By Berhanu G. Balcha
What is an “outrage” against a sham constitution and outrageous rule? Meles Zenawi was elected from a district from which he has never lived for the last 30 years. It is clear that he has no legitimacy even from his own electoral district. However, the 1995 constitution in Ethiopia has made him a vicious emperor whose brutality has been ubiquitous, not only throughout the nation, but also expanding to the neighbouring countries. The constitution was drafted and ratified by a total control of Meles zenawi’s party. Thus, it makes the power of the prime minister unrestrained or unchecked by the executive, legislative, judiciary and other federal or regional institutions in Ethiopia.
According to the 1995 constitution, the power of the prime minister is unprecedented: he controls the armed force; the executive is totally accountable to him; he is a head of a party that has a majority in the legislative (90 percent majority from 1991 to 2005 and two-third majority since May 2005). The constitution (Article 74) gives him a full power to select and recommend the appointment of commissioners, the president and vice-president of the federal supreme court and the auditor general. He has a significant power in influencing the judiciary and other important institutions that should be vital for checks and balances in the federal systems. Moreover, since the president and vice-president of the federal supreme court are serving as a president and vice-president respectively in the council of constitutional inquiry that have powers to investigate constitutional disputes. Thus, the prime minister has also a greater influence to affect the functions of constitutional inquiry. The president of the supreme court serves also as a chairperson of the national electoral commission.
The court system is structured in a very susceptible manner to the interference of the executive branch as the prime minister and his majority party in the parliament is responsible for the appointments of judges. All the powers allocated to the parliament are indirectly allocated to the prime minister, as the prime minister is the head of the majority party in the parliament. Thus, the parliament (the legislative) is simply a rubber-stump to the executive body. Constitutionally, a majority party in the parliament always belongs to the prime minister and therefore it is expected to endorse the prime minister’s selections of key public offices.
Although the constitution declares that judges should exercise their functions in full independence and should be directed solely by the law, the Judicial Administration Council, which has a power to remove judges due to violation of disciplinary rules or on grounds of gross incompetence or inefficiency, is accountable to the ruling party as its decision to remove a judge should be approved by a majority vote in the parliament that is dominated by the ruling party (Article 79).
The prime minister also has a tremendous influence in the operation of the Judicial Administration Council, because the Council is operating within the federal government’s executive structure. The Council has responsibilities to assess and determine code of professional conduct and discipline as well as transfer of judges of any court. Besides, concerning appointment of other federal judges, the federal Judicial Administrative Council has a responsibility to select candidates that should be acceptable to the prime minister (Article 81). Hence, cumulatively, all key judicial powers in the country are at the mercy of the prime minister.
More critically, the Ethiopian federal project suffers from the absence of an independent constitutional interpretation procedure. The constitution states that the House of Federation (HF) has the power to interpret the Constitution (Article 62, 1), but the HF is a political institution as its members are elected or appointed from elected party members, besides its members are strongly connected to and influenced by the winner party in the government. As a result, the power to interpret the constitution can certainly fall down into the ruling party.
In addition, the Council of Constitutional Inquiry that was given powers to investigate constitutional disputes would be organized by the HF and also expected to submit its recommendations to the HF. Making the matter worse the president and the vice-president of the federal Supreme Court would become a president and vice-president of the Council respectively. As argued above, the prime minister has a tremendous power in the appointment of the presidents of the federal Supreme Court, thus he can get a direct influence in the operation of the Council of Constitutional Inquiry that could undermine its independence and impartiality.
The constitution does not put limit on the term of the prime minister, who has much power, but a term limit was placed on the post of a president, who has only a ceremonial power (Article 70). This is a very intriguing and deceptive constitutionally decree; in principle a term limit should be made on the tenure of the executive in order to discourage a tendency of autocracy and power abuse by the power holder due to a longer tenure in power. But in the Ethiopian case the tenure of the executive (the great power holder) has been made infinite whereas the term limit was made on the non-executive, non-powerful and very ceremonial president. It should have been the other way round, if the purpose is it to limit abuse of power by the power holder. That it the essence of introducing term limit in political office.
Although democratic and human rights are unconditionally promised in the constitution, there is little tolerance for alternative views and dissents. The constitution declares that courts shall be independent and judges shall ‘exercise their function in full independence’ and protected from unduly removal, but there are abundant cases that judges were removed for political reasons. It is one thing to put provisions in the constitution and another to genuinely pursue them. The constitutional provisions are simply an attempt to secure political hegemony of the TPLF through a veneer of democracy. As Harbeson (1998) indicates that since 1991 Ethiopia has acquired virtually all the forms of democracy but little of its substance.
The constitutional defect was inherited from the defect of the transitional charter which was exclusively authored by TPLF/EPRDF without a genuine and free participation of the Ethiopian people. It was produced in greatly flaw process, but became a code of conduct for drafting of the constitution. The 1995 constitution was ratified by the constitutional assembly, which was composed of undemocratically selected individuals, in which TPLF/EPRDF controlled almost 95 % of the members. The oppositions and all major civil society organisations boycotted the election. The overall process, starting from assigning the constitutional commission to electing the constitutional assembly and ratifying the constitution was absolutely dominated by the ruling party.
Thus, the 1995 constitution in Ethiopia has become the document of the ruling party and its affiliated associations. It was an imposed ‘federal covenant’ on the Ethiopian people without their genuine participation and consent. It only reflects the ideology and wishes of the TPLF-led EPRDF. It was implemented in a manner completely dominated by a power at the center in collaboration with the co-opted elites at central, regional as well as local levels. The 1995 constitution shows either mere intentions or a cover for deception. It is purely a façade that masked an authoritarian regime. It is simply a caricature for misinformation and perversion.
To conclude, I will cite from John Young, a close examiner of Ethiopian politics and, perhaps, initially sympathetic to the TPLF, who states: ‘Constitutional making under the EPRDF has little in common with the bargaining, trade-offs, and compromises that usually typify such process; rather it reflects the weakness of the country’s democratic institutions, the political objectives of the governing party, and its position of dominance with a state where serious opposition had been crushed or marginalized (Young 1998).
So, what is a crime in opposing a constitution that makes a prime minister a monster and his rule a brutal autocracy?
The author may be contacted at: email@example.com
The ever increasing tension and rebellion that gush out despite massive containing pressure by tyrants in suppressing democratic aspiration has never succeeded in the world or had a short life span.
Tyranny’s defeat is always there when it is borne. But it always stood as gigantic, frighteningly insurmountable task to defeat. Historically people paid in blood and are paying dearly in order to win back their freedom. Protest and defiance are major forces that rally and escalate armed struggle for liberation.
Despots cry of foul play when their challengers initiate and step up a unified and coordinated struggle. They frantically run helter-skelter to dismantle the unity of coalesced political opposition and also armed struggle, since they know that would seal their coffin once and for all.
Ethiopians have made the life of Woyane a night mare. The regime is unable to contain the social upheaval and has entirely resorted to fracturing the country in to unrelenting ethnic hate mongering.
Benjamin Franklin in his own words, who was the father of declaration of independence and considered as one of the founding fathers of America , said “Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God.”
Among Benjamin Franklin’s great quotations also comes, “Little strokes fell great oaks”. But, Ethiopians are transforming their little strokes into powerful break neck strokes. The tune has changed and the action and trading power should be effectively carried to the taste of Meles.
No respect for human rights should be expected from Meles unless there is a democratic coalition and armed resistance to the excesses of his regime. There, obedience to God will be fulfilled and freedom attained. Meles will always love to project that his bullets to be democratic and constitutional and the impression of fighting back to his tyranny be it by the ballot or armed struggle to be conjured as resorting to violence and outrages against to his non existent constitutional order. Fighting for freedom is a right and in today’s world to expect it to come without might is such a naïve assumption.
Ethiopians in their history have had no one in their side when they defended their Mother land from different foreign aggressors including the brutal Italian fascists which they defeated with their blood where up to these days made Ethiopians proud people. And in their every day walks of life, it is Ethiopians who do not have colonial sentiments of defeat and slavery.
To get a second thought from Downing and K Street lobbyists, a strong power based unity and concerted struggle should be waged. Otherwise, cries in front of consulates and offices won’t be a solution in the long term. These people never believe in democracy but power and money.
The unconscionable remark by Tony Blair in South Africa during the progressive governance submit in February 2006 of reducing the brutal suppression, hording of thousands of opponents in concentration camps and the extra judicial killings to just a cold hearted remark of “over reaction” is tantamount to approval and endorsing the perpetuation of quagmire in the region. What word could be deplorable and despicable than this in the face of human tragedy? He might have chosen his words if Ethiopians demonstrated their resolve to bring about their freedom through armed struggle after the failure at the ballot boxes.
Tony Blair in a speech to the Chicago Economic Club on 22nd April 1999 argued that the most pressing foreign policy problem was to identify the circumstances in which states should become actively involved in other people’s conflicts. He first laid out his doctrine of the international community (what has also become known simply as the Blaire doctrine) for its application to international security and humanitarian intervention with the idea of a just war based not on any territorial ambitions but on values. As Blaire himself recognized there are also political, diplomatic, economic and financial measures that can be used .But, very little attention was paid to preventing theses crises in the first place let alone the commitment to his words.
Blaire’s shying away from his select gangster Zenawi as new order of a leader at the dying moments of his premiership might have made him come to his senses and recognize the brazen human rights abuses in Ethiopia, although he never opened his doctrine books in his selection of “new African despots” during his active office days. His selection with regard to Ethiopia has just proved to be a photo shop opportunity in summits of the G8 for despot Zenawi. Hopeless as it is the tyrant and his cronies always tried to reflect the photo shop opportunity with leaders as endorsement of their genocidal policies towards the civil society. Their begging bowls which couldn’t bring prosperity to the society always ended filling their insatiable greed ranking them top on the list of “Lords of Poverty”.
Meles, the novice ethnic neocolonialist arm is verbalizing and executing what master colonialists were doing to Africans during colonial periods. Serfdom through unpatriotic despot is nowhere stark naked than in Ethiopia .
The UN Declaration of human rights in its third paragraph of the preamble warns that, if human rights are not protected by the rule of law, people will “be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression.” This recognizes a moral right of resistance; that violence in self-defense is a legitimate last resort to end massive human rights violations. Applying deadly force to come to the rescue of others can be a logical next step.
Kofi Annan, recalling the tragic evens of Bosnia and Rwanda asked in his book “Question of Intervention”: “”why did no one intervene?” the question should not be addressed only to the United Nations, or even to its Member-States. Each of us as an individual has to take his or her share of responsibility. No one can claim ignorance of what happened. All of us should recall how we responded, and ask: What did I do? Could I have done more? Did I let my prejudice, my indifference, or my fear overwhelm my reasoning? Above all, how would I react next time?”
For dear America when it comes to our first national interest, the one and the only thing is “Our Liberty” from unpatriotic, ruthless and murderous despot. Fighting global terror can go side by with fighting for “Our Liberty”. The subversion of democratic aspirations and human rights by America allying to this murderous regime will not succeed as it never did on America ’s soil. The rotting despot has managed embed himself in the genuine cause of fighting terrorism while launching unimaginable terror on citizens. Extricating genocidal regimes from the cause should be a priority for the State Department. The US national interest can never be guaranteed nor will it be long lasting if continued support goes to rights abuser terrorist regimes. Deliberately ignoring and pampering dictators who have successfully managed to embed on the war on global terror, while being refined mutant terrorists themselves, in the presumed assumption of capitalizing for national interest is a deplorable, pathetic miscalculation. As Reverend Martin Luther King put it: …. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
For Ethiopians it has become difficult to fathom what terrorism is not with regard to the State Department’s policy towards Ethiopia . Because, Ethiopians live in a land where State sponsored terrorism on its citizens is at its zenith. The economic monopoly posed by Chinese influence on the continent should not force America back track from defense of Human Rights, nor should it be a head ache when despots at their back door threaten shifting of alliance.
Emboldened by paid power brokers in Washington , D.C. the regime has continued ridiculing the knowledge and patience of Congressmen like Donald Payne and other international Human Rights institutions. Lobbying for a murderer, especially for a caliber of Meles Zenawi’s proportion, is similar to snatching a miserable bowl of soup from a starving Ethiopian child whose parents have thrown in the towel of all hope; their existence denied and marginalized in to third class citizens.
Humanitarian intervention should be acted upon by the wider international community.
Sustainable peace and security cannot exist in a world where genocidal regimes are allowed to pursue their strategies with impunity.
The conviction of CUDP leadership and journalists on trumped up charges by Zenawi’s Kangaroo court will never dampen the aspiration and determination for a free and democratic Ethiopia nor the current continued wave of arrests and re-arresting of opposition party members, supporters and journalists.
Progress and development are intertwined with democracy. In a place where there is no a shred of democracy, trying to make up for it by inflated non existent achievement propaganda is grossly underestimating the psyche of an Ethiopian, unless and otherwise it is intended for the much proven willfully gullible foreign dignitaries. Where on earth will the regime get the time or space spared for development; all that comes out of the land is cry for freedom and the regime is trapped defending its sworn, appalling innate destructive agenda of decimating the very fabric of the nation. During the Pol Pot era of Cambodia the TV and Radio stations were full of colorful, yet sham development and democracy videos and news bulletins while people were being gunned down in the killing fields.
Ethiopians are on the verge of a glorious victory with no outsiders’ blessing in bringing not only Ethiopia but also Africa to ultimate democratic path. Never will Ethiopians beg for their liberty but earn it through their honored struggle!
The country is just under unstoppable democratic volcano that would erupt and reverberate across Africa doing away with the likes of Meles, Musevenis, Afewerkis and the Mugabes of present or future Africa .