African Journal of
Political Science and International Relations

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Pol. Sci. Int. Relat.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0832
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJPSIR
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 383

Full Length Research Paper

The protection of minority rights under regional constitutions in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia: The case of Tigray

Yohannes Mamo
Department of Political Science and Strategic Studies, College of Law and Governance, Mekelle University, Ethiopia.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Received: 20 September 2015
  •  Accepted: 23 December 2015
  •  Published: 30 September 2017


The issues of minority rights have been given a significant concentration in the political discourses of today.  In traditional literatures and policy packages, the issues have been given a special emphasis pertaining to the protection of minority rights. Since the end of the World War II, many international instruments are adopted, declarations are domesticated; Ethiopia is a case in point. After the downfall of the Dergue; Ethiopia has ratified international human rights instrument like International Covenant on Civil and Political Right (hereafter ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (hereafter ICESCR) and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right (ACHPR) . As it is determined to follow ethnic based federal system under the existing Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) constitution that acknowledges unity within diversity. On the other hand, some studies revealed that the existing legal and institutional mechanisms of accommodation have practical gaps to effectuate the intention up to the grass roots. In lieu of this, the study explores the status of minority rights in the Tigray Regional State Constitution and its practical correlates on the Irob people in Eastern Tigray, and Kunama people in Western Tigray. In doing this, it takes a sample of three Tabias from two Weredas/ District in Kunama and the whole Wereda from Irob based on a purposive sampling technique. Consequently, the result of this study indicated that constitutionally, the Tigray National Regional State (TNRS) recognizes the existence of the Irob and Kunama people at least with the establishment of their local administration. Nevertheless, this notable achievement and the actual practice are not without limitation. Hence, ensuring of self-administration for the Irob people is simply the same as the other Werdas of Tigray; they are not treated as special Wereda to exercise their right. Given that constitutional recognition of minorities is not an end by itself; it needs to be supported by appropriate legal documents with its practical correlate of sustaining it, as it deemed required. However, there is no guaranteed special consideration for the representation of Irob and Kunama people in the Regional council and other Regional governmental institutions. Finally, the study suggests that the Tigray National Regional State should open legal and institutional rooms for the protection of minority rights that enable them to enjoy their rights and play roles in the existing federal system.

Key words: Ethiopia, Tigray, Federal Constitution, Regional Constitution, minority rights.


The Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) articleone depicts the establishment of the Federal Democratic Republic (FDRE Constitution, 1995). The Constitution created a Federal state structure with nine Regional states and recognizes nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia.  Accordingly, each nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia are entitled with the right of self-determination to establish their own state including the right of unconditional secession, to develop their own language, to develop and promote their culture and preserve their history. The existence of minorities have increased the importance of federalism to contribute shared governance in a large political unit for certain common purpose and self-governance for the various smaller constituent units of government to be directly responsible for their own electorates (Watt, 2008). Hence, it could be said that all attempts made or to be made for the best protection of minorities, particularly in federations, are among the foundations of the federation’s effort to accommodate diversity. In short, protection of minority rights is at hub of accommodation of diversity in a multi-ethnic society.
As a multiethnic nation, Ethiopia designed a federal political system that is federation; so as to accommodate the diverse groups there by maintaining the unity of the country. With the context of Ethiopian federation, every nations, nationalities and peoples are minorities. Pur-suant to the Federal Constitution, every Regional state within the federation has their own respective constitution in which the right of minority groups are considered and given constitutional guarantee. This is meant to safe guard the endogenous and exogenous minorities scattered at regional states. It is within this framework of analyses that the study is to proceed. The study deals with the protection of minority rights under the Consti-tution of Tigray National Regional State. In lieu of this, the study is organized in three mainareas. The first part deals with the elaboration of terms and theoretical frameworks. The second part focuses on the essence of local govern-ments and the local governments in Tigray. Thethird is about protection of minority rights at Federal and Tigray Regional Constitution in relation to the actual practice. This is followed by conclusion.
Theoretical Frameworks of Minorities
The  term   minority   is  defined  by  different  scholars  in different ways, entailing the lack of universally accepted definition of it. Different scholars argue in different ways for the delay of a binding legal definition of the term. According to Grammatikas Vassilios as cited in Aberra Dagafa, having a universally accepted, recognized and binding definition of the term minority has importance to reduce the controversy on the term and to look after the rights of minorities (Aberra, 2008).
Welhengama Gnanapala also states the absence of conventional definition of minority across the world, and the international instruments are not necessarily there to think about their rights and to adopt meaningful measures of minorities. Nevertheless, the issue of minorities was sensitive as one of the main causes of the World War II as it had delayed to have a universal definition.  G. pentassuglia in his part as cited in Christophe Van der Beken, the predominant focus in international law on the protection of universal human rights was changed after the end of Cold War politics.
Cognizant of this fact, the United Nations (UN) organization has come up with a declaration that explicitly recognizes the right of minority. Accordingly, the 1992 UN declaration in its article one has stated that “States shall protect the existence and the national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.”And in its article two stipulates “states shall adopt appropriate legislative and other measures to achieve those ends”.  It is plausible todeduce that the declaration is imperative in terms of enumerating certain rights of minorities. However, this by itself lacks clarity as to what it mean by the term minority.
Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right (ICCPR) guaranteed to those states in which ethnic or linguistic minorities exist to enjoy their culture and practice and use their own language. This covenant also didn’t define the term minority. It stipulates persons belonging to religious, ethnic, or linguistic minorities shall not be denied the rightto enjoy their own culture, to profess their own religion, or to use their own language with the other member of their community. Other scholars have also defined it in different ways, among others; the first worth accepting definition was given by Capotorti. For him as cited in Aberra Dagafa:
A minority is a group of numerically inferior to the rest of the population of a state, in a non-dominant position, whose members-being nationals of the state-possess ethnic, religious or linguistic characteristics differing from the rest of the population and show, if only implicitly, a sense of solidarity, directed towards preserving their culture, traditions, religion or language (Aberra, 2008).
The supra definitions have given a broader scope for the term minority since it does not specifically limit itself to the requirement of nationality or citizenship. According to his assertion, there are certain criteria to be met by a group of individuals to be a minority. First, they should begroup of persons whose distinctions are based on ethnic, linguistic or religious backgrounds in a state in which they constitute a minority. Secondly, the group should be in a position of non-dominance, their number should be less than the rest of the population of a state. Thirdly, they should be nationals of a state, as opposed to non-nationals, say immigrants and refugees. Another definition given by Deschennes is:
A group of citizens of a state constituting a numerical minority and in a non-dominant position in that state, endowed with ethnic, religious or linguistic characteristics which differ from those of the minority of the population, having a sense of solidarity with one another, motivated, if only implicitly, by a collective will to survive and whose aim is to achieve equality with the majority in fact and law.
From the definitions earlier mentioned the study can deduce that minority right is a right given to any group of numerically small group of people residing in a given sovereign state in which the members share common features of ethnic, religious, linguistic and common psychological makeup that distinguished them from the rest of the population. It is in light of this conceptual clarification that the tem minority is used throughout the paper.
Trends of Minority Rights Protection at International Level
The devastated World War I and World War II lead to the requirement of some mechanism to protect such devastative wars and concomitant human right violations. Following the establishment of the UN organization, many instruments have come into way, like the promulgation of international human right instrument, Universal Declaration of Human Right (UDHR), ICCPR, International Covenant on Economic, Social and  Cultural Rights, Declaration on the Right of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (1992), and at regional level African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right (ACHPR) have laid down the foundations for the protection of minority rights. The intentions of these instruments are to promote, encourage and respect human rights without distinction of any kind, such as race and language. Besides, this are all intended to promote the ethnic, religious and cultural rights of minorities too.
These instruments are playing a significant role for the protection of minority rights in multiethnic societies. Moreover, the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, (It is not a binding document, but it gives some weight) is also imperative in laying its own condition regarding the existence of minorities and the need of protection and promotion of that identity. Here, it looks sound to briefly see the ICCPR among other human right instruments as it is the first internationally accepted and binding document (Abadir, 2008). According to the ICCPR of 1966, the right to a distinct identity is the subject of international protection. As seen in the text document, article 27:
Guaranteed to those states in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.
This article clearly indicates that the right to an identity remains a key element in any system to protect minorities. Where a group preserved its distinctive characteristics, non-recognition of the rights of such group would tend to generate conflict between the majority and the minority group. ICCPR, an international law develops the act of realizing and accepting the divided societies in the world, granting minorities the right to defend their special identity and unique characteristics that distinguish them from other members of the human family is an important task for human right protection and promotion in a general manner. This has got many implications in third world countries to have incorporated it in their daily parlance. That is way many states in Africa has ratified it.
Despite its ratification, Ethiopia has failed to give adequate constitutional guarantee up until 1991. With the change of regime in the country a new political mood has ushered the vitality of the covenant. The incumbent government of Ethiopia has  confirmed  with  international human right instruments like ICCPR, ICESC and ACHPR and adopted them all under the existing constitution. Hence, the right of Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia is being recognized under the FDRE Consti- tution. This was able to register practical achievements.
Essence and Practice of Local Government in TNRS
Local government entails that resident of a defined area should be participating in their own limited but locally important matter (Olowu and James, 2004). It is instrumental in deterring problem of the residents via setting their priority needs, determining resources utilization and issues within its jurisdiction. It insures the political process, government accountability and political participation of the people for the advancement of democracy and development.
Local government and federal system are interface. They play a strong role to enhance a bottom-up approach of participation, serves as a bridge between civil society and the state and strengthen direct democracy and develop responsiveness (Risse et al., 2008). It promotes public goods, expanding policy-making and implementation, and helps empower disadvantaged and exploited section of a given society. In this regard, political commitment is instrumental.
In lieu of this, the FDRE constitution has paved the way and lays the foundation for the establishment of Regional governments with respective constitutions. Moreover, adequate power shall be granted to the lowest units of government enabling the people to participate directly in the administration of such units. The rational for this provision is clearly indicated supporting local governments and its institutions with the guarantee of constitutional status.
The state of Tigray is among the nine member states of the FDRE. In Tigray the local government structure is found under the regional Constitutionand Proclamations.   Tigray   is   one   of   the nine regional states, which constitutes the FDRE. The state of Tigray is located at the North tip of the country. It borders with Eritrea in the North, the regional state of Afar in the East, the regional state of Amhara in the South West, and Sudan in the West. The regional state of Tigray consists of seven administrative Zones, thirty four rural Weredas and twelve city administrations (FDRE population census commission, 2010).
The region is made up of about 4.3 million people with a geographic area of 54,569.25 km2 predominantly inhabited by Tigrigna speaking people known as Tigrians; which constitutes 4,167,813 (96.54%) of the population. The remaining are minority groups that belong to Kunama and Irob. Pursuant to article 52(2, b) of the FDRE Constitution, the revised Constitution of the Tigray National Regional State (TNRS) has proclaimed the supreme organ of the government, that are, the Regional State Council, the Executive and the Judiciary. Unlike the 1995 Constitution of TNRS, the 2001 Constitution has a clear separation of power among the three organs of the regional government and lower level administrative structure (Wereda / District and Tabia). This recognizes and legitimizes ‘Wereda’ and ‘Tabia’ as the lowest administrative unit and local government administration with legally defined authority and function.
The Zonal administration of TNRS seems to be excluded from the system or authority of the local government under the revised regional Constitution. Nevertheless, article 45(1) and 49 (3, b and s) states that:
Where it consider necessary for administrative quality and convenience, the state council may establish below and above the Wereda level administrative body.
Hence, local governments as they are vital for regional government and federal government as well, the TNRS recognized twelve ‘municipalities’ besides ‘Zones’ ‘Wereda’ and ‘Tabia’ as the basic unit for government policy implementation and center of development.
The powers and functions of Zonal administration are listed in an ordinary law by recognizing them as a hierarchy below the region and consists certain Weredas below   their jurisdiction.  The committee of the Zonal administrative structure comprises of the chief and deputy administrator, and other members, and is accountable to the regional chief administrator and the regional Council. Unlike others (like Southern Nation, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State of Ethiopia), the TNRS Zonal administration do not have its own council. The executive of Zones are indirectly account-able to the people in which they do their job directly, as they are elected and accountable to the representatives of the whole people in the region; that is, the regional state Council.
The Zone administrative body is established in line with the strong discipline of the winner party (Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF)) practically interfering in the Wereda`s concern (Girmay, 2012). At first, the executive council of the Wereda should be elected with their acceptance, even though, formally it seems the chief administrator of the Wereda nominates his cabinet and is been approved by the Council of the Wereda. It is all the same in the dismissal of any member of the Wereda executive. Indeed, the control mechanism of the Zonal administrator is very poor in effect resulted to intrude on the powers and responsibilities of the Wereda.
The Wereda Council members are elected by means of general and direct elections under the first past-the-post electoral system from inhabitants of the Tabias within the territory of the Wereda and they are accountable to the electorate. However, as can be seen earlier, the incum-bent party select candidates (especially for prospective Wereda executives) which most often are not inhabitant of the Wereda. The Wereda is an autonomous self- administrative unit with its own Council, Executive and Judicial body. It has a power, among others, to imple-ment the regional development policies and strategies, to prepare and execute the Wereda socio-economic development projects, to administer tax and approve its annual budget, and mobilization of the community for developments endeavors.
The lowest administrative level of the TNRS is Tabia. It has its own Tabia Council, (highest organ of the Tabia) elected by the inhabitants, an executive and have his social courts. The members of the Tabia council are accountable to the electorate. The executive Council of the Tabia is accountable to the electorate and executive Council of the Wereda. Tabia as it is found at the grass roots level which is closer to the community plays a crucial role in implementing the regional plans and Wereda development activities.
Protection of Minority Rights under the FDRE and TNRS Constitution
Ethiopia is a composition of different nations, nationalities and peoples, and this entails the need for appropriate policy measures, political enthusiasm and institutional set ups that accommodate the need of the diverse identity within the wider political community. However, the reverse had happened in its entirety and proclaimed as the prison house of nations and nationalities (Aberra, 2008). This has been its recent past history up to 1991. With the demise of the Dergue with rules of the country for almost two decades, a new political atmosphere has come to the Ethiopian political scene.
The peoples struggle has ushered the promulgation of a democratic Constitution that acknowledge diversity and strives for unity in the country. The preamble of the 1994/95 FDRE Constitution reads “we, the Nation, Nationality and Peoples of Ethiopia” and recognizes the ethnic diversity of the population. In other words, unity depends on the recognition of and the respect for diversity. This attention to unity in diversity was legally expressed in the granting of a right to self-determination to all the nations, nationalities and peoples (Assefa, 2010). According to the Constitution article eight (one), the sovereign power resides in the nation, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia. Accordingly, every nation, nationality and people has an unconditional right to self-determination including secession. This is the highest manifestation of the political will and commitment for political pluralism and the respect for minority rights and self- administration. In line with this, Van der Beken, has the following to say:
The right to self-determination as conceived by the Ethiopia Constitution is very large and Includes-language right, cultural rights and rights of self-administration, and the right of nations, nationalities and people to secede from the Ethiopian federation. Thus all ethnic groups have the right to speak and develop their own language, to express and promote their own culture and history; they have the right to self-administration with in a particular territory and the right to their own represen-tation at the regional and federal level of government. As such, the right to self-determination includes both the objectives of unity and that of diversity.
The FDRE Constitution is the expression of the sovereignty of the nation, nationality and peoples of Ethiopia; hence, they are to enjoy all rights articulated in this Constitution equally. The rights provided in article 1, 18, 25 and 39(1) and (2), of the Constitution never  suspend or limit even in the declaration of emergency. The FDRE Constitution as a supreme law of the land is deemed respected at regional and other levels of local governments. This Constitution grants important competence to the regional state, such as the power to choose its own working language and to enact and execute its own constitution. The regional states have a right to form their own administration and institutional structure vis-à-vis the obligation to respect the supremacy of the federal Constitution.
The TNRS is one among the nine member states of the FDRE to recognize the supremacy of the FDRE constitution. The preamble of the revised TNRS constitution begins with “We, the peoples of the Tigray National Regional State.” Moreover, “The supreme power of the national Regional state resides in and belongs to the people of the TNRS, and this is expressed through their elected representative and direct democra-tic participation” The Constitution pays attention in recognizing ethnic minority groups in the region. It is clearly recognized that the Tigray nation, the Irob and Kunama nationalities have rights to self-determination including secession to use and develop their language, culture, preserve their history, and to participate at the federal government with fair representation.
The Constitution has outlined the principles of language policy and clearly states that, “All languages in the Region shall enjoy equal state recognition. And, Tigrigna shall be the working language of the Tigray government.” However, this constitution depicts that the first- past–the-post electoral system and this provision in an ethnically organized states carries danger for the representation of ethnic minorities at regional council and executive body. Despite such constitutional recognition to minority groups, there lacks adequate institutional setups that are deemed required to change rhetoric’s into action. Therefore, giving serious consideration to minority right in multiethnic region is unquestionable. In this regard, issues related to the representation of Irob and Kunama are cases in point.
Representation of Irob and Kunama in the Regional State Apparatus
The Irob people, who are Saho speaking, occupy a small, semi-arid, mountainous region with a wide altitude range. With the population of 30,549 (Souba Hais, 2014), they are resided dispersedly in the high lands and mountainous area of Agame, North East Tigray. In terms of their religion, Orthodox Tewahdo Christianity, Catholic and Muslim are the main beliefs systems. Dawhan is the latest founded town and center for the Irob Wereda administration.
The Kunama are Nilotic people scatteredly living in Eritrea and North Ethiopia, Tigray. Although the Tigrean Kunama practiced traditional belief, since 1950 most of them are converted to Orthodox Tewahdo Christianity. They are one of the smallest groups in Western Tigray Wereda Kafta Humera; ‘Adabai’ and ‘Adigoshu’ Tabias and in North West Tigray Wereda Tahtay Adyabo Tabia ‘Lemlem’ with a total population of 2981 FDRE population census commission, 2010. They are a distinctive people with their own culture and language, speaking Kunamigna. The Irob and Kunama peoples are considered to be among the original inhabitants (endogenous) of the Tigray Regional State.
In the Tigray National Regional State, members of the State Council are elected on the basis of first-past-the-post electoral system. Unlike the FDRE Constitution that allocates twenty seats for minority representation at the lower house (House of Peoples Representative), the TNRS Constitution does not mention explicitly for guaranteed representation in the regional Council. Hence, in practice, out of 152 members of the regional Council,   Irob (Brhane, 2009) and   Kunama   each   constitute four members like other Werdas in the region.  Here comes the practical chasm in between the rhetoric’s of the Constitution and its practice in the ground. Summing up, the regional Constitution has recognized Irob and Kunamas Nationalities, and concomitantly, it needs to provide modalities of representation for these minorities at the regional legislative organ too.
The same is true as far as representation of Irob and Kunama in the State Executive and Court is concerned. The Tigray National Regional State has no Constitutional guarantee for the representation of minority at the regional state institutions of executive and judiciary.  Indeed, most of the Kunama live in the remote and isolated area and historically marginalized people were unlikely to get education. Hence, it can be a reason for not being represented in the executive and judicial body at regional level. However, regarding to Irob as they have many competent intellectuals, denying of representation at the regional level institutions is nothing more than lack of Constitutional guarantee for minority representation.
With regard to Constitutional interpretation, state Constitutions are to be interpreted via commissions created for this function. These commissions are composed of representatives of Weredas of the states in more homogeneous states like Tigray (Tsegaye, 2008). It constitutes a constitutional interpretation commission (CIC) as well as council of constitutional inquiry (CCI).
The regional CIC is composed of representatives from each Wereda and the regional representative to the House of Federation (HoF). The composition of CIC tries to look only the Wereda Council rather than the nation, nationality and peoples, consequently the Irob and Kunama are totally outnumbered by the Tigrigna speaking people. Conversely, from this composition unless a veto power in the CIC is given to these minorities on matters concerning to them problems may arise during decision making process as decisions are made by majority vote. Easy to understand, “the Kunama nationality has no Wereda administration that in turn they hardly have a representative to such commissions apart from the representative of HoF.” Surprisingly in the TNRS, council of constitutional interpretation commission is not formulated until September, 2014.
To conclude, the regional legislative, executive, and judiciary branches are highly dominated by the nation of Tigray. Representation of Irob and Kunama at the regional institutions is not guaranteed by the regional Constitution. This entails that, there is no intention to carry out equitable representation and to encourage participation in decision making within the regional governmental institutions.
Additionally, the unconditional right of ‘Nation, Nationality and People’ to self-determination including secession, and to form their own states at any time following specific procedures are well articulated in the FDRE Constitution. However, TNRS Constitution has no procedural provision to indicate the right of self-determination for Irob and Kunama. Rather article thirty nine depicts for the whole Tigray. In this regard, even though, the TNRS Constitution fails to incorporate what the FDRE Constitution includes, there is a possibility for the Irob and Kunama to claim their right based on the federal constitution; as the FDRE constitution is supreme law of the land.
Representation of Irob and Kunama at Wereda Level
The revised Constitution of the TNRS established the Wereda Council, and it is the highest authority in its jurisdiction. Irob as one of the Tigray administrative district has its own Council elected from Irob nationality of the seven ‘Tabias’. The Kunama nationality also have their autonomy to self-administration at Tabia level and have ten in Tahetai Adiabo and five in Kafta Humera representatives in the wereda Council The Irob Wereda and Kunama Tabia are organized in a similar way to the other Weredas and Tabias of TNRS. This Constitution couldn’t provide any provision to show special treatment to enhance the local government for the Irob and Kunama people. They are treated as ordinary Wereda and Tabia, respectively.
In Irob the composition of the Wereda executive is dominated by Irob nationality, which constitutes 67% and the Tigray  33% (Brhane, 2009) .To the contrary, in the civil service the Tigray people are about 65% (Ibid). Furthermore, in the justice sector the composition is shared equally (50% each) (Ibid). Looking at the Kunamas nationality, there is only one in the executive of Tahtai Adiabo Wereda; and one in the Wereda agriculture sector and three teachers  in  the civil service of the Wereda, but have their own executive body at Tabia level. Hence, in order to strengthen the participation of the local government (self-administration) of the Irob and Kunama people, it needs to recognize the special status or Nationality administration.
Rights of Minorities to use their Language
The FDRE Constitution outlined the principles of language policy under article five that states:
 “All Ethiopia languages shall enjoy equal state recogni-tion,” “Amharic shall be the working language of the Federal government,” “members of the federation may by law determine their respective working language”.
In this respect, the Ethiopian federalism has attributed considerable significance to linguistic diversity, and many Ethiopians have positive attitude in using local language as a means to avoid previous language domination (that is Amharization (Yonatan, 2009)). This is a clear evidence for the adoption of article two (1) and 27 of ICCPR. It is a great leap in the right direction in the history of Ethiopia in protection of minority with regard to language policy. Given that protection of the right to one’s own language is at the hub of minority right protection, a great deal of effort is being made at country level.
It is common knowledge that, using own mother tongue as a medium of instruction in the primary school helps students to build their confidence and success in learning and teaching process, and it is crucial to take note of language as a means of promoting ones’ self-identity and representation (Gideon, 2006). It is in pursuit of this that National and Regional Constitutions have given ample attention to it.
The revised Constitution of TNRS recognizes the equality of languages to write and develop one’s own language too. Nevertheless, in actual practice, Tigrigna is the working language of Irob Wereda and Kunama Tabias. And very recently (2008), it is decided that ‘Saho’ to be the name of the language and ‘Geez’ is the script of Irob, applicable as a medium of instruction in the primary school as a subject and the same is true in Kunama in 2011. According to Ato Mohamed, the delay is attributed to lack of trained man power, material and lack of adequate attention from the regional institu-tion as well. At all, it needs a better recognition for the working language and further effort for the improvement of primary education of the Irob and Kunama not only as subject but also as a medium of instruction in all subjects.
As far as rights of minorities other than Irob and Kunama are concerned, the regional Constitution recog-nizes them in principle, though not explicit mention is made. Without doubt, there is no single region in Ethiopia ethnically homogenous. Interestingly the preamble of the revised TNRS Constitution does not deny the existence of diversified ethnic groups in the region, and recognized them. Looking at the total population of the region, 115645 (2.68%) is constitute by non-endogenous minorities with different culture, language and identity. Notwithstanding this, the right to self-administration is being stipulated under article 39 of TNRS Constitution apply with respect to the endogenous people of the Irob and Kunama. This refers only to the Irob and Kunama people to exercise the development of their own culture, language and rights of political participation as a minority groups within the wider regional frameworks.
In the revised Constitution of TNRS, the mechanisms designed to protect the non-endogenous minority right is not efficient. Unless with the particular law such as the right of political representation, cultural and language rights are in place, merely recognition of other nations nationalities and peoples to get special representation couldn’t protect the rights of the minorities faced difficulties. Therefore, in order to protect societal stability and strengthen unity with in diversity, the right of the non-endogenous groups living in Tigray should be guaran-teed. However, the TNRS Constitution has recognized at least theoretically the rights of non-endogenous minori-ties. This makes the TNRS Constitution unique from other Constitutions of the member states of federation.



The federal Constitution mandates that states shall give adequate power to the lower level of governments assuming their role in bringing the central government closer to the people. In lieu of this, the TNRS Constitution recognizes the Regional, Wereda and Tabia tires of government. There are also Zonal and City administra-tions established by proclamation. The Wereda with its Council and   executive   has   been accountable to the peoples in which they act directly and have a judicial body. It is closer to the people next to Tabia and provides public goods and services on its jurisdiction. The TNRS establish local-administration among others with the objective of safeguarding self-administration in a way to determine their own affairs.
However, this Constitutional guarantee and the actual practice are not without limitation. Firstly, ensuring of self-administration for the Irob people is simply the same as the other Werdas of the region, as they are not treated as special Wereda. Secondly, merely Constitutional recognition of minorities is not an end by itself, unless it is supported by appropriate legal and institutional measures. Thirdly, there is no guaranteed special consideration for the representation of Irob and Kunama people in the Regional Council and other regional governmental institutions. Furthermore, the adoption of Tigrigna as a working language is perceived for the Irob and Kunama societies as threat and less consideration of their language.
On the other hand, there are patterns of non-applicability to promote the culture and preserve history of the endogenous minority. This is because of resource constraints, and consequently the learning and teaching  process in the primary school is undertaken in Tigrigna rather than their mother language, notwithstanding the recent move for Irobigna and Kunamigna as a subject.
Self-administration has for a long time been a significant issue in Tigray (Ethiopia). Interestingly, the TNRS Constitution recognizes the Tigray nation, the Irob and Kunama nationalities, and practice the self-administration of Irob and Kunama. Yet, the issue of representation is a missed link with debilitating effect on the right of minority.


To appreciate ethnic diversity and promote unity within the existing diversity effective, participation and minority right protection is required. In this regard; the study suggests the following as a way forward.
1. The Irob people need special status or nationality administration than being treated like any other Weredas in Tigray. With regard to representation, the Irob and Kunama need special attention in all tiers of governmental institutions. This is to be done with a Constitutional amendment.
2. Pursuant to the federal and regional Constitutions, working with Tigrigna language in Irob and Kunama has no rational ground. In lieu of this, protection of their language and its application as a working language and in the education sector is so imperative. Hence, it needs the support and collaboration of the TNRS and non-governmental organization to same effect.
3. Minorities, other than Irob and Kunama, have right to develop   their language and culture and to keep their identity and this should be included and guaranteed in the Constitution explicitly.


The author has not declared any conflict of interests.


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