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Ethiopia: Thugs Don’t get Constitutional-Democratic Reasonings; they get civil action! April 22, 2020

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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Thugs Don’t get Constitutional-Democratic Reasonings; they get civil action! By Dr. Tsegaye Ararssa

For over two years now, we have been tracking the regime’s unconstitutional, illegal, and illegitimate measures, discourses, and processes and critiquing them as such, hoping that the government will at least account for them. However, Abiy’s regime proved to be completely impervious to criticisms based on the imperatives of constitutional democracy.

Increasingly, it became clear that Abiy’s government is a completely lawless regime that doesn’t even know that there is a limit, constitutional-legal or otherwise, to its power. In its total lack of self-awareness, it proved to be a regime that doesn’t even care to enforce rule BY law, let alone rule OF law.

The critical-oppositional challenge presented to them from our part was motivated by the desire to achieve a ‘transition to democracy’ (mainly of the liberal-constitutional type). In a stark contrast to this, the regime’s aim (stated explicitly on several ocassions) is a ‘return’ to the glory of the olden days. In various speeches and statements, official and quasi-official, there is a pronounced desire for a ‘nostalgic memorialization’ of the imperial past, a desire to restore the anti-democratic, authoritarian, and violent structures of the Ethiopian state. In deed, there seems to be a resurgent fascination with violent repression of rights and defiance of all constitutional-legal ethos circumscribing the exercise of public power.

In the last two years, the regime has consistently attacked, formally and informally, all the constitutional-democratic principles that could have facilitated the ‘transition to democracy.’

The first principle attacked was the principle of democracy and popular sovereignty under art 8 of the FDRE Constitution. This is done by undermining the sovereignty and collective rights of groups through an unconstitutional border commission. The principle of democracy (art 8 was further flaunted by postponing election even under an electoral board manned exclusively by the stooges and supporters of Abiy’s party.

The second principle completely defied was that of constitutionalism and constitutional supremacy (art 9). The rule by command post (without even a declaration of emergency), the dissolution of the parliamentary majority party (EPRDF) and its replacement with a new party (EPP) that is not yet set up in accordance with the requirements of the régime’s own electoral law are only two examples of a raft of unconstitutional acts.

The Sidama people’s quest for self-rule as a regional state, validated by a popular referendum, is still not honored in practice even months after the referendum result was officially publicized by the electoral board. The suppression of the constitutional demands of the Walaita and at least 10 other nations for statehood is also an example of defying and undermining the constitutional order.

The third principle similarly defied is that of sanctity of human rights (under art 10). By putting several regions under an undeclared state of emergency (aka rule by command post), the regime has been virtually conducting war against civilian populations, especially in Oromia and the SNNPRS. In the process, summary executions, arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances, illegal detentions, tortures, arsons, rapes, and various other brutalities are (still being) committed on a massive scale without accounting for any of these violations or for the ‘wars’ on peoples (thereby also defying the principle of accountability and transparency of government under art 12).

The last principle the regime flaunted unscrupulously, also very much in discussion in these spaces today, is the principle of secularism (art 11). For the last two years, Abiy’s government has been acting almost like a theocratic government that ignored: a) the separation of state and church; b) the multiconfessional nature of the society; c) the equality of all religions before the law; and d) freedom of religion of every individual in the polity.

All these blatant acts of violence and authoritarian repressions have been very well documented. Critical reports have been published by various rights organizations, activists, journalusts, and scholars.

To date, the regime is progressively becoming more and more bluntly authoritarian. Censures by opposition political leaders, activists, and journalists also continued to rise. The regime is forging ahead in spite of the criticism partly because of uncritical international support (motivated mainly by concerns for strategic geopolitical interests), partly because of specific local circumstances, but chiefly because of the incongruence between the level at which the regime operates and the level at which critical engagement is undertaken in order to interrupt, correct, and monitor the rogue practices in the process.

As indicated at the start, the criticism hasn’t penetrated the regime yet. Not at a level that is politically significant. It seems to me that there has to be a change of register if the criticism is going to have a bite. I will deal with the specifics of the how in subsequent posts.

One thing is obvious, though: a reactionary government of thugs, impostors, and criminals operating lawlessly cannot be countered successfully through criticisms grounded in the imperatives of (liberal) constitutional democracy.