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The constitution and the political programs of opposition political parties in Ethiopia



Authors: Yeheys Nardos Hawaz and Chen Xi (PhD)

Since 2018, the new administration of Ethiopia gained public support as it had shown a different position, political strategy, and structure than the previous administration. Most importantly, its apology and reconciliation call for political parties and opposition parties has created a great deal of political turmoil in the country, and has seen a vision of creating a multi-party nation, including the opposition parties. It has been three years since the political parties and politicians who were operating abroad agreed to return home and started the peaceful competition. These parties are the OLF, the ONLF, and the Ginbot 7 (which is later merged and formed Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice).

If the Ethiopian government has taken such a step to address the political instability in the country, what is the attitude of the political parties? Are these parties have a truly competitive or oppressive perspective? What is their political program towards the country’s constitution and election proclamation? These questions have not been answered clearly but only a few months away from holding elections in Ethiopia. To enforce the constitution, the registration of opposition parties as per the constitution and the election proclamation; the Electoral Board has the legal authority to conduct the country’s elections. These parties have been recognized for the election under these criteria.

Electoral law as a starting point

Ethiopian elections are held every five years. Pursuant to article 38 of the Constitution, every person over the age of 18 can participate in elections and may participate on behalf of the group to which he or she is a member voluntarily. It is clear that this group is a political party. This is how a political party is created. Nevertheless, the legal entity is directly related to the Electoral Board. Article 102 of the Constitution states that the Electoral Board shall be established in accordance with the law of the country in order to conduct free and fair elections. Accordingly, it is an institution that can grant, renew and revoke the licenses of political parties based on the registration criteria of political parties in accordance with the Constitution and the electoral proclamation, as well as allow and prohibit them from contesting elections.

According to the Ethiopian Electoral, Political Parties Registration and Electoral Code of Conduct proclamation 1162/2019, one of the requirements of the parties wishing to participate in the country’s elections is to inform their main political program. Every political party shall have a political program approved by the general assembly of the party to formulate its political beliefs. Article 66/4 of the proclamation stipulates that the parties are required to comply with the election law and related laws. However, it did not comment on the content of the party program. Consequently, it is expected that the party program will be in accordance with the constitution and other laws of the country, not contradictory.

These laws, for example, include the legal title (the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia), the government system(Parliamentary system),  the principles of the Constitution (ex. Secularism) and it covers other wide range of issues. There is no question as to whether political parties will review their programs based on these fact or against.

Recently, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) issued a directive on the obligations of national and regional parties (in accordance with Proclamation No. 1162/2011).  The department does not indicate that there is a system of submission and cancellation using the political program as a criterion.

The House of Peoples’ Representatives, in its recent regular session, have also amended election proclamation 1162. However, these amendments are not about the party programs but focused on articles 31/1 and 2 regarding the collection of signatures in support of private candidates and political party candidates.

Based on these issues, the NEBE has finalized the registration of political parties and preparing for the next election. There is no clear information on whether the appearance of political parties is examined in accordance with the constitution. Political parties are also stepping up their individual preparations. But what is the nature of political parties in Ethiopia in terms of the constitution?

The aspect of political parties in terms of the constitution

The question of how much the political program of Ethiopian political parties in line with the constitution is highly controversial. In addition to that, the fact that no one cares about the political parties’ programs is another surprise. The Joint Council of Political Parties in Ethiopia has 116 members, all of whom are active at the national and regional (sub-national) levels. However, not every party is in the next election as some do not meet the requirements for voter registration. There is no evidence that those who will run in the next election have been assessed per the Constitution, but with the directives issued by the electoral board. Certain parties can be used to show how the political their political program is viewed in terms of the constitution.

Ethiopian citizens for social justice is an organization formed byseven political parties. Semayawi Party, which had been widely associated with popular uprisings, focused on individual rights rather than the group on the contrary to the constitution, and Ginbot 7 which was mentioned as a terrorist organization under the country’s previous law are among the seven.

These two parties merged with the other five parties to form the Ethiopian citizens for social justice in 2019. Although the party’s website shows that the party is based on the principles of decentralization and works for the establishment of political and social justice based on citizenship, the political system is presidential which is contrary to the constitutional parliamentary system. Besides, the party has also taken a different stance on the constitutional interpretation and the flag, based on future constitutional amendments. These ideas are contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. If Ethiopian citizens for social justice wins the next election, a constitutional amendment is undoubted, one of the major issues to be addressed. However, as the procedure is unsated it might cause political chaos.

Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) was a party that fought for the liberation of the Ogaden through military struggle and agreed to fight peacefully at the behest of the Prime Minister. Accordingly, the party is one of the parties recognized by the electoral board to run in the next election. At the party level, the party is a regional, not a national party. The political agenda of the ONLF is very different not only from the political point of view but also from the constitution. The party’s political program begins with the statement, “Our country is a colony of Ethiopia without the consent of the people.” It further noted that the struggle of ONLF is with colonialist Ethiopia. It is a challenging question of whether this idea represents the people of the region and not the party.

According to the electoral law proclamation No. 1162/2011, the number of members required to form a regional political party is at least 100,000. The formation of ONLF was preceded by the proclamation. However, to be recognized by the NEBE, it must meet all the requirements. Of these, at least one hundred thousand members signed the memorandum, and at the same time, they were required to report on the political program and other related matters. If ONLF is recognized based on these requirements, it indicates that the NEBE have accepted the political program which is contrary to the constitution. In fact, given the size of the Somali population, the number of party members on the proclamation (hundreds of thousands) is unlikely to affect the region. However, there were no official records on the number of party members and public support. Based on these developments, the idea of ​​what to expect if the ONLF wins an election in the Somali region could lead to serious political conflict between the region and the federal government, with the probability of war.

Like the ONLF, OLF is a party that came into the country to peacefully compete following the call of the prime minister. According to the party’s mission, the Oromo people have been colonized by Abyssinia and the formation of the party is in opposition to this colonization. The party followed a policy which includes different prospect in security and armed struggle which is on the contrary to the constitution. Nevertheless, OLF has been recognized in NEBE to run in the Oromia region. There is no guarantee that the threat by the ONLF will not arise in Oromia with OLF.

Is it too late to take a common national consensus?

Although there is little time left for the election, it is still not too late to address some issues. The current situation and future of Ethiopia are still based on the constitution. However, at the institutional level, it must be careful not to do anything that could jeopardize the survival of the nation. As these parties have public support, they have also opposition. There must be a national position that continually safeguards the supremacy of the constitution if they win. The socio-economic and political crisis of the 2005 elections in Ethiopia continues to cast a shadow over the future. The impact of this shadow on the incoming election is even greater than in 2005.

Political program differences can easily lead to conflicts. Even though the recent extension of the election was approved by the national assembly, differences between the TPLF and the federal government have gradually grown which finally led to war. As the legislature of a country, the laws the house makes should be enforced by the executive. The House, per its constitutional mandate, has the power to legislate on constitutional rights and the conduct of elections and has also decided to declare the state of emergency as stipulated in article 93. The TPLF party has strongly opposed the decision of the House to extend the election. Sticking only to the constitutional term of election, TPLF has unnoticed the constitutional mandate of the House of Representatives, which has led to a major political crisis in the country.

Since the rule of law promotes peace and stability, political parties should learn from the recent war over the rule of law. It is first and foremost necessary to show compliance with the laws of the land. Amendment procedure can be included within the legal framework. However, the program of political parties has some scary aspects in terms of the law of the land. While improving the law can be considered as part of political party commitments, but designing a party program to oppose the law is another aspect. In such cases, the spirit of competition can be overwhelming by the opposition.

At the government level, there is still time to consult with political parties on constitutional issues. Political parties should also agree that the idea of ​​amending the constitution should be per the rule of law and not in the interests of the political party. It is better to evaluate the political program of parties from a constitutional point of view to save Ethiopia from chaos. If the parties win the election, it is expected, they will be as quick to change ideology while If they lose, they may be showing that they have been deceived by their political views. Following this, greater preparation is needed to reduce the conflict between support and opposition.

The Electoral Board is still responsible for upholding the rule of law as the country is still governed and elections are held under this constitution. Recognition of opposition organizations that openly oppose the constitution will not contribute to national unity and national consensus. Therefore, it would be good if the amendment of the Political Parties Proclamation includes these requirements.

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Resource Curse and Underdevelopment Give Way to Mass Unrest and Political Instability in Sudan



Chairman of the Sovereign Council of Sudan Abdel Fattah al-Burhan

As reported October 25 by the reputable state media, Al Arabiya, Sudanese army and a cross-section of its population have returned, expressing dissatisfaction about the government. What is really at stake all these years is closely linked to the level of development and the living standard of the majority among the estimated 45 million population.

According to the El Sharq TV channel, two of Sudan’s three mobile operators have actually stopped providing services, so people are experiencing communication problems. According to several media sources, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok together with other officials have been arrested, taken to an unknown location. The leaders of many political parties also called for preventing a coup in the country.

Mass arrests began sweeping the country following Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s meeting with head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. The ministers of communication, information, finance and industries are among those in custody. Sudanese people took to the streets following calls by the main opposition movement, the Forces of Freedom and Change. The crisis between the Sudanese military and civilian forces has been going on for several weeks.

In about-turn development, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, a general chairing the Sovereign Council of Sudan, announced in a televised address that general elections would be held in July 2023. The general declared a state of emergency in Sudan, dissolved both the country’s government and the Sovereign Council and suspended a number of articles of the Constitutional Declaration, which was signed by Sudan’s military and civilian forces in 2019 for a three-year transition period.

Besides the search for political pathways, Sudanese authorities need to address the deep-seated economic deficiencies. This also relates many African countries. Sudan, located in the northeast Africa, shares borders with Egypt, Libya, Chad, Ethiopia and South Sudan. It is blessed with huge oil reserves and marines resources. The Blue and White Niles rivers meet in the capital city Khartoum to form the Nile, which flows northwards through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.

While Sudan is encircled by these seven countries mentioned above, it also has to northeast a huge sea, which could be harnessed for the further development of the economy. Revenues could be used to engage in economic diversification projects, thus creating employment for the youth. It is third-largest country in Africa, and the third-largest in the Arab world by area before the secession of South Sudan in 2011.

Over the years, damming the water resources for economy has not taken off the ground. The main purpose of the dam will be the generation of electricity. Its dimensions make it the largest contemporary hydropower project for the region in Africa.

In terms of political developments in Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir came to power in June 1989. During several years of his administration, Sudan’s economy was largely shattered due to political tyranny, deep-seated corruption and poor policies.Al-Bashir held power for more than 30 years, refused to step down, resulting in the convergence of opposition groups to form a united coalition. The government retaliated by arresting more than 800 opposition figures and thousands of protesters, according to the Human Rights Watch.

Many people died because Al-Bashir ordered security forces to disperse the sit-in peaceful demonstrators using tear gas and live ammunition in what is known as the Khartoum massacre, resulting in Sudan’s suspension from the African Union. Eventually, Omar al-Bashir was gone. Sudan opened a new political chapter with Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, a 62-year-old economist who worked previously for the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

Significantly, it is highly expected that his working experience at the UN Economic Commission for Africa must necessarily reflect on performance, and resultantly have a positive impact on the level of sustainable development that connects the daily lives of the population.

With the new administration, Sudan still faces formidable economic problems, and its growth still a little (snail step) rise from a very low level of per capita output. In practical terms, it is desperate for foreign support and one surest way was to get to a donors conference held in Berlin, Germany. The donors’ conference was to provide a lifeline to the ongoing transition, alongside Sudan’s own efforts. It is worth to say that increased international political and financial assistance remain paramount, it was a progressive step for Sudan.

The goal was to also raise enough funds to kick-start social protection programs by the World Bank and the Sudanese Government that could help Sudanese families in need. The partners supported the International Monetary Fund to open up Sudan’s road towards debt relief. Some 50 countries and international organizations pledged more than $1.8 billion, while the World Bank Group offered a grant of $400 million.

“This conference opened a new chapter in the cooperation between Sudan and the international community to rebuild the country,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said at that time during video conference co-organized by Germany with Sudan, the European Union and the United Nations.

Berlin promised to make investments in in areas such as water, food security and education. Germany has urged the Sudanese government to invest in human rights. Germany said that it would contribute €150 million ($168 million) in aid to the sub-Saharan nation of Sudan.

Undoubtedly, Abdalla Hamdok described that conference as “unprecedented” and said it laid a “solid foundation for us moving forward” at least in the subsequent years. Sudan’s new transitional government has sought to repair the country’s international standing, but it still faces daunting economic challenges, and its growth was still a rise from a very low level of per capita output. It continues to experience troubled relationship with many of its neighbors, and especially over oil reserves with South Sudan.

Currently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is working hand in hand with Khartoum government to implement sound macroeconomic policies. Agricultural production remains Sudan’s most-important sector, employing 80 percent of the workforce but most farms remain rain-fed and susceptible to drought. Instability, adverse weather and weak world-agricultural prices ensures that much of the population will remain at or below the poverty line for years.

Peter Fabricius, a Research Consultant from the South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies (ISS), noted quite recently in his article headlined – African Coups Are Making A Come Back – that in fewer than 13 months from 18 August 2020, four coups have occurred. Two happened in Mali (August 2020 and May 2021), one in Chad (May 2021) and one in Guinea last month.

He further pointed out “what might help prevent that would be better responses from African Union, regional bodies, and international partners to coups and other forms of unconstitutional change of government.”

Perhaps the root causes of coups run too deep within a country for any external actor to influence much. But to the extent that they can, the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) should use their power preventively, focusing more on sanctioning ‘unconstitutional preservation of power’ and other undemocratic behavior to try to pre-empt coups, suggested Fabricius.

But late October 2021 political-military and cross-section of the civilian unrest are inter-connected to both politics and economy. Sudan is rich with natural resources, as it has oil reserves. Despite that, Sudan still faced formidable economic problems. Worse is production practices including agriculture are rudimentary. There has not been efforts, at least, to modernize agriculture to the growing population.

Despite there is a huge increase in unemployment, its is absolutely necessary, perhaps to  minimize social contradictions and economic disparities, so of course, these two – politics and economy questions are inseparable. These are some of the issues the government has to address seriously, in order to maintain sustainable peace and long-term stability in Sudan and set that as an admirably clear example in entire Africa.

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Muscle Alone Will Not Be Enough to Release Nigeria from a Perpetual Stage of Instability



Nigeria is facing a multitude of security challenges, including kidnappings, banditry and successionist movements. The government solution has been consistently militaristic, as exemplified in Buhari’s June 2nd incendiary tweets threatening to treat Biafran separatists “in a language they understand.” However, the incessant insecurities facing the country are evidence that this response and rhetoric are not only ineffective in terms of conflict resolution but may in fact be aggravating tensions and stoking violence. Instead, to ensure the long-term effectiveness of security efforts, Nigeria requires a comprehensive policy that marries military tools with economic development and responsible governance.

Buhari’s problematic tweet was in reference to a wave of attacks by the armed wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group in the country’s southeast. Sentiments of political and economic marginalization in this region, which were at the root of the Biafran Civil War from 1967 to 1970 and killed upward to six million Nigerians, have regularly flared into violence. The secessionist movement in the southeast is just one of the many insecurities facing the country, in which government has consistently employed a military response as its overarching solution, failing to establish a comprehensive strategy that employ a whole-of-government approach. The Nigerian military has mobilized against militant Islamist groups, including Boko Haram in the northeast, since 2009 and intensifying the campaign between 2015 and 2018. Violence, however, has persisted and even increased since 2018. And now, in response to rising kidnappings in the northwestern states of Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger, Sokoto, Kebbi and Katsina, the government bombarded suspected kidnappers’ hideouts. Still, these air strikes have not prevented additional kidnappings. While the Buhari government has opted for the traditional belligerent rhetoric and military response to kidnappings, state governments either aligned with the federal government strategy as is the case in Kaduna State, or paid ransoms to kidnappers as we have seen in Zamfara State.

For instance, to quell the rise in kidnappings, the Governor of Kaduna, Nasir El-Rufai, vowed not to further negotiate with kidnappers, nor pay any ransoms, arguing that such practices have made the enterprise highly profitable for criminals. Additionally, any affected family found adhering to the demands of the bandits will be subject to prosecution. The governor has insisted on deploying the military to tackle the insecurity. This approach, too, has been ineffective due to the lack of local governance structure, vast ungoverned spaces, including forests used as hideouts, and inadequate presence and capability of the police.  The payment of ransoms, on the other hand, is a paradox as it is an offence against Nigerians, motivating more individuals to join the kidnapping business and fueling a perpetual cycle of instability in the region.

The twin approaches of an aggressive military response and payment of millions of dollars to miscreants that fuels criminality in the northwest can only exacerbate Nigeria’s security problems. The country’s security challenges cannot be solved and risk worsening if the government does not address the underlying issues of “weakened, stretched and demoralized security services,” as former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell puts it, as well as poor governance, high poverty rates, and the exponentially dire lack of economic opportunities for the youth population. Criminality, however rampant, does not call for a heavy military response, as at its core it is a law-and-order failure. And as such, it ought to be the responsibility of the national police and law enforcement. The challenge, however, is the lack accountability of the police, as epitomized by the 2020 ENDSAR movement. An emphasis must be placed on community policing structures, wherein a collaborative partnership between the police units and relevant stakeholders within the communities they serve are formed, to build trust in the police and to develop solutions to insecurity. It is imperative for the relevant local stakeholders involved in the community policing structure to also serve as a watchdog organization to hold the police accountable and publicize any potential overreach of power. This will not only be an accountability mechanism but will help foster trust in law enforcement amongst the community, making citizens more likely to report suspicious activities in areas with inadequate police presence. Moreover, obstacles to youth participation in the country political process must be eliminated to pave the way for their integration in their respective communities’ policy making process. Coming out of the COVID-19 crisis, the Nigerian government must focus on a developmental project aimed at creating economic opportunities for its increasing youth population. The lack of which has been the catalyst of youth turning to criminality.

Nigeria currently has an opportunity to shift its strategy and address insecurity before it gets worse. While insecurity covers much of the country, groups wreaking havoc in the country do not appear to be connected to each other beyond their criminal character.  At best, malign groups in the northeast and northwest are learning from each other. Should these groups be allowed to continue undermining state authority and public security, they may eventually decide to coordinate operations, significantly aggravating challenges for the government’s response as well as consequences for civilians. Militant groups affiliated with Boko Haram and with Al-Qaeda sub-groups in the Sahel have already proved adept at exploiting local grievances for support.

While both the federal and state governments appear committed to addressing insecurity in the country, lacking in their rhetoric and actions is their determination to incorporate governance and economic development solutions, the absence of which serves as a driver of insecurity in the country.  An unwavering commitment by the country’s leadership in addressing sociopolitical and socioeconomic inequality is necessary to attain peace in the country, and the emphasis of said commitment must be on upholding accountability of the police, governance, and development.

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Shaping the Future Relations between Russia and Guinea-Bissau



Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Guinea- Bissau Suzi Carla Barbosa have signed a memorandum on political consultations. This aims at strengthening political dialogue and promoting consistency in good cooperation at the international arena.

Russia expects trade and economic ties with Guinea-Bissau will continue developing; they must correspond to the high level of the political dialog between the countries, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in his opening remarks at the meeting with his counterpart from Guinea-Bissau Suzi Carla Barbosa.

“Probably, the next natural step will be to build up our trade-economic, investment cooperation in order to bring it to the level of our sound, confident political dialogue,” the Russian Minister added.

Speculation aside, the face-to-face diplomatic talks focus on effective ways for developing tangible cooperation in most diverse areas in Guinea-Bissau. The meeting agreed to take a number of practical steps, including reciprocal visits by entrepreneurs both ways.

“We talked about more efficient ways of developing our trade and economic cooperation. We agreed to undertake a range of specific steps, including the trips of businessmen from Guinea-Bissau to Russia and then from Russia to Guinea-Bissau,” Lavrov said.

Last year, Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau Nuno Gomes Nabiam met with representatives of the Russian business community. The areas of interest mentioned in this respect included exploration of natural resources, construction of infrastructure facilities, as well as development of agriculture and fisheries.

Guineans are keen on deepening bilateral cooperation in fishing. The five Russian fishing trawlers have recently resumed their operations in the exclusive economic zone of Guinea-Bissau.

As explained the media conference, the topics discussed for cooperation included such spheres as natural resources tapping, infrastructure development, agriculture and fisheries

In terms of education, over 5,000 people have already entered civilian professions, and more than 3,000 people have acquired military specialties, which is important for Guinea-Bissau. In addition, military and technical intergovernmental cooperation agreement is about to enter in force. According to reports, Russia would continue to pursue military cooperation with the country.

Both ministers reviewed the situation in Mali, the Republic of Guinea and some other African areas, with an emphasis on West Africa and the Sahara-Sahel region.

Lavrov and Carla Barbosa discussed preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit planned for 2022. With high hopes that the collective attendance will include President of Guinea-Bissau Umaro Sissoco Embalo.

Guinea-Bissau, like many African states, has had political problems. In April 2020, the regional group of fifteen West African countries often referred to as ECOWAS, after months of election dispute finally recognized the victory of Umaro Sissoco Embaló of Guinea-Bissau.

Perspectives for future development are immense in the country. The marine resources and other waterbodies are integral part to the livelihood. Steps to increase agricultural production are necessary. The economy largely depends on agriculture: fish, cashew nuts and peanuts are its major exports. Its population estimated at 1.9 million, and more than two-thirds lives below the poverty line.

Sharing borders with Guinea (to the southeast), Gambia and Senegal (to the north), Guinea-Bissau attained its independence in September 1973. Guinea-Bissau follows a nonaligned foreign policy and seeks friendly and cooperative relations with a wide variety of states and organizations. Besides, Eсonomic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Guinea-Bissau is a member of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations.

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