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AU Human Rights Commissioner encourages acceptance of political diversity in Ethiopia at annual Julius Osega Lecture

3 October 2017- ‘The Constitution as a whole should guide governance in Ethiopia, not selected parts chosen for particular purposes.’ Dr Solomon Dersso, a member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, expressed this view when he delivered the 2017 Julius Osega Memorial Lecture in Addis Ababa on Friday 29 September. The African Commission is the African Union’s longest-serving human rights body. 

Dr Solomon Negussie (Dean, College of Law and Governance Studies, Addis Ababa University), Prof Frans Viljoen (Director, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria), Dr Solomon Ayele Dersso (Commissioner of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Executive Director, Amani Africa Media and Research), Dr Yonas Birmeta (Head, School of Law, Addis Ababa University) and Dr Mizane Abate (Associate Dean, Graduate Programmes, College of Law and Governance Studies, Addis Ababa University)

In a wide-ranging and thought-provoking speech, titled ‘The quest for inclusive and equal citizenship: Our time’s burning question’, Dr Dersso emphasised the need for more inclusive and participatory politics in Ethiopia. Referring to the unlikely outcome of the most recent elections, which the governing party won 100% of the seats in Parliament, he pleaded for political maturity and the acceptance of divergent views. Given the diversity of Ethiopia, in terms of ethnicities and languages, it should expected that there would be differences in political views, too.  Difference should be celebrated and accommodated, not feared and denied, he elaborated. 
 
The speech was followed by a two-hour session of questions and answers, with numerous members of the audience expressing their views and posing incisive questions to the speaker.  ‘It is indeed telling that the audience stayed put for a two-hour long session of discussion and question-and-answer, highlighting the need for events like these in Ethiopia’, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights, Prof Frans Viljoen, commented afterwards. 
 
The Julius Osega Lecture is an annual event, aimed at remembering the life of one of the graduates of the Centre’s Master’s degree in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa (HRDA). The annual lecture is organised by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, together with one of its partners on the HRDA programme.  Julius was a student on the programme in 2001, the second year the programme was running. Sadly, Julius was killed in 2008, during a civilian patrol in the Darfur region of Sudan. At the time, Julius was part of the African Union/UN Hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID) forces, deployed to protect civilians and assist the political process in the country. 
 
The 2017 lecture was organised by the Centre, in collaboration with one of its partners in the HRDA programme, namely, the School of Law, University of Addis Ababa.  The event took place in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium on the campus of Addis Ababa University. 
 
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