Abiy Ahmed’s political challenge and survival after the end of September 2020 Editorial Ethioobserver
By Bereket Kiros
Tigrai Online Sept. 16, 2020
Ethiopia is Africa’s 2nd populous nation home to more than 100 million people. It is as such a pivotal country, and its fate affects that of the entire continent. While Abiy’s initial move surprised many, received Nobel Peace Prize, got wide media coverage and considerable praises, his administration subsequently backtracking has been largely abandoned by the gullible media. In any democratic society, amendment or review of the constitution is a long-term issue that needs commitment and engagement on the part of those elected and electorate. It is now clear that Abiy has made up his mind to extend his term in office with the help of the rubber stamp election commission and parliament. He continues to mask broken promises and harmful polices with high sounding rhetoric and his solo gospel.
We Tigraian’s are endowed with the indomitable spirit and commitment for truth, justice, and equality as our foremost foundation. It is ridiculous currently to seek legitimacy without having one that PP asks for a legitimacy by manipulating the institutional organs, showing its utter contempt and insult of the Ethiopian Constitution. Therefore, Ethiopia deserves much more attention because Abiy represents a complete erosion of the federal system as a flashpoint of instability and failure.
The grave mistakes made by the government of Abiy Ahmed and his Prosperity Party (PP) have already resulted in high scale of corruption, mass unemployment, increased social unrest, and total disappointment by the Ethiopian populace at large although their expectations of the change was high but failed miserably due to the incompetence of the ex-spy chief and colonel Abiy’s incapacity to lead the country. Ethiopia faces serious challenges in its political stability and internal ethno-religious and reginal divisions.
Many observers are fearful about the fate of Ethiopia and the ultimate breakup and disintegration. After the successful Tigrai state election, the PM has found himself in the middle of downward spiraling problems. Dahl’s definition of democracy is ‘a society in which ordinary citizens exert a relatively high degree of control over leaders’ (Dahl, 1956: 3). Without the rule of law and check and balance system, there can be no democratic society. All members including those in power are subject to the law in any country including Ethiopia.
Responsibility will not be complete until those in authority are accountable to the electorate. The rule of law makes all and even the leaders to respect the constitution of the land because no man is above the law and everyone regardless of rank are a subject to the norms, rules, regulations and institutions. The parliament the very institution to represent the voters properly cannot be sidelined so that the executive cannot legislate by decree like absolute monarchs but should be held accountable for its actions by the stakeholders, i.e. the citizens. Any change of the constitution must be approved by the voters.
Respect to the rule of law is an important characteristic of democracy and its exercise of good governance and trust in any society. The meaning that democracy is a government by the people in which the supreme power is vested on the people and applied directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system was once defined by Abraham Lincoln, a onetime American President, that democracy is a government of the people by the people and for the people.
Article 9 (3) of the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia states “It is prohibited to assume state power in any manner other than through election.” Article 54 (1) says: “Members of the House of Peoples’ Representatives shall be elected by the People for a term of five years on the basis of universal suffrage and by direct, free and fair elections held by secret ballot.” Article 67 (2) of the constitution reaffirms the same point.
Article 39 of the constitution is non-negotiable and supersedes the National Electoral Board’s role overseeing votes. Any election delay beyond the constitutional deadline, even given the pandemic and the House of Federation’s decision on the matter, breaches the constitution. Public discussions, free and fair elections are regarded as essentials because they are the driving forces for achieving the consent of the people and democratic order.
Tigray people are in their best position as also the Constitution stipulates that self-rule gives them absolute right to hold regional elections regardless of the federal authorities. In line with the granted law on self-determination, Tigrai held its National Regional State Government Election on September 9th, 2020. On September 5th, 2020, the Upper House, a branch of the Federal Parliamentary Assembly convened at the last minute to pronounce the upcoming election as illegal and the results thereof as null and void.
The newly established regional electoral commission of Tigrai has announced earlier that five political parties and 11 individual candidates have registered to take part in the regional election. Elections are a vital part of the democratic processes including, political transitions, social and economic transformations leading to the consolidation of democracy, which the people of Tigrai were longing for. This abnormal stand from the federal authorities of interdicting people to exercise their right to elect their own representatives has never been seen in any country not even those who has/had the semblance of democracy.
There were five political parties running for offices throughout Tigrai, given the situation at hand with rigorous security for any eventual interference from inimical forces. The election in Tigrai is a constitutionally sanctioned right that the government of Tigrai has chosen to defend for its residents while the federal government chose to abandon the democratic rights for the rest of the country to hold elections. Tigray expressed its desire to run election and scheduled it for September 9, 2020 and close to 2.7 million residents of the Sate of Tigrai exercised their vote.
Historical experience shows that an autocracy can only be brought down by the people’s will that rocks the very foundations of the system. The current modifications made to the election laws were intended to extend and favor Abiy Ahmed and make sure to give him victory through rigging the ballots. The Tigrai people are exemplary on how to fight a self-centered, dictatorial and visionless system in the hope of helping every nation and nationality to achieve justice, democracy, and freedom.
In the end, however, our own history and that of other societies show again and again that it is only when people strongly organize on the streets and workplaces that real change can be won as the Tigrean people showed their determination to gain liberty and triumph over tyranny and other vices.
Steve Biko in one of his interviews reproduced in Write What I like, describes a confrontation with his jailors “if you guys want to do this your way, “you have got to handcuff me and bind my feet together, so that I cannot respond. And I am afraid you may have to kill me in the process even if it is not your intention.” Biko died in prison, having written his own inscription “It is better to die for an idea that lives than to live for an idea that dies”.
We have a choice to travel through the long and arduous journey of democracy to benefit ourselves or to rally behind a turncoat, pretentious and manipulative leader with no clear vision or roadmap submerging Ethiopia into total chaos. We Tigrayans and friends alike congratulate the people of Tigrai for upholding steadfastly their constitutional right. Let us not be captive by the emotional outburst and rhetoric of Abiy’s vulgar and unbridled tongue and his cronies. As said let the dogs bark, the caravan moves on.