Ethiopia’s Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Day

The seventh Ethiopian Nations Nationalities and People’s Day was celebrated on Saturday (December 8th) in Bahr Dar, the capital of the Amhara Regional State, under the theme: “Unity with Diversity: Through Meles’s Vision and the Constitution for Our Renaissance.” Prime Minister Hailemariam, senior government officials, ambassadors and invited guests attended the celebrations. Representatives from over eighty ethnic groups gathered in the city and displayed their music and dancing in traditional dress and decoration, demonstrating the unity within the diversity of Ethiopia’s many ethnic groups. The constitution of the country has ensured the rights of the many nations, nationalities and peoples who were abandoned and ignored under previous regimes. Other outcomes of the constitution have been the rapid economic development that has been registered during the last decade and the national consensus obtained on national issues.

Prime Minister Hailemariam called on all Ethiopians to renew their commitment to achieve the Growth and Transformation Plan and bring about good governance. He also told his audience that Ethiopians needed to use the celebration as an opportunity to recommit and scale up their efforts. The occasion, he said, would add force to the efforts to realize the vision of the late Prime Minister Meles who had given his life for the equality of nations and nationalities and to build a prosperous Ethiopia. The Prime Minister said the government would continue to exert all efforts to improve agricultural
productivity, reduce the rate of unemployment and control inflation as well as improve infrastructure. He emphasized that Ethiopians from all walks of life should maximize their efforts to support the
construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam by improving their savings culture. He urged everyone to contribute their share to the efforts to build a democratic and prosperous Ethiopia.

Other speakers included the Speaker of the House of Federation, Kassa Tekleberhan, who noted that the nations and nationalities of Ethiopia were now able to give their attention to fighting poverty as their equality was guaranteed by the Constitution. He stressed that the celebration of the Nations Nationalities and People’s Day was aimed at strengthening the unity of the nations and nationalities of the country and consolidating their participation in the efforts to create a single political-economic society. The Chief Administrator of the Amhara Regional State, Ayalew Gobeze, said this year’s celebration was unique as it coincided with the public determination to realize the vision of the late Prime Minister.

The country’s Federal Constitution has helped bring development, build democracy and consensus among the Ethiopian people. It has shown itself to be the best means of accommodating multi-national and multi-ethnic diversity. Federalism allows the decentralization of politics and has also enhanced participation of the nations, nationalities and peoples in the political process of the country.

These celebrations of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Day have maintained the internal stability of the country. Further, they play a role in ensuring peace and stability in neighboring countries and in the region as a whole. They have become an example for the rest of the region. Ethiopia is one of Africa’s second most populous countries with a population of nearly eighty million with over eighty ethnic groups. For many years, the different peculiarities and identities of the various Nations, Nationalities and Peoples were ignored, and indeed they were oppressed and exploited for centuries, deprived of their basic human rights and their fundamental democratic freedoms. Many nations, nationalities and peoples were forced to live as second class citizens in their own country until the demise of the military regime in 1991.

The Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia opened a new chapter of political history in the nation. It ensures basic human rights and fundamental democratic freedoms for all the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples for the first time in their history. There has been real progress towards removing exploitation, oppression and inequality. The country has entered a new era of equality and mutual cooperation to safeguard and ensure the common interests of the peoples. The tone is set by the preamble of the FDRE constitution: “We the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia”. Equality of all Ethiopian languages, religions, beliefs, traditions, cultures, is constitutionally ensured without any discrimination. No language, religion, belief, tradition or culture is inferior or superior to any other. Today, therefore, the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples are united in their struggle against their single common enemy – poverty. They are, therefore, consolidating their efforts for development through their own Growth and
Transformation Plan.

The country began to commemorate Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Day seven years ago after the decision passed by the House of Federation to celebrate the day of the adoption of the Ethiopian Federal Constitution. This year was the seventh occasion of the Ethiopian Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Day. Previous occasions were celebrated in the city of Addis Ababa, in Hawassa, in Addis Ababa as the capital of Oromia, in Dire-Dawa (as a collaboration between four neighboring regional states, Oromia, Afar, Harar and Somali), in Addis Ababa, Mekelle and now Bahr Dar. Next year’s host for the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Day will be the Somali Regional State.
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* Originally published on A Week in the Horn – Dec. 14, 2012 issue, titled “Ethiopia’s Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Day”. Items from A Week in the Horn are re-published here with a permission to do so. You may republish it with attribution and no modification to its contents.

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