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The legitimization of unconstitutional changes of government

By Bereket Gebru
Tigrai Onlne - March 28, 2014

The end of the 20th century and the start of the 21st century have been marked by much more pronounced international relations. Both the cross border individual and interstate relation sections of international relations have seen exponential improvements over the past quarter of a century.

Many attempts have been underway to organize color revolution in Ethiopia but all failed and what that entails for the future of Ethiopia. - Tigrai Online

This has in large been attributed to the end of the cold war and the subsequent revolutionary achievements in information and communication technology. The impact of such leaps in ICT on individuals is reflected in the increased connectivity between people. Much easier access to wireless telecommunications technology along with the spread of mailing services and social media over the World Wide Web have brought people together. It is considerably easier and cheaper nowadays to contact people living at any point in the world. 

Despite the obvious uses of such technologies though, people have started to consider these technological achievements as schemes to infringe on their privacy and not just as technological innovations that make communication easier. That is largely because of the corporate and governmental espionage associated with the services.

Therefore, the technological boom is not just used to make life easier for all of human kind but to spy on us all and consolidate the power of those who are already on the zenith of it.

Interstate relations within this era of human history have also grown closer than ever. The political, economic and social ties between states have grown so much and the world has tried to align itself along a set of common ideals. The ideals of democracy, multiparty system and participatory free elections make up the political common goals while those of free markets and privatization constitute the economic benchmarks. The creation of a liberal secular society characterizes what has generally been portrayed as a global social endeavor.

Although these ideals have not democratically been adopted by all states in the international system, the powerful states and social groups have not refrained from shoving these ideals down the throats of the rest of the world. In practice, therefore, the world has descended to a system where bullies force both state and non-state actors into adopting greed-serving moves of political, economic and social nature as the ideals to be upheld by all.

The pronounced interrelationship between states in this era means that the political, economic and social leverage of foreign forces on a state is enormous. For instance, the increased economic integration of the world leaves most states on the receiving end of the harsh realities that follow economic foul play by the economic bullies. In general, not complying with the greed-serving “directives” of the bullies would be met with swift and crushing blows from them.  

The trend of politically bullying legitimate regimes to give away state power to those who serve the interests of the most powerful states and social groups in such a way that it could be mistaken for a popular uprising is the topic to be dealt with in this article of two parts. Sometimes happening in the form of what has become known as color revolution, the unconstitutional change of legitimate governments has taken center stage in the developing world.

Ever since the start of the 1990s, the world has witnessed a wave of unconstitutional changes of government. During this period, increased interstate relations have often than not been expressed in terms of interference in the internal affairs of states by “the international community”.

With every passing year, the role allotted for “the international community” has increased from a license to interfere in cases where a nation is invaded by another one, as in the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1991, to warnings and outright attack for forcefully suppressing a popular revolt as in the case of Libya in 2011.

Off course the meaning of some of the terms we hear on a daily basis from the western media is quite the opposite of what they really stand for. The term “international community” for instance, really refers to the western states that go beyond their way to protect the interests of the corporate machine even if they stand in conflict with the interests of their own people. International law is another term frequently used out of context as it normally means whatever these states have decided to carry out.

In contrast some other words that states had a pretty good grasp on have vanished from the scene of international politics. The first one of such words is sovereignty. After making a corner stone of international politics for so long, the concept of sovereignty has almost suddenly evaporated off the mix of international relations.

Although the pressure has always been there for centuries now, the last couple of decades have infringed on the days when states enjoyed independence from the international corporate and governmental actors in their decisions on political and economic issues.

Whether it be pressure from state actors in the west or from the international banking cartel represented by World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the domestic policies of developing countries have been hijacked to serve the internationalist goals of a handful of powerful and wealthy people behind the scenes.

With exploitation centered political and economic moves directed by the west towards the developing world, the alleviation of poverty and the achievement of development have become even more daunting than they used to be.

The last quarter of a century has been proof of the contemporary reality that those controlling state power in the developing world, regardless of how they have come to power, would be ousted by moves orchestrated by the west if they would not hand their country’s resources over to “international investors”.


With a recent Oxfam report stating that half of the world’s wealth is owned by just about a hundred people, the leverage of the world’s financial oligarchy on who comes to power when in every part of the world is at its peak. From the United States of America to the poorest countries in the world, the financial oligarchy determines who comes to power.

Their boundless economic might helps them pick politicians who can promote their interests and elevate them to the height of state power in the most developed nations. With the political apparatus in their hands, they unleash the power of the mainstream media to paint any picture they want about different situations and individuals.

Considering the media in the developing world also use news agencies like Reuters and the Associated Press that are owned by the most elite of the financial oligarchs to inform their people of international affairs, the picture they paint becomes international.

With reinvigorated international access after the cold war, the western media have managed to set the agenda of the oligarchs comprehensively worldwide. By providing much skewed reports and explanations on political and economic developments in various countries in a way that promoted the interests of the financial oligarchs, the western media have played their part in shaping opinions.

While explaining this role of the media, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in their book entitled, “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media”, state:

“The triumph of Capitalism and the increasing power of those with an interest in privatization and market rule have strengthened the grip of market ideology, at least among the elite, so that regardless of evidence, markets are assumed to be benevolent and even democratic (“market populism” in Thomas Frank’s phrase) and nonmarket mechanisms are suspect, although exceptions are allowed when private firms need subsidies, bailouts and government help in doing business abroad. When the Soviet economy stagnated in the 1980s, it was attributed to the absence of markets; when capitalist Russia disintegrated in the 1990s, this was blamed not on the now ruling market but on politicians’ and workers’ failure to let markets work their magic. Journalism has internalized this ideology.”

Through a firm grip of the politicians in the most powerful of nations and an extensive use of their media outlets to influence public opinion worldwide, the financial oligarchs of the west have put themselves ahead of any national interests. This fact has, in turn, meant that regimes in the developing world are in increasing numbers forced to adhere to directions from these bullies or face a concerted international effort to get them out of power.

The African Union (AU) Draft Report on the UN-AU Partnership on Peace and Security: Towards Greater Strategic Political Coherence, 2011, for instance, noted that by the end of 1998, only 39 per cent of 48 sub-Sahara African countries enjoyed stable political conditions and good governance; 23 per cent faced political crisis and turbulence, and 38 per cent were engaged in armed conflict or civil strife (African Union 2011: Para 15) as witnessed in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and Cote d'Ivoire.

The report further states that the effect of these conflicts and other security challenges such as unconstitutional changes of government have contributed to worsening economic challenges. It then reports of estimates pointing to a combined loss of around $300bn since 1990 by a number of conflict-affected African countries, with an average annual loss of around $18bn as a result of wars, civil wars, and insurgencies.

Considering armed conflicts are often very protracted spanning decades, the western elite have designed new less conflict prone methods of ousting governments in the developing world. The widely used option has come to be known as color revolution while there have still been some instances of unconstitutional change of government that are quite different from color revolution.

The second part of this article will be dealing with the major methods used to organize these unconstitutional changes of government and consider the recent change of government in Ukraine as an instance of legitimization of unconstitutional changes. It will then consider the various attempts that have been underway to organize color revolution in Ethiopia and what that entails for the future of the country.

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