The Dictator’s Syndrome is a destructive force that is causing immense harm to the people of Ethiopia. It is characterized by a leader who seeks to maintain absolute power and control, often at the expense of the well-being and freedom of the citizens. This syndrome has led to widespread corruption, human rights abuses, and economic instability in Ethiopia.
The effects of the Dictator’s Syndrome can be seen in every aspect of Ethiopian society under Prime Minister Abiy. The government is rife with corruption from petty to grand, with officials using their positions for personal gain rather than serving the needs of the people. Human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests, killings, disappearances, inhumane treatment of prisoners, and censorship, are rampant, and the economy is suffering due to mismanagement and lack of accountability. Abiy Ahmed grew up in deep childhood poverty, sleeping on a makeshift bed and mattress, dreaming of driving a car and sitting in a nice couch and chair, while in reality sleeping and sitting on the ground and walking long distances on foot. This experience caused psychological despair. It is rumored that he joined the military at age 14 to escape that life and served as a cleaner for military officers. This early childhood lifestyle likely led to indifference towards ordinary citizens, and he became a more ruthless leader than anyone in Ethiopian history. He is quite comfortable with the deaths, evictions, and displacement of people. He uses elite connections and promotes them to sustain his rule. He enjoys building parks to have a nice view from his place in Arat Kilo. He prefers to build a large palace worth billions of dollars, even though the population is in dire need of other essential amenities. The people of Ethiopia deserve better. They deserve a government that is transparent, accountable, and committed to serving the needs of the people. It is time for the Dictator’s Syndrome to be eradicated and for Ethiopia to move towards a more democratic and inclusive future.
The big issue, however, is how to achieve an Ethiopia without a dictator. Even if a constitution is drafted to respect the rights of citizens, there are still issues that need to be researched and mechanisms put in place to prevent dictatorship from happening in Ethiopia. Emperor Menelik and Haile Selassie never had the privilege to do as they pleased; their judgments and decisions were influenced by powerful institutions and personalities around them, such as Rasas, Dajazimaches, Fitawraris, and the Orthodox church. The key is to have effective checks and balances in place to prevent dictatorship. The parliament, judiciary, and executive in Ethiopia are often seen as ineffective and cannot be relied upon to prevent dictatorship.
From Mengistu to Meles Zenawi to the Tigrayan clique behind Hailemariam, and now to Abiy Ahmed, they have done what they wanted outside of what the constitution stipulates. One reason I believe this is that the Ethiopian government has remained highly centralized since the days of Emperor Haile Selassie. Even with the concept of Ethnic federalism and federalism, the monopoly of power has intensified.
As we advocate for a fair constitution, it’s equally important to implement regulations to prevent dictatorship. There should be a code of conduct for public officials. The prime minister holds immense power over his ministers, to the extent of dictating to them like schoolchildren instead of assigning a note-taker in a meeting. He can reduce them to poverty with a stroke of a pen in a day. The relationship between the ministers and the prime minister is that of a lord and a servant. Public officials are forced to be loyal to the benefits they receive from the prime minister. Today, the benefits of public officials are substantial compared to the citizens they govern. In the interest of democracy and good governance, there should be limits on the resources available to a minister or the head of a government agency. Otherwise, they would not care about the people. On this matter, there is a significant difference between the benefits of government officials during the Derg time and now. Public officials should not be tied to the benefits the prime minister throws to them and must be accountable for and prioritize serving the public over their own interests.
There has been much discussion about implementing term limits for the prime ministers in the Ethiopian constitution in order to hold them accountable. While this may help curb part of the problem, it may not be the best or only solution. There are other ways to reduce the prime minister’s power. I believe power-sharing between the president and the prime minister may be the best approach to limit the prime minister’s irrational exercise of power. In my opinion, the Judicial, Auditor General, Anti-Corruption Commissioner, Director General, Immigration and Citizenship Services can be under the President’s authority. All foreign financial aid can go through the president to prevent Abiy Ahmed from having any contact with money to build palaces. Above all, the president will be the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and responsible for declaring a National Emergency. The president should have the power to call for a vote of no confidence and impeachment proceedings against the prime minister in the event of lack of support from legislators and constitutional misconduct.
In order to promote the healthy functioning of the state and preserve stability, it is essential to maintain fair power sharing between the Oromo and Amhara elites, who are contending forces, while adhering to fundamental laws. What happens at the top will have an impact at the lowest level. Absence of shared vision between the Oromo, Tigre and Amhara elites is hurting ordinary citizens. It is absolutely correct if one would think that if I had a government that shares my values, my house in Legetafo would not be demolished. Therefore, it is incorrect to say “he who marries my mother is my dad” (enatien yageba hulum abatie new – እናቴን ያገባ ሁሉ አባቴ ነው).
Today, Prime Minister Abiy has gone so far as to corrupt the military by depositing money into the private accounts of generals and granting them real estate holdings to wage a war in Amhara. This seriously violates the country’s financial management systems. The prime minister seems to have unlimited power, with his ministers cheering him on. He has become so powerful and influential that they follow him to their doom, laughing and clapping.
Apart from the presence of legislative gaps in promulgating power distribution, dictatorship in Ethiopia has emerged due to the absence of other influential figures. A system should be put in place to allow other strong individuals to emerge and easily replace the prime minister. One way to hold power at the center is to have the consent of the regions.
I am writing this piece to initiate a discussion among us, and I urge constitutional lawyers and social scientists to conduct in-depth research and evaluation applicable to Ethiopia. The aim is to create a functional transitional constitutional document for Ethiopia that will remain effective after Abiy Ahmed’s departure. It should prioritize implementing effective mechanisms to hold the future leader accountable. This will help prevent us from being led into another crisis.
Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com
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