Denial of peaceful rallies in Tigrai in violation of FDRE constitutionBy Berhane Kahsay
Tigrai Online Oct. 23, 2019
The adage, old habits die hard amply reveals the dire political reality in Tigrai, and the people have been crying-out loud for prompt rectification as failure to do so is very likely to trigger a cataclysm of epic proportion. Time is of the essence…. and the governing party can no longer delay liberalisation by citing external foes ad nauseam and hope to continue trampling citizens inalienable rights indefinitely.
Last week, two legitimate demonstrations were called to back university students unwilling to go to Amhara region, where students have been stoned to death because of their ethnicity and----- to demand immediate legal measures against the perpetrators who committed gruesome rapes in Western Tigrai with complete latitude.
Refusing their legal entitlements to take to the streets is wholly unacceptable, and what is dumbfounding is that, this is transpiring in a region where politicians of the ruling party have been insistently and vociferously indicting the central government for desecrating the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Not agreeing to requests for peaceful rallies of no political nature can only be ascribed as a shameful double standard of the highest degree. It will be wrong of the TPLF to believe that it can prolong its hold on power by denying the constitutional rights of the people it represents.
Of course, Tigrai faces a serious existential threat but this should not be used as a pretext to sweep the glaring internal problems which require immediate attention under the carpet. If the party in government desires to retain the solid support of the populace and ward-off external adversaries, the issues of chronic lack of democracy, corruption and mal-administration can no longer be back-burnered.
Persisting with the existing state of affairs would certainly compel the people to take the law into their own hands resulting in a turmoil which our mortal foes have repeatedly strived to elicit but failed. The chauvinists are hoping for a crisis in Tigrai, and if the TPLF endures with its habitual strong-arm tactics, their prayers will no doubt be answered. This would be a sad day for Tigrians who have been economically and politically overlooked for nearly three decades after having fought for 17 years for justice, democracy and economic prosperity.
Preventing peaceful rallies from proceeding is a clear violation of FDRE statute. This is a privilege bestowed by Article 30(1) of the constitution which clearly states that: ‘’Everyone has the right to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peaceably and unarmed, and to petition. Appropriate regulations may be made in the interest of public convenience relating to the location of open- air meetings and the route of movement of demonstrators or, for the protection of democratic rights, public morality and peace during such a meeting or demonstration.’’
It is patently palpable that the right to assemble is sacrosanct and can’t be allowed or disallowed on the whims of the pertinent regional authorities. What transpired in Mekelle last week was a gross defilement of the constitution and must not be allowed to set a precedent. All concerned should come together and ensure nothing of the sort happens again by protesting in the strongest possible terms. It is now high time for the formation of a non-partisan civil society organisation that would champion women’s rights as the Tigray Women’s Affairs Bureau and others linked to the governing party have not taken the stage to publicly remonstrate against the offenders involved in raping up-to 50 women in Western Tigrai. Moreover, the officials in Mekelle that refuse to sanction both rallies should be held accountable and if applicable relived from their duties forthwith.