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Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

Dear German Africa Foundation, 

we are writing today to express our shock and concern at the latest German Africa Prize honouree, Dr. Daniel Bekele, chief commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC). 

As your foundation has rightfully acknowledged, the EHRC has been subject to criticism for its role in the ongoing Tigray War. The brutal war that has been waged on Tigray since November 4, 2020, led by the Federal Government of Ethiopia and its allies (notably the Government of Eritrea and forces from the neighbouring Amhara region), has been a genocidal campaign against the Tigrayan population, which has involved indiscriminate killings of civilians, systemic weaponized rape of women and girls, ethnic cleansing, man-made famine, deliberate disruption of water, electricity, and other essential services, as well as the looting and destruction of health and education facilities. The effects of the war have devastated the region. Aid agencies report that, presently, 5.5 million (> 90% of the population) require emergency food assistance; 400,000 are on the brink of famine, including over 100,000 children in Tigray who will die of hunger unless they receive immediate help. Meanwhile, the federal government of Ethiopia continues to block access to Tigray and international organizations are unable to freely reach the affected population.

In his role as the head of the EHRC, instead of investigating and calling for justice and accountability for the people of Tigray, Dr. Bekele has been complicit in whitewashing the atrocious human rights violations that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. As a Tigrayan, I have been watching with deepening grief and concern while under Dr. Bekele, the EHRC has been weaponized to justify violence against my family and community in Tigray. Dr Bekele has repeatedly failed to investigate massacres and human rights’ violations against Tigrayans, has ignored calls for his office to be impartial, and has gone as far as declaring that the war “didn’t result in as severe consequences as it was originally feared.”; words that have been weaponized by the federal government of Ethiopia, which stands accused of heinous crimes. Just this week, it was announced that the long-awaited joint investigation between the EHRC and the UN will not cover most of the areas in Tigray in which massacres took place. In all, his leadership of the EHRC during this tenuous period has been marred by controversy, partiality, subservience to the state rather than the people it is his duty to serve. 

The German Africa prize honours Africans who have made a special contribution to democracy, peace, and human rights, among other endeavours. While many of your previous honourees have embodied these ideals, Mr. Daniel Bekele’s ongoing work with the state-affiliated EHRC falls significantly short of the expectations for this award.

Additionally, it has not escaped my notice that the Chairman of the Board of Trustees is Dr. Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate, who has repeatedly expressed his support for Abiy Ahmed’s war against the Tigrayan people. The Dr. has stated that “Abiy Ahmed is doing what is necessary” and praised Eritrea’s involvement in Tigray. It is worth noting that Eritrean troops stand accused of some of the worst atrocities committed in Tigray, including massacres, gang-rape, and wholesale destruction. 

Just as the premature Nobel Peace Prize award given to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed gave him carte blanche to mobilize the entire country to war, I am deeply concerned that this award will lend additional, undeserved legitimacy to Mr. Bekele in the midst of a highly contentious and controversial investigation his office is leading. As Abiy’s name has been permanently attached to the Nobel Peace Prize, tarnishing its prestige, there is reason to be concerned that in the coming months and years, the attachment of Mr. Bekele’s name to the German Africa Foundation will be similarly problematic. 

In light of this information, I implore you to reconsider honouring Dr. Bekele. Moreover, as an organization that strives to “offer a platform for the exchange of ideas between German and African actors”, I hope you will use your power and considerable influence to bring attention to the immense suffering and humanitarian catastrophe inflicted on millions of Tigrayans. 


Tigray Unity Germany
Association D’entraide Des Tigréens En France
Giovani Tigrini Italiani
Tegaru Youth Holland
Tegaru Youth Belgium
Tigray Relief Sweden
Tigray Youth Network UK
Tigray Youth Movement Switzerland
Youth Tegaru Norway