Dr Daniel Bekele receives German Africa Award
On Thursday evening, Ethiopian human rights defender Dr Daniel Bekele received the German Africa Award 2021 during a dinner at the Allianz Forum at the Brandenburg Gate. In compliance with the required hygiene regulations, about 50 guests from politics, business and society gathered for the occasion, with former Federal President Joachim Gauck as guest of honour. Bekele receives the award because of his lifelong struggle for human rights. For three decades, the lawyer has been committed to the rule of law and political participation in Ethiopia. Even his imprisonment in 2005 on charges of “subversion of the government and the constitution” could not break his will to stand up for the political rights of disadvantaged population groups in particular. After many years in leadership positions with international human rights organisations, Dr Bekele took over as head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission EHRC in 2019. Against the backdrop of the war in the northern region of Tigray and the heated political climate across the country, the Commission’s work is particularly in focus both nationally and internationally. In early November, it published a joint report with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the brutal human rights violations committed by all sides in the Tigray conflict.
Accordingly, the current developments in Ethiopia also played an important role at the award ceremony. Dr Uschi Eid, President of the German Africa Foundation, presented the award together with jury president Claus Stäcker, who highlighted the life of Dr Daniel Bekele in his laudation “[…] as an example of individual responsibility and courage in a totalitarian, authoritarian – or even just bellicose – environment”. In addition, Stäcker also addressed Bekeles’ difficult personal situation resulting from this environment and the currently highly charged tensions along ethnic lines in Ethiopia: “How can someone like you, as a guardian of human rights, hold your ground in such a framework that only knows friends or enemies? Keep your moral compass, stay true to your convictions?”. Dr Uschi Eid also referred to the current situation in the conflict in Ethiopia and stressed that the honour should be seen as an encouragement to all those “[…] who fearlessly and impartially stand up for human rights – regardless of whether they are Oromo, Amhara, Tigray, Somali or Afar, for example.” Meanwhile, the awardee himself dedicated the award to all colleagues who work every day to uphold human rights, upholding the principle of equality for all people even in difficult circumstances and against political opposition.