The current Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and former Ethiopian human rights activist is honored for his lifelong fight for human rights.
The German Africa Award of the German Africa Foundation has been awarded annually for over 25 years to outstanding personalities from the African continent and is the highest award of its kind in Germany, it was learned.
On the occasion of the announcement of the award of the German Africa Award, German Africa Foundation President Uschi Eid said “I am pleased that the independent jury has chosen an outstanding human rights activist. Dr. Daniel Bekele deserves this prize for his lifelong advocacy of human rights. I sincerely hope that the award will encourage Daniel and his colleagues in the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to stand up for human rights in Ethiopia in a fearless and impartial manner.”
The Ethiopian human rights defender is scheduled to receive the prize in November 2021. An independent 24-member jury of experts from politics, political foundations and the media selected Daniel Bekele from more than 30 nominees.
According to the press release of the German foundation, Daniel Bekele’s commitment to human rights began at the age of 23 when he started working as a lawyer in Addis Ababa, represented NGOs and quickly became a much sought-after expert on democracy and human rights.
He promoted human rights and civil society in Ethiopia, including women’s rights by working closely with Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association and several CSOs. In 2004, Daniel became “Head of Policy Research and Advocacy” at ActionAid in Ethiopia.
As a representative of civil society, Daniel took a leading role in monitoring Ethiopia’s 2005 parliamentary elections. After criticizing the questionable conduct of the elections and its violent aftermath, however, he was attacked and injured by armed government security operatives in October 2005.
In November 2005, he was arrested and subsequently sentenced to prison on trumped up charges of trying to “overthrow the government and the constitution.” He remained in prison as an internationally recognized non-violent political prisoner until March 2008.
Daniel’s determination to advocate for the political rights of the disadvantaged populations in particular has not been diminished by his imprisonment. Between 2011 and 2019, he held senior leadership positions at Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to promote human rights on the African continent and was responsible for hundreds of publications on a wide range of human rights and good governance issues in Africa.
Daniel is convinced that socio-economic development should go hand in hand with respect for human rights and democratic development; and is therefore not afraid to also criticize the donor countries of the North for their unprincipled cooperation with authoritarian regimes as well as their failure on the humanitarian obligations to support the development of poor countries.
In the wake of Ethiopia’s democratic opening under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian Federal Parliament appointed Daniel Bekele to lead the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in July 2019 which he still holds.
Since then, Daniel significantly transformed the commission and successfully advocated for greater independence and expansion of the powers of the commission.