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

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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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Africa

Scaling Up Development Could Help Southern African leaders to Defeat Frequent Miltant Attacks

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Leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are now considering, without foreign interference, tackling frequent insurgency devastating regional development, causing havoc to human habitation and threatening security in southern Africa. This collective decision came out after the Extraordinary Double Troika meeting on 8th April in Maputo, Mozambique.

The violence unleashed more than three years ago in Cabo Delgado province took a new escalation on March 24 when armed groups attacked the town of Palma. The attacks caused dozens of deaths and forced thousands of Palma residents to flee, worsening a humanitarian crisis that has affected some 700,000 people in the province, according several reports.

Many international organizations and foreign countries have responded with humanitarian support and with financial aid aimed at alleviating situation, specifically in Mozambique and generally in southern Africa.

For example, the European Union (EU) pledged to send almost €7.9 million in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by terrorism in northern Mozambique, part of a package totaling €24.5 million for the entire southern Africa and Indian Ocean region. EU humanitarian aid to Mozambique “seeks to provide a response to the humanitarian consequences of the conflict in northern Mozambique, where €7.86 million of EU funding will be directed,” a statement from the European Commission details.

Beside horrific attacks, drought is also currently affecting Angola, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For instance, the EU will provide assistance to address a severe food and nutrition crisis in Madagascar. A further €6.00 million for helping children across the whole region gain access to education, and €8.00 million to improve the region’s disaster preparedness.

Now Southern African leaders are looking at pulling their resources together to improve the deteriorating security situation, supporting vulnerable displaced and affected people with shelter, food, protection and access to healthcare, especially in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, and further widely in southern Africa.

As a first step, SADC has called for cooperation in cross-border surveillance as essential to stem the flow of foreign fighters fomenting terrorism in Cabo Delgado, and further warning the spread of violence throughout southern Africa. Among other measures, SADC suggested that southern African police and judicial systems must consistently work to combat trafficking and money laundering that funds terrorism.

Despite these collective measures, there are still a few more questions as to whether SADC could, in practical terms, control frequent violent extremist attacks using available resources in the southern Africa.

SADC, among others, mandates for enforcing collective security in the region. While the presidents of Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have called for “an immediate technical deployment” to Mozambique ahead of another high-level meeting at the end of April, Mozambique has so far been unreceptive, according reports.

There have been various suggestions from experts. “What we have here is a human rights and humanitarian crisis that has left hundreds of thousands displaced, insecure and unable to return to their homes because of the attacks that have been ongoing,” said Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa director for Human Rights Watch. “So, the lack of security then spills over to affect everything else, including in terms of stability and economic programs that might be taking place in Cabo Delgado.

Historian Yussuf Adam, a retired professor at Maputo’s Eduardo Mondlane University, told VOA the problems dated back way beyond the start of the insurgency in 2017. He attributed to sharp disparity in development in the region.

He believes that Mozambique’s government, most importantly, has to tackle systemic poverty and inequality, in addition to resorting to a military solution. “There is no military solution. People have to be heard, and things have to be negotiated, and also people’s right to land,” he said. “People have to benefit from whatever it is will come out, is coming out, from this mining, oil, petrol and gas operations. That’s something which has to be seen and done.”

Mavhinga says, the government needs to take responsibility for its own policy failures. While militants have committed grievous acts – including rapes and beheadings – rights groups have also documented abuses by Mozambican security forces, including torture and extrajudicial killings.

South African lawyer and scholar Andre Thomashausen has also indicated that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has its own internal differences. He anticipated that this SADC summit would not be able to take concrete measures, due to the division of opinions that exists within SADC, the lack of means and manpower resources could obstruct any positive results.

Thomashausen, however, said that the previous meeting did not express any solidarity, intervention and appeal to the African Union, regional and international community, explained further that SADC clearly indicated it prefers to deal with the crisis at the regional and without foreign interference. Therefore, the countries of the southern region “continue to bet on their own initiative, on their own commitment from region.”

The final communiqué from the summit condemned the terrorist attacks “in the strongest terms” and declared that “such heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response” but it did not suggest what such a regional response might consist of.

It further expressed “SADC’s full solidarity with the government and people of Mozambique” and reaffirmed “SADC’s continued commitment to contribute towards the efforts to bring about lasting peace and security, as well as reconciliation and development in the Republic of Mozambique.”

The summit ordered “an immediate technical deployment” to Mozambique, and the convening of an Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ by 28 April 2021 that will report to the Extraordinary Organ Troika summit on 29 April 2021.

SADC, an organization of 16 member states established in 1980, has as its mission to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient, productive systems, deeper cooperation and integration, good governance and durable peace and security; so that the region emerges as a competitive and effective player in international relations and the world economy.

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SADC Summit Ends With Promises of More Meetings

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) held an Extraordinary Double Troika meeting on 8th April in Maputo to deliberate on measures on addressing terrorism and its related impact on the current development specifically in the Mozambique and generally in southern Africa. The Cabo Delgado crisis started in 2017 with insurgents taking control of parts of northern Mozambique.

One of the two troikas consists of the current, incoming and outgoing chairs of SADC (namely Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania), while the second is formed by the current, incoming and outgoing chairs of the SADC organ for politics, defence and security cooperation (Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe).

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and the ministers of international relations, defence and state security attended the meeting. It was also attended by Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

The summit was called in the wake of the terrorist attack of 24 March against the town of Palma in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, but the leaders did not pledge any immediate practical support for Mozambique.

SADC Troika heads however said the acts of terrorism perpetrated against innocent civilians in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, could not be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response and reported that 12 decapitated bodies have been found behind a hotel in the region.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has called for cooperation in cross-border surveillance as essential to stem the flow of foreign fighters fomenting terrorism in Cabo Delgado, warning of the spread of violence throughout Southern Africa.

Among the measures that the SADC countries should implement to combat terrorism is strengthening border control between Southern African countries, he said, and further added that Southern African police and judicial systems must consistently work to combat trafficking and money laundering that funds terrorism.

Nyusi stressed that the organization should implement practical acts to combat this scourge of terrorism to prevent its expansion and destabilization of the region, and warned of the risk that the actions of armed groups with a jihadist connotation could hinder regional integration.

According official reports, SADC fends off United States / European Union anti-terror intervention in Cabo Delgado. It further said no to another Mali / Somalia / Libya / Syria disaster on the African continent, adding that the global Anti-Terror lobbies are frustrated.

Deeply concerned about the continued terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado, especially for the lives and welfare of the residents who continue to suffer from the atrocious, brutal and indiscriminate assaults, the leaders decided at their meeting to deploy a technical mission to Mozambique. It’s not clear what action the region will take but the deployed technical mission will report back to heads of state by 29 April.

The final communiqué from the summit condemned the terrorist attacks “in the strongest terms” and declared that “such heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response” but it did not suggest what such a regional response might consist of.

The Summit expressed “SADC’s full solidarity with the government and people of Mozambique” and reaffirmed “SADC’s continued commitment to contribute towards the efforts to bring about lasting peace and security, as well as reconciliation and development in the Republic of Mozambique.”

The summit ordered “an immediate technical deployment” to Mozambique, and the convening of an Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ by 28 April 2021 that will report to the Extraordinary Organ Troika summit on 29 April 2021.

The extremely brief communiqué mentioned no other specific measures.

The violence unleashed more than three years ago in Cabo Delgado province took a new escalation about a fortnight ago when armed groups attacked the town of Palma, which is about six kilometres from the multi-million dollar natural gas, according to United Nations data.

The attacks caused dozens of deaths and forced thousands of Palma residents to flee, worsening a humanitarian crisis that has affected some 700,000 people in the province since the conflicts data. Several countries have offered Maputo military support on the ground to combat these insurgents, but so far there has been no openness, although reports and testimonies are pointing to security companies and mercenaries in the area.

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African agriculture is ready for a digital revolution

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Authors: Akinwumi Adesina and Patrick Verkooijen*

After a dark 2020, a new year has brought new hope. In Africa, where up to 40 million more people were driven into extreme poverty and the continent experienced its first recession in 25 years, a brighter future beckons as the economy is forecast to return to growth this year.

Africa now has an opportunity to reset its economic compass. To build back not just better, but greener. Particularly as the next crisis—climate change—is already upon us.

Africa’s food systems must be made more resilient to future shocks such as floods, droughts, and disease. Urgent and sustainable increases in food production are needed to reduce reliance on food imports and reduce poverty, and this is where digital services come into play.

With mobile phone ownership in Sub-Saharan Africa alone expected to reach half a billion this year, digital services offered via text messaging can reach even the most remote village. And at least one-fifth of these phones also have smart features, meaning they can connect to the internet.

We can already see how digital services drive prosperity locally and nationally. In Uganda, SMS services that promote market price awareness have lifted the price farmers receive for bananas by 36 percent, beans by 16.5 percent, maize by 17 percent, and coffee by 19 percent. In Ghana, services that cut out the middleman have lifted the price for maize by 10 percent and groundnuts by 7 percent.

But digital services don’t just raise farmgate prices, they are the gateway to farm loans, crop insurance, and greater economic security, which in turn enables farmers to increase their resilience to climate change—by experimenting with new, drought-resistant crops, for example, or innovative farming methods.

Text messages with weather reports help farmers make better decisions about when and what to plant, and when to harvest.

In Niger, a phone-based education program has improved crop diversity, with more farmers likely to grow the cash crop okra, while an advisory service in Ethiopia helped increase wheat production from one ton to three tons per hectare.

The data footprints phone users create can also be analyzed to help assess risk when it comes to offering loans, making credit cheaper and more accessible.

Phones and digital services also speed up the spread of information through social networks, helping farmers learn about new drought-resistant crops or services that can increase productivity. Free-to-use mobile phone-based app WeFarm, for example, has already helped more than 2.4 million farmers find certified suppliers of quality seeds at fair prices. They can also connect farmers to internet-based services.

Examples of digital innovation abound, sometimes across borders. In Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, equipment-sharing platform Hello Tractor is helping farmers rent machinery by the day or even hour, while in Ethiopia, AfriScout, run by the non-government organization Project Concern International with the World Food Programme and the Ministry for Agriculture, provides satellite images of water supplies and crops every 10 days so problems can be spotted quickly to aid remedial action.

Transforming food systems digitally has demonstrably excellent results: the African Development Bank, which has allocated over half of its climate financing to adaptation since 2019, has already helped 19 million farmers in 27 countries to lift yields by an average 60 percent through applying digital technology, for example.

This is why the Global Center on Adaptation and the African Development Bank have launched the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) to mobilize $25 billion to scale up and accelerate innovative climate-change adaptation across Africa.

Once developed, the digital nature of these services often makes such projects easy to replicate elsewhere and scale, even across large rural areas with little existing infrastructure.

Further, adaptation projects are proven to be highly cost-effective, often delivering value many times the original investment and so helping African economies grow faster and create many more much-needed jobs.

This makes it imperative that the global resolve to rebuild economies in the wake of Covid-19 is harnessed in the most effective way. We must not simply replicate the mistakes of the past. We must build back stronger, with a more resilient and climate-smart focus.

Funding and promoting disruptive business models in which digital technologies are embedded to increase productivity without using more land or more water will create a triple win: increased production, a more resilient climate and more empowered farmers.

We have the means and the technical capability to put Africa well on the way to achieving food self-sufficiency and greater climate resilience. In doing so, we can help millions move out of food poverty. We must not squander this opportunity to create truly historic and lasting change.

AfDB

*Patrick Verkooijen is CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation.

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