May 28: The landmark for democracy
By Fanowedy Samara
June 02 2011
The Ethiopian nations, nationalities and Peoples had been severely oppressed, exploited and undermined for ages. They were deprived of their basic human and democratic rights and their fundamental freedoms until the dawn of 28 May 1991. All the successive feudal regimes and the latter military junta as well mercilessly reined the nation.
Articles 6 of the 1931 Constitution of the Empire of Ethiopia states that “in the Ethiopia Empires supreme power rests in the hands of the Emperor.” Further more, article 10 of this constitution adds that ‘the Emperor shall give the necessary orders to ensure the execution of the laws in force, according to the letters and the spirit thereof, for the maintenance of public order and for the development of the prosperity of the nation.” To describe the patron-saint relations of the Emperor and the Ethiopians at large, the Ethiopian citizens were referred as subjects throughout this constitution.
Likewise, article 5 of the 1931 constitution and article 4 of the revised constitution of 1955 read as” By virtue of His Imperial Blood, as well as by the anointing which He has received, the person of the Emperor is sacred, His dignity is inviolable and His power in disputable. He is consequently, entitled to all the honor due to Him in accordance with tradition and the present constitution. Any one so bold as to seek to injure the Emperor will be punished.” And paragraph one of article 62 of the revised constitution warned that “in accordance with revised constitution, no one shall have the right to bring suit against the emperor.” From these two constitutions of the Empire of Ethiopia, one can easily realize that the supreme power of the land was under the control of the individual emperor. Both political and spiritual powers of the nation were instrumental to ensure and consolidate the supremacy of the Emperor, indeed. Furthermore, the Emperor was the sole source of all laws in the nation. All the Ethiopian nations, nationalities, peoples, and all the natural resources as well were the sovereign properties/subjects of the Emperor.
Thus, no one can speak of basic human and democratic rights and fundamental freedoms of Ethiopians during the reign of Emperor Haileselassie. And no one can think of supremacy of the law in the nations where the supreme power springs from the absolute needs and consents of a single individual. In short, all the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples as whole led miserable lives. In contrast, the royal family and their satellites enjoyed luxurious lives at the expense of all the Ethiopian citizens. Consequently, the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples had been suffered from abject poverty, famine and backwardness.
However, the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples did not remain submissive to the system; rather they began to adamantly fight against the feudal rule which had intensified in the 1950s and 1960s. As a result, they dethrone the Emperor and dismantled the feudal rule for ever.
Unfortunately, the demise of the feudal rule did not bring the targeted rights and freedom of Ethiopians. It was rather transferred in to severe oppression, exploitation and violations of basic human and democratic rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens.
The tyrannical military rule, the Dergue, took over the imperial power and led the country with out constitutions for 14 years. And poverty, backwardness and political destabilization had become the default characteristics of the nation for another cursed 17 years. And through the infamous Red Terror citizens were killed here and there with out any court order. Freedoms of speech, association, assembly, demonstration, petition etc were absolutely banned. Generally speaking, Ethiopians were forced to live as secondary citizens in their very home. Individuals or groups were hunted and incarcerated or arbitrarily killed. And no one can say a single word on the matter. Rather, parents, siblings and relatives were forced to song and haul the corpses of their offspring, siblings and/or relatives. Sad enough, offspring, parent, sibling or relative, wife or husband was enforced to pay prices of the bullets that used to arbitrarily deprive the lives of innocent offspring, parent, sibling or relative, wife or husband. Shockingly, no one had the right to cry when his/her offspring, parent, sibling or relative, wife or husband was arbitrarily killed by any official of the Dergue for what ever reason.
As oppression, exploitation and violations of basic human and democratic rights and fundamental freedoms of the Ethiopian citizens had intensified and sharpened overtime, the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples stood against the dictatorial Dergue regime. They paid unimaginable sacrifice to bring about lasting peace, democracy, development, equality and fraternity of all Ethiopians. They get united to thwart the rule. All Ethiopians irrespective of age, sex, ethnicity, religion, family back ground, marital or economic status etc bitterly fought against the totalitarian Dergue regime.
As a result, the tyrannical military rule of the Dergue was demised by the popular struggle of all the Ethiopian, nations, nationalities and peoples at the historical day- May 28/1991. Thus, May 28 is a turning point in the political history of Ethiopia. It is the day that heralded a new democratic epoch in the country. It ushered in a new political climate where nation embarked the road to peace, democracy and development, buried all sorts of exploitation and oppression which prevailed for almost a millennium.
The intensified struggle of the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and people led and organized by the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) abolished all sorts of exploitation and oppression at this historic day-May28.
At this historic moment, EPRDF did not immediately hold the political power in spite of the fact that it dismantled the Dergue and controlled the entire security of the nation. Rather, it called for all political parties, military groups, people’s representatives, clan elders, intellectuals etc to from a transitional government of Ethiopia. The Transitional Federal Government was formed and it formulated a Transitional Charter as well. This Charter was the supreme law of the land during that Transitional period. Article 2 of the Peaceful and Democratic Transitional Conference of Ethiopia states that “the right of nations, nationalities and peoples to self-determination is affirmed. To this end each nation, nationality and people is guaranteed the right to:
a/ preserve its identity and have it respected, promote its culture and history and use and develop its language, b/ Administer its own affairs with in its own defined territory and effectively participate in the central government on the basis of freedom, and fair and proper representation; c/ Exercise its right to self-determination of independence when the concerned nation, nationality and people is convinced that the above rights are denied, abridged or abrogated.”
This heralded the equality of all the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples in the political history of the nation. This was not only the equal recognition of each Ethiopian nation, nationality and people but also each nation, nationality and people was constitutionally ensured its right to self-determination. This article was the landmark for the emergence of democracy in the country.
Moreover paragraph 2 of article 12 of the same material briefly indicates that “The Transitional Government shall handover power to the party or parties that gain a majority in the National Assembly.” This article, for the first time in the political history of the nation, recognized the practical importance of multi-party political system. This is the real result of the remarkable sacrifices which the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples paid for.
Furthermore, article 17 of this Charter states that” It [the transitional government] shall make special efforts to dispel ethnic mistrust and eradicate the ethnic hatred that have been fostered by the previous regimes.” Yes, one of the main duties of the Transitional Government was to sow seeds of equality, love, fraternality, belongingness, tolerance, mutual understanding and economic, social and political integrity of the nation on the basis of the free will and full involvement of all the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples. These all were the transitional fruits of the unreserved struggle of all Ethiopians which came over on 28May 1991.
The Transitional Federal Government came to an end in the year 1994 with the proclamation of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The Transitional Federal Government peacefully handed over its political power for the constitutionally established government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. This was the first peaceful transition of political power in the political history of the nation.
The Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia laid fertile ground to effectively solve the deep-rooted and interwoven political, social, economic and legal challenges that the nation faced for ages.
This constitution consists of the principal international instruments of human rights and fundamental freedoms for the first time in the political history of the nation. Moreover, all the sovereign power constitutionally resides in the hands of the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia. The constitution has become the supreme law of the land. That is, supremacy of the law is constitutionally ensured. State and religion are separated. Furthermore, government’s Transparency and accountability is constitutionally framed.
The equality of all persons before the law is also constitutionally ensured. Any discrimination or segregation on the grounds of race, nation, nationality or other social origin, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, property, birth or other status is constitutionally and practically prohibited.
Every one has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion without any intervention. Moreover, citizens’ rights of opinion and expression are constitutionally guaranteed. Freedom of the press is also protected as per the constitution. As a result, several diversified private press has been flourished.
Citizens’ rights of assembly, demonstration, petitions and freedoms of association and movement are constitutionally respected. The equality of women with that of men in any affairs is also guaranteed. Moreover, the constitution endowed every citizen the right to bring a justifiable matter to, and obtain a decision or judgment by, a court of law or any other competent body with judicial power. Citizens’ right to vote and to be elected is constitutionally ensured with out any discrimination on the grounds of color, race nation, nationality, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, or other status etc. These all are the victories of may 28.
Furthermore, every nation, nationality and people in Ethiopia has unconditional right to serf-determination including the right to secession. It has also a constitutional right to speak, to write and to develop its own language; to express, to develop and to promote its culture and to preserve its history. The constitution has also granted adequate power to the lowest units of government to enable the people to directly participate in the administration of such administration units. Moreover, an independent judiciary system is constitutionally established. Generally speaking, citizens’ basic human and democratic rights and their fundamental freedoms are constitutionally ensured.
All the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples are fully involved in the formulation and implementation of the policies, strategies and programs that directly or indirectly affect them. The government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia consciously recognizes the real importance of popular participation including in policy formulation and implementation matters.
Today, all the Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples together with their government are effectively working to meet the vision of the nation: to see Ethiopia becomes a country where democratic rule and good governance reign up on the free will and full involvement of its peoples, social justice prevail, and being emancipated from poverty, becomes a middle income country.
This is the common objective of the Ethiopian nations, nationalities, and peoples and the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Ethiopians are working hard to eradicate poverty, back wardens, ignorance and maladministration from the country and thereby realize the Renaissance of the nation. The Ethiopian nations, nationalities and peoples and the government as well are convincing that intensifying their struggle against poverty would enable nation to uphold the glorious deeds of the martyrs to the cause of freedom and justice.
Thanks to our Martyrs, our Renaissance is coming soon!!
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