Current state of the Judiciary in Ethiopia
By Berhane Kahsay
Ethiopian News, Tigrai Online, November 25, 2015
The political activist, Reyot Alemu, who masquerades as a ‘journalist’ has been released in July this year. In the above photo shortly after she got out of prison talking to Professor Mesfin Woldemariam who says Eritrea has better government than Ethiopia.
It is very encouraging indeed to note the progress of the judiciary in the metropolis over the last twenty-four years. In the AU capital, there have been obvious signs that this branch of government appears to be functioning without the interference of the executive and legislative bodies.
The political activist, Reyot Alemu, who masquerades as a ‘journalist’ has been released in July this year after serving four years of a five year term for belonging to a proscribed terror group. Her initial sentence was 14 years but this was reduced to 5 years after her appeal to the Supreme Court that she loathes with incredible intensity was successful. Ms Alemu is currently touring the US to re-kindle her destructive political activities against ‘Woyane’ on behalf of the foot soldiers of the despised Eritrean dictator who is believed to be terminally ill.
‘Zone 9 Bloggers’ who were allegedly conspiring to foment a ‘colour’ uprising under the directives of the outlawed outfit G-7 have also been released recently after the courts cleared them of all the charges and the state has accepted the verdict with great reservations. Eleven of the twenty-nine Muslim activists that appear to have been sponsored by Saudi Wahabians to violently remove the government and impose Sharia Law have been freed by the Federal High Court as well. The remaining have received jail terms and their lawyers have lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Other caustic activists that have been released by a criminal Bench include Abraha Desta who has remained in custody for contempt of court that set him free. But the holocaust justifier Eskinder Nega and others like him have remained behind bars as the state had been able to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. If the courts release defendants that have been indicted by the state for being a serious threat to the stability and security of the nation, why do the extremists question the independence of the judiciary? When would the state intrude then if it was not in such prominent cases? But it would be completely erroneous to attribute the discharge of these defendants to the intervention of the United States; if this was the case, how come Eskinder and other zealots like him still in prison?
Unfortunately, the quality of judiciary and delivery of justice in other regions of the country is lagging far behind and requires urgent redressing to level out the disparity that exists otherwise the persistent economic growth as well as progress on democracy and the rule of law could seriously be endangered. A two-tier system has no place in a nation that endured 17 years of brutal military dictatorship where freedom and justice never existed. What we should have instead is a one nation approach with respect to the dispensation of justice and the presence of eminent judiciary that would stand up to the executive and legislative branches of the state.
But we have to be mindful of the fact that the FDRE was only established 24 years ago, and in such a short period time, we should not expect miracles; but within this period, there have been significant leaps in terms of delivery of justice compared to what it was during the predecessors of the current administration. It is pretty obvious that immediate action is need to address the problems but it would be of immense benefit to remind ourselves the experiences of other countries as this would indicate how far we have come since 1991.
African-Americans were only allowed to exercise their right to vote when the Voting Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon Johnson on August 6, 1965. The US adopted a democratic constitution in 1788 but black Americans were disfranchised until 50 years ago. In Switzerland direct democracy was implemented in 1848 but women were only allowed to vote in 1971. In France they were permitted to participate in elections in 1944 although democracy was introduced in 1790. Ethiopia is also going through a similar experience and it is absolutely certain that it would be a full-fledge democracy in its own time.
The extremists would like to have us believe that Ethiopia’s anti- terrorism bill was introduced to extend the life of the ‘’repressive’’ regime by stifling democracy and freedom of expression. This is far from the truth; they know full well that the only motive was to protect the people from indigenous and foreign terrorists and to maintain the prevailing peace and stability that has delivered consecutive economic growth. In light of the recent massacres in France and other parts of the world, the bill has to be toughened up to thwart sophisticated terror groups from causing havoc.
But one thing is clear--- the anti-terrorism legislation has dealt a severe blow to the pseudo-journalists and barred groups who hanker for the return of the previous heavily centralised mode of government that gravely threatened the entity of the Ethiopia state. The vast majority of the so-called ‘journalists’ hail from a single ethnic group that ruled the country for over 100 years and made her the basket case of the world. The elite descendants of ‘Tikur Saw’ would attempt to undo the achievements recorded so far but the Ethiopian people would fiercely oppose it as they perfectly understand that this would gravely jeopardise the cohesion of the nation.
Ethiopia was down and out when the present government took over, but with a lot of hard work and perseverance, the country has now risen in the diplomatic, economic and military spheres, and various international monetary institutions have predicted that it would soon become the third largest prosperous nation in Africa.
In America and Europe, the anti-terrorism laws have been made far more stringent and widespread than in Ethiopia. The UK government has given its spies and police force a range of powers which include accessing phone and internet connection records, hacking computers, phones and other devices to name but a few. Some say these powers have gone too far and others argue for their need in order to preserve the democrat system, way of life and wellbeing of the people. Why then some in the international community have been exerting pressure on Ethiopia to repeal its moderate law on terrorism? They have put in place a tough and wide-ranging legislation to protect their own people, why can’t we?
Now let us revert to the main theme of this piece and confidently state that the judiciary in Ethiopia has definitely come a long way and this is set to get better as transparency, good governance, economic prosperity and the availability of adequate pool of qualified judges nation-wide improves. Also important in the development of the justice system are functioning and loyal opposition, and extremists- free- press that can expose injustices. Equally, the need for a watchful parliament and constitutional framework that demarcates the powers of the legislative, the executive and the judiciary can’t be over stated.
The overall picture of Ethiopia is very positive and promising indeed. GTP2 would further improve the situation by shifting the thrust of the economy from agriculture to industry. And during this period, the country would generate USD 16 billion in export revenue and the manufacturing sector would account for 25% of the total export. By the end of the five year plan, annual food production would be increased from 270 to 406 million quintals. Other plans expected to be executed during the life of GTP2 include the construction of 700,000 condominiums as well as 11 new universities taking the total number of state owned institutions of higher education to over 40.
We have to thank the gallant and selfless fighters of the TPLF for making this possible. In the United Kingdom, each year at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, two minutes silence is observed to honour those who gave their lives during world wars for freedom and justice. It is called Poppy-Day or Remembrance Day, and during this occasion, everything comes to a standstill. Why not a similar honour in Ethiopia to the 70,000 Woyane martyrs who perished for justice, equality and economic prosperity?