of whether they are state or non-state actors, the parties are held to the same standard though there may be disparities in the level of the harm caused by the alleged violations they perpetrate.
Ethiopia is a signatory to a host of international agreements which set minimum standards for all parties to a non-international armed conflict. The most important treaty law is Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions.Ithas also adopted core human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The countryhasfurther ratified such regional human rights treaties as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Union Convention Governing Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa.These treaties set out guarantees for fundamental rights, many of which correspond to the rights to which civilians are entitled under international humanitarian law.
All these instruments prohibit the killing, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment of civilians, and the prevention of humanitarian access to provide assistance to affected populations in times of conflict. In addition, they oblige all the protagonists in the conflicts tormenting civilians to ensure that the rights to food, water, health, housing, and education are met even during armed conflicts.
it’s crucial for all parties involved in the conflicts to fully abide by international norms and other relevant legal frameworks.
Addressing the protection of civilians during armed conflicts in Ethiopia is a complex and challenging task. It requires the collective efforts of all relevant stakeholders to ensure that civilians are spared from the devastating consequences of such conflicts. To that end it’s crucial for all parties involved in the conflicts to fully abide by international norms and other relevant legal frameworks.
Ultimately, however,according priority to the peaceful resolution of conflicts through dialogue and upholding accountability for acts of violence areof greater importance in averting further harm to civilians.All the parties to the conflicts ravaging Ethiopia need to realize that peace is the best form of protection for civilians.