“… Medemer promised us that it would bridge differences, reach out for all and would release and benefit from the immense locked up positive values and energies of all segments of the society… but at the first encounter with a ‘formidable’ foe, the government resorted to the usual mantra and blame game perfected by both the Dergue and EPRDF,” says Samuel Estefanous
So Juliet muses, in the course of cajoling Romeo to change his name to another.
“What is in a name?
That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”
The reasoning holds true for that which stinks to high heaven as well. We can imitate the old bard and declaim, ‘what is in a name, that which we call —- by other name would smell as bad?’
More than three decades ago, President of the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia- Comrade Mengistu Hailemariam- in the most sincere of tones and terms put forward a mind boggling question to the whole wide Nation in prime time television.
‘My fellow Ethiopians, does the Dergue really exist? Ewn Dergue alen?’
I can imagine the number of people who had blinked hard in utter confusion and those who had tried to open their ear canals to make sure they had heard him right.
I mean, beginning from the President of the Republic down to the Woreda chief, all were the same old Derguists. Absolutely nothing had changed except the fact that for some obscure reason the Chairman of the Provisional Military Administration Council was renamed Presidents of the Republic followed by strings of additional regalia that filled a full paragraph.
But from legal perspective President Mengistu was right. The Dergue was no more after the PDRE Constitution was adopted in 1987. In the course of Ethiopian Constitutional history, it is studied as the third Constitution and for all practical purposes it is as legitimate as the FDRE Constitution for as long as it had lasted.
You would be surprised to read the lists of civil, personal and political rights guaranteed to all citizens in the 1987 Constitution, though few were actually kept as indeed is the case presently.
One thing it had boldly and defiantly declared without beating about the bush was the Workers Party of Ethiopia should be the Vanguard Party of the Republic…but so was EPRDF, wasn’t it, as is Prosperity perhaps? Make no mistake, in the 1987 Constitution ‘other bodies’ were technically entitled to field candidates to contest a seat in the National Shengo as does the FDRE Constitution. But in all honesty at least the former didn’t make any pretense and didn’t promise the citizens any unrealistic alternative other than one charted by the WPE. Pretense by a public body is the worst vice.
How do you like the following paragraph under Article three of the PDRE Constitution and what do you make of its significance?
‘’The PDRE shall ensure the common advancement of the Nationalities by progressively eliminating the disparity in their economic development, paying particular attention to those in the lower stages of development.”
Or Article 64, which in part reads,
“The representation of Nationalities in the National Shengo shall be ensured in the electoral process.”
I wouldn’t blame anyone if he assumes the paragraphs above are quoted from the 1995 Constitution of the FDRE. You can understand how much EPRDF had pushed its luck so very hard. It talked like it had ‘invented’ the rights of Nationalities. It was the Dergue which had taken the chance and which had bravely broken the ice. For all practical purposes the government of EPRDF had capitalized on those gains of the Dergue, but it lacks the courage and gut to admit it.
You see prior to the adoption of the PDRE Constitution the Dergue undertook two mega projects
1- It had conducted a Nationwide census
2-It had established an Institute for the Study of the Nationalities of Ethiopia.
By all measure and accounts, it had chosen to address the manner of protecting the rights and interest of the different Nationalities of Ethiopia in a professional, scientific and progressive way without seeding the evil of rectification. We have to pay respect when and where it is due. One thing is uncontestable, just like EPRDF did it had long understood and had defined the problem.
This is by no means acting the apologist for the wrongs and crimes of the Deruge. Countless articles and books are written about that. This is about the fundamentals of “Medemer” as we understood it around 2018. This is about the motto of Addis Ababa University-Don’t reject anything out of hand, study it hard, keep the wisdom and lose the crap…hulu amekiru we ze senay atsinu. This is a humble inquire to know, this past three years, are we keeping the vice and losing the wisdom or vice versa?
Contrary to conventional truths widely circulated the Dergue had benefited from the services of seasoned professionals, particularly when it comes to the domain of free education, countrywide national literacy program and guess what? law! I know and understand the disbelief but what I am alluding to is the professionalism and quality of the lawyers at the disposal of the Dergue . To mention but one, in any one of the proclamations and regulations adopted by the Dergue , you would hardly encounter a provision reads “the previous proclamation is deleted”.
That brings us back to the question President Mengistu had forwarded to the Nation relative to the existence or non-existence of the Dergue. The legal advisors had done their homework conscientiously. They had advised the government that it had to make a clean break with the Military Council by adopting a new Constitution and forming a government under its dictates. It is none of the business of the advisors if the Dergue came back donning khaki suits in lieu of the military camouflage fatigues.
It never ceases to bug me why Prosperity Party shows such blatant disregard for the technicalities of law. At least it would have been able to save face.
As things stand now, Prime Minister Abiy doesn’t have the legal ground to ask what President Mengistu had wanted to know three decades ago.
“My fellow Ethiopians, isn’t EPRDF long disbanded and buried?’’
My personal reply would be…hm, not really, Sir, and I will tell you why.
1-The 1995 FDRE Constitution was drafted and adopted in the context of the unique Revolutionary Democracy ideology of EPRDF. The only thing missing is unlike the 1987 Constitution; EPRDF wasn’t mentioned in name and declared a Dominant/Vanguard Party. But it is little veiled secret that the 1995 Constitution was readymade to fit EPRDF and only EPRDF. This unequivocally distinguishes Prosperity Party only a change in name; it is a change neither in law nor in deed.
2-For the purposes of the Constitution, the Premier had been leading the Nation solely on the ground that he was elected by the Council of EPRDF as the Chairman of the Front. Ours being a parliamentary democracy, government power is assumed by “… the political party or a coalition of political parties that constitute a majority in the House of Peoples’ Representatives.”
In the June 2021 election the people of Ethiopia had elected their representatives to the Council of Peoples Representatives and Prosperity Party did win a cumulative landslide but it had chosen not to elect a chairman but to keep the previous election conducted by EPRDF as a legitimate and enduring proceeding.
This loophole had been repeatedly pointed out to the incumbent but it wouldn’t heed any.
3-The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia is composed of and chaired by reputed and knowledgeable professionals, we have heard a number of instances when it had in no uncertain terms required political parties to call general assembly and elect or in some cases re-elect the Chairman, Commissioner of internal control and other officials…but it wouldn’t apply the same standard to Prosperity Party. Ato Lidetu was very vocal in his protest in this regard…how come it was ignored if we have come a long way from the dark days of regulating political parties under EPRDF?
4-Medemer presupposed the fact that any given individual isn’t born with a trait of vice and that any one group or individual is endowed with the capacity to do well as indeed evidenced by visible records and facts. With these premises, Medemer promised us that it would bridge differences, reach out for all and would release and benefit from the immense locked up positive values and energies of all segments of the society…but at the first encounter with a ‘formidable’ foe, the government resorted to the usual mantra and blame game perfected by both the Dergue and EPRDF.
5-Every single Ethiopian knew that the core of TPLF was going to resist the change with everything at its disposal; what we didn’t know was the leadership has no extraordinary wisdom or means emanating from Medemer that would avoid or quell the mayhem. I mean other than those bloody methods of solving differences perfected by the Dergue and EPRDF. It looks like we, the people, have thrown our fate at Medemer more than the leadership did. We all are asking how is that this leadership has lost that devoted enthusiastic teeming crowd which had overflown the streets and stadium of Mekelle to welcome its leader? Worst of all, how could it lose them to the murderous TPLF?
6-Still there is this one difference beyond name and I bet it counteracts all others. I have personally witnessed how men and women, young and old, from every walks of life stood in line for more than five and six hours to cast their votes. In my heart I had no doubt either EZEMA or Balderas would win all seats reserved for Addis Ababa…but when the result was declared and Prosperity Party came out winning a landslide, I realized, Ethiopians had casted their votes not with their heads but with their kind hearts. God knows they deserve better.
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