Ethiopia does not have national legislation that protects indigenous peoples. Ethiopia has not ratified ILO Convention 169, nor was it present during the vote on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.
The obligations of Ethiopia under the international human rights mechanisms that have been ratified, p. the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination - remains unfulfilled.
The indigenous peoples of Ethiopia represent a significant proportion of the estimated population of 95 million people in the country. About 15% are sedentary pastoralists and farmers living in the lowlands. The hunter-gatherer communities include Majang (Majengir) who lives in the forest and the Anuak agro-pastoralist people who live in the Gambella region.
In Ethiopia, more than 80 languages are spoken, and the greatest diversity is found in the southwest. Two-thirds of the population speak Amharic, Oromo, Tigrinya and Somali.
Main challenges for indigenous peoples in Ethiopia
The pastoralists of Ethiopia live on lands that, in recent years, have become the subject of great demand from foreign investors. It is believed that Ethiopia has the largest livestock population in Africa, a large part of which is concentrated in pastoralist communities that live on land that, in recent years, has become the subject of high demand from foreign investors ( land grabbing). This land grab, a government policy that leases vast fertile land to foreign and national companies, continues to negatively affect indigenous peoples.
The government considers that its land investment policy is important to maximize the usefulness of the land through the development of "underutilized" lands in the lowlands. However, the selected lands are the source of sustenance for some 15 million indigenous peoples: pastoralists, small farmers and hunter-gatherers, whose customary rights over land are constantly violated.
Ethiopian village policy, a policy for the resettlement of people in designated villages, has also forced indigenous peoples to relocate. Although villagization is designed to provide "access to basic socio-economic infrastructure" to people who relocate, the resources provided by the government have proved insufficient to sustain people in the new villages. The access of indigenous peoples to medical care, as well as to primary and secondary education, remains inadequate.
Indigenous peoples in the Gambela regions and the lower Omo valley have been affected by the policy of foreign investment and land lease and the government's village program.
Conflict in Gambella
Since the mid-1990s, the Gambella region in Ethiopia witnessed factional fighting and inter-communal violence between the Anuak and the Nuer, mainly for resources and for socio-cultural reasons.
The increase in ethnic tensions between the Anuak and the Nuer is fueled by the porous border between South Sudan and Ethiopia. Gambella already shelters some 330,211 refugees from South Sudan, due to the ongoing conflict in the country, which continues to displace people inside the country and forcing them to enter neighbouring countries. Ethiopia is currently the second largest refugee receiving country in South Sudan, the vast majority of which have found refuge in Gambella.
Along with the increase in the Nuer population, tensions and violence have intensified with the Anuak communities over traditional land claims and access to jobs. Land use rights in Gambella remain controversial.