Arba Minch University’s Law School and Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have recently signed a project agreement; an extension of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed a year before to promote human rights in this region.

From AMU, President, Dr Felke Woldeyes, singed a yearlong project agreement with an Advisor of EHRC, Mr Abraham Ayalew, at Senate Hall in the presence of Vice President, Dr Guchie Gulie, Maereg, senior legal expert and others.

Arba Minch University has been working with EHRC even before this project agreement. Partners like EHRC enable us to expand our reach; therefore, we need collaborators who will finance such humanitarian endeavors. I am sure, this joint venture will enhance and strengthen our community service initiatives in providing legal aid and creating legal consciousness in the community at large, said Dr Feleke Woldeyes.

‘‘This agreement will help us to expand our legal service activities and with the establishment of three Legal Aid Centers at Jinka, Sawla and Arba Minch will further embolden our community service initiative,’’ Law School Head, Mr Dereje stressed.

He informed, ‘‘This is for the first time, EHRC is financing above project; heretofore our activities were supported by AMU. Since 2011, we have been giving legal support to the needy. So far we have supported more than 350 people and with these new three centers we expect to assist at least 600 poor people in a year.’’

On human rights scenario, he said, ‘‘Since, we are being in Africa, the level of human rights is still a matter of great concern due to lack of awareness and poor infrastructure, but hereafter, we hope to serve people in a better ways.

The above agreement said to be revised after six months. And EHRC is committed to support AMU financially as and when they secure funds from abroad. From Law School all its staffs would be involved in this project.

EHRC established with the mandate to ensure the promotion of human rights in Ethiopia can achieve its objective only when it works with governmental and NGOs including academic institutions. With Academic institution we work in the areas of training and research, said EHRC advisor, Mr Abraham.

When asked what prompted this initiative, he said, ‘‘AMU has big resources at its disposal like teaching-student community and wider accessibility. University with its community service mandate can get benefitted by establishing legal clinics, its important in both ways.’’

The objective is to enhance level of progress in the protection of human rights in terms of access to justice for poor and vulnerable sections. This agreement is for one year, in terms of financing which will be given by EHRC, if we happen to get more fund, we would come again and chip in, he added.

The agreement states, AMU law school will establish three legal aid centres at Jinka, Sawla and Arba Minch; if situation favors then a centre at Arba Minch prison will also be opened.

These centers will provide legal aid and access to law to poor and vulnerable members. Poor, physically-challenged, people with HIV and those living below the poverty line will be the real beneficiaries.

EHRC stand to quarterly discuss issues with AMU and help develop national consortium of legal providers. Thus, EHRC will play monitoring and evaluation role in a constructive manner. However, the project will be owned by both partners, Mr Abraham averred.

EHRC and other stakeholders will actively collaborate with AMU for the project’s success.

By Philips Joseph