Examining the Current Demands of Ethiopian Muslims in light of the Constitutional Provisions

Over the past year we have witnessed a lot of political turmoil in the Arab world and the rest of Africa. Particularly, in Maghreb Region including Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, there are unprecedented changes that swept the North Africa States in a very short time. Now in these countries, there is a shift from, at least, one man rule to rule by some people. Although situations seem to be better than ever, nobody still certainly knows where the revolution ends up and how far the positive changes could sustain. This uncertainty is created by, among other things, the coming of allegedly extremist religious political parties, specifically in Egypt, into power. Radical religious groups have also gone into clash with secularists in Tunisia for enormous times. In these countries, it is however legally permissible to establish a political party which seeks to even stake out an administration guided by religious rules. There is no thus any legal prohibition that bars people whatever they may be radicalists from forming a religious political party. 

In recent days, we all know that there is somehow different crisis hobbling in our country between Ethiopian Muslims who have been protesting for the last couple of months and the Ethiopian government. The Ethiopian Muslims accuse the government of meddling in their religious affairs by extending its control on Muslim Council (Mejlis) which they claim does not represent them. The government on the other hand has been retorting their claim and accusing the leaders of the protest for spreading radicalism in the Muslim community with a political agenda behind their protest. Both sides claim to have evidences for their allegations. I do not intend to investigate on whose side there is more credible evidence. But I want to just focus on the legal aspect of the protest based on the assumptions that both sides are right and what both allege is true.

To begin with the protestors’ side, they argued that they have constitutional right to choose their leaders without the interference of the government in a place and manner that they want. And also the government is stepping out of the legality border, which proclaims the separation of state and religion, by encouraging the spread of a new sect dubbed “Ahbash”. Their accusation taken independently should be seen in light of article 11 of the Ethiopian Constitution. Article 11 ensures the separation of State and religion and proscribes that neither the state nor religion interferes in their respective affairs. Obviously, the representation and administration of Muslims in the Mejlis is clearly a religious affair. It should be solely left to the believers to choose who they want and be represented by whosoever they think promotes their religious values.

This right is also fostered by article 27 of the Constitution which declares that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include the freedom to hold or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and the freedom, either individually or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.” In the second paragraph of the same article, believers have also the right to establish institutions of religious education and administration in order to propagate and organize their religion. However, this right, specifically, the freedom to manifest one’s own religion is not absolute right and may be limited by law when it is necessary to protect public safety, peace, health, education, public morality or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, and to ensure the independence of the state from religion(article 27 (6)).

Having this, when we examine the allegation of the protesters, it would blatantly become illegal for the government to intervene in the election process of the Council or encourage Ahbash sect. Its interference on the freedom to manifest religion which arguably includes the organization and administration of the Council could only be legally justified if it can show that there is a threat against the national security, public safety, peace, health, education, public morality and the rights and freedoms of others. The interference in the election process for the listed grounds could be legitimized when there is also no other alternative to do away with the threats. Therefore, the government contention that the leaders of the protest are teaching radicalism and propagating violence could only serve as a ground for its interference if it does not have any other option to trammel those actors. It should also be noted that, the act of encouraging the teaching of Ahbash cannot even be justified on the listed grounds of national security or public safety and security since it does not comport to the letter and spirit of the constitution. In addition, the way the right is understood in the jurisprudence of international human rights bodies is that any limitation on freedom of religion should be limited to the freedom to "manifest" one`s own religion. The government`s support of the so called Ahbash teaching thus cannot in any case be interpreted as a restriction against such freedom to "manifest"

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Adjudication of FDRE Constitution

 

Ethiopia, embracing Federal system of governmental structure with the objective of creating a country of equal Nations, Nationalities and peoples and to put an end to authoritarian rule by democratizing the Ethiopian state and society as a whole, this being a precondition for durable peace and development. The constitution of Ethiopia explicitly acknowledges that the federal government and the states shall have the three governmental organ of legislative, executive and judiciary (Article 50(2)). The Ethiopian Constitution mandated the second chamber – the House of the Federation, a non-legislative house – with the authority to interpret the constitution (Article 62, 83 and 84). Comparatively speaking the mandate given to the House of the Federation in Ethiopia is exercised by the courts in general and of the Supreme Court in particular in case of United States and India, in case of Germany, this task is exercised by a special Constitutional Court. “In Switzerland the power of interpreting the Constitution is divided between the federal tribunal and the people. The former is empowered to decide the constitutionality of the laws of cantons, while the latter decide the constitutionality of the federal laws”. 

This paper will try to assess an overview of Ethiopian constitutional adjudication on a bird’s eye view and will continue to look at in to other countries model in relation with federal system of governmental structure alike to Ethiopia and provide an explanation and detail analysis of the mandate and function of the House of the Federation – a second chamber responsible to interpret constitution and solve disputes happen between states. Finally I will conclude by summarizing the whole idea of this paper and recommending my point of analysis.

 

2.1. AN OVERVIEW OF ADJUDICATION OF FEDERAL DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF EHTIOPIA’S CONSTITUTION

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What Do We Need To Be Reminded Of?

“The great American word is freedom, and in particular freedom of thought, speech and assembly.” Robert M. Hutchins

All freedoms are a single freedom- one and indivisible, although people consider one freedom as more important than the others. The above quote from Robert Hutchins is the sole spirit of the First Amendment to the American constitution. This First Amendment lumps together the freedom of religion, of speech and the press, of assembly, and of petition. Many people consider the freedom of speech as the most important strand. “It includes not just the words that come out of a person’s mouth but the freedom to think the thoughts behind the words, and the freedom to put them down on paper or to express them in some other way”. This is why the Americans put a higher value on their Constitution and all of its Amendments – because it is the document that guarantees the respect of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

One needs to keep this kind of document “where children do not reach”. Nothing should contravene the constitution and if it does, it will be of no effect in the cases of most constitutions, if not all. If, in the course of time, something new and something unforeseeable and fundamental to the well being and good of the people happened, any constitution goes through amendment. “The Constitution was intended to ‘keep step with the march of the age’ and should not hamper social or economic experimentation”. This is why the US constitution went through more than 25 amendments. However, if any other law, customary practice or decision of an organ of state or public official contravenes the constitution without keeping the proper procedure of constitutional amendment, it implies gross unconstitutionality.

We are not new for unconstitutional legislation, albeit multitude of reasons and justifications are given to legitimize them. But however, we are new to see the highest government officials of the country contravene the constitution blatantly. Having three Deputy Prime Ministers while the constitution clearly provides one Prime Minister and one Deputy Prime Minister is not a good sign of constitutionality. This is bad, even if we take out the precedential effect of it. This is bad even for our country. Something is wrong when the organ who is bestowed with the duty to ensure the observance of the constitution and at the same time the duty to obey it disregards his duty.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935), a.k.a “The Great Dissenter” was a very devoted champion of the freedom of speech and of expression in the American history. This man felt strongly that Americans needed to be reminded of the importance of the First Amendment and he once said, “We have grown so accustomed to the enjoyments of these rights that we forget they had to be fought for and may have to be fought for again.

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Constitutionality of Constitutional Interpretation Uncontestable

In his viewpoint article headlined, “Unconstitutional Declaration of Unconstitutionality” (Volume 14, Number 719, February 9, 2014) posted at addis fortune, Mulugeta Argawi argued that the latest constitutional interpretation of Melaku Fenta’s case is unconstitutional, in and of itself. His argument rests on Article 84 (2) of the Constitution. I believe that it is important to counter his argument by focusing on the laws themselves.

Mulugeta’s criticism rotates around the purely legalistic thinking that a court of law cannot entertain any constitutional matter until such a time that either of the parties raise the issue, which should, in turn, be disputed and contested by the other.

But this is true only in a civil suit. It does not hold water in issues of constitutional interpretation.

Constitutional interpretation is not about litigation or jurisdiction. It is all about maintaining constitutionalism. Of course, there are varying mechanisms of interpreting constitutions, but even then, courts do not follow civil procedures.

Let us take the US constitutional tradition, for example. Even though all courts have parallel power to review and decide on issues of constitutionality, there should not necessarily be two litigants fighting for a case. Many cases have been raised as issues of constitutional rights (and hence constitutional interpretations), which were not exactly cases of one party against the other.

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የኦሮሚያ ልዩ ጥቅም ከአዲስ አበባ ምን ሊሆን ይችላል

 

በሀገራችን በቅርብ ጊዜየቶች ውስጥ በተደጋጋሚ እየተነሱ ከሚገኙ ጉዳዮች እና የሕግ እና የፓለቲካ ተዋንያንን እያነጋገር ያለው አንዱ ጉዳይ የኦሮሚያ ብሔራዊ ክልላዊ መንግሥት ከአዲስ አበባ ከተማ ሊኖረው ይገባል በሚል በኢፌድሪ ሕገ-መንግሥት አንቀጽ 49 (5) የተቀመጠውን ልዩ ጥቅም የተመለከተው ድንጋጌ ነው፡፡በሕገ-መንግሥቱ ላይ የተቀመጠውን ድንጋጌ አንዳንድ ሰዎች እንደሚያነሱት በሀገሪቷ ውስጥ ያሉትን ሰለማዊ የሆኑ ህዝቦች አብረው ሲኖሩ የነበሩትን ግንኙነት ለማበላሸት እና ልዩነትን ለማጉላት በሚል የተቀመጠ ድንጋጌ አድርገው የሚመለከቱ ሲሆን ሌሎች ደግሞ ይህ ድንጋጌ በሀገሪቷ ውስጥ የነበረውን ተጨባጭ የህዝቦች ችግር ለመፍታት በሚል የገባ ችግር ፈቺ እና ምክንያቲያው ድንጋጌ እንደሆነ አድርገው ይገልጹታል፡፡ በዚህ ሕገ-መንግሥታዊ ድንጋጌ ላይ ሕገ-መንግሥቱ ለሕገ-መንግሥት አርቃቂ ጉባኤ ቀርቦ በሚታይበት ወቅትም ቢሆን የተለያዩ ሀሳቦች የተነሰቡት እና በሃላም ላይ ድንጋጌው ተቀባይነት አግኝቶ የጸደቀበት ሁኔታ ነው ያለው፡፡ በዚህ ጽሁፍ ውስጥ በሕገ-መንግሥቱ ላይ የተደነገገው የኦሮሚያ ብሔራዊ ክልላዊ መንግሥት ልዩ ጥቅም በአዲስ አበባ አለው የሚለው ድንጋጌ ይዘት ላይ ምን እንደሆነ እና ምን እንዳልሆነ፤ እነዚህን ልዩ ጥቅሞች በስራ ላይ ለማዋል በሚታሰብበት ውቅት ታሳቢ ሊደረጉ ስለሚገባቸው ጉዳዮች በመግለጽ ለውይይት የሚሆን መነሻ ሀሳብ ማቅረብ ነው፡፡

የኦሮሞ ህዝብ የብዙ ሺህ ዘመናት አኩሪ ታሪክ ያለው፤ ዘመናው የዲሞክራሲ እሴቶች የሆኑ የመንግሥት አመራር እና አስተዳደር የነበራቸው፤ የራሱ የዘመናት አቆጣጠር፤ አኩሪ ባህላዊ እሴቶች ያሉት ህዝብ ነው፡፡ይህ ህዝብ እንደማናኛውም ህዝብ የነበረው ስልጣኔ እየወደቀ እየተነሳ፤ ከሌሎች ጎረቤት ህዝቦች ጋር ሰላማዊ የሆነ ተቻችሎ የመኖር ባህሪያቶችን ይዞ የኖረ እና እየኖረ የሚገኝ ህዝብ ነው ቢሆንም የራሱን ባህል፤ ቋንቋ ታሪክ እና ሌሎች የማንነት መገለጫዎች እንደ ሃላ ቀር በመቅጠር በፊት የነበሩት የንጉሳዊያን አስተዳደሮች በህዝቡ ላይ እጅግ አሳዛኝ እና ታሪክ ሊረሳው የማይችል ድርጊት ሲፈጽሙ ቆይተዋል፡፡ሕዝቡ ሲፈጸሙበት የነበሩትን ድርጊቶች አንዳንዴ በተደራጃ እና በአብዛኛው በተበታተነ መልኩ ሲታገል እና ሲቃወም ቆይቶ ራሱ በላካቸው ወኪሎቹ መሰረት በ1987 ዓ.ም የጸደቀውን የኢፌደሪ ሕገ-መንግሥት የክልል ባለቤት ሊሆን ችሎዋል፡፡ ህዝቡ የራሱ የሆነ ክልል እንዲኖረው ማድረጉ ብቻ ሳይሆን ከሌሎች ብሄር ብሄረሰቦች እና የተለያዩ ክልላዊ አስተዳደሮች ጋር ሊኖረው ስለሚገባው ግንኙት ምን መምሰል እንዳበት በሕገ-መንግሥቱ ላይ ደንግጎዋል፡፡ በዚህ አግባብ በሕገ-መንግሥቱ ላይ ከተቀመጡት መሰረታዊ ጉዳዮች አንዱ ክልሉ ከአዲስ አበባ ከተማ ላይ ልዩ ጥቅም ሊኖረው የሚገባ እንደሆነ የሚያስቀምጠው ድንጋጌ አንዱ ነው፡፡በሕገ-መንግሥቱ ላይ የተቀመጠው ፌደራላዊ ስርዓት መሰረታዊ እምነቱ ብዙሀነትን ማዕከል ያደረግ አንድነትን መፍጠር እንደሆነ በመግቢያው ላይ ደንግጎዋል፡፡

ሕገ-መንግሥቱ ላይ የኦሮሚያ ብሔራዊ ክልላዊ መንግሥት ልዩ ጥቅም በአዲስ አበባ ላይ አለው የሚለው ድንጋጌ ልዩ ጥቅም የሚባሉ ሊጠበቅላቸው/ሊንጸባረቅባቸው የሚገቡ ጉዳዮች ምን እንደሆነ ያመለከተ እንጅ ልዩ ጥቅም ለሚለው ሀረግ የሰጠው ትርጉም የለም፡፡ ልዩ ጥቅም የሚለውን ሀረግ ሲታይ ልዩ የሚለው ቃል ከአንድ ነገር ጋር የተያያዘ እና ከተለመደው ወጣ ያለ የሚለውን ሁኔታ የሚገልጽ ሲሆን ጥቅም የሚለው ደግሞ ህጋዊ ተቀባይነት ያለው አንድ ጉዳይ ላይ ሊኖር የሚችለውን መብት የሚመለክት እንደሆነ ሊወሰድ ይችላል፡፡ስለሆነም ክልላዊ መንግሥቱ  በአዲስ አበባ ላይ ልዩ ጥቅም አለው ሲባል ተለይቶ የሚታወቅ ሕገ-መንግሥታዊ መብት የሚያጎናጽፍ ጥቅም አለው ተብሎ ይወሰዳል፡፡

ሕገ-መንግሥቱ በአንቀጽ 49 ላይ ለክልሉ መንግሥት ልዩ ጥቅም በአዲስ አበባ ላይ እንዲጠበቅ የፈለገበት ምክንያት ምን እንደሆነ ሕገ-መንግሥቱ ሲዘጋጅ በአንቀጹ ላይ ከተካሄዱ ወይይቶች፤ ከፌደራል ስርዓቱ መሰረታዊ ባህሪያት እና መነሻ ምክንያቶች አንጻር የሚከተሉት ሊሆኑ እንደሚችሉ ይወሰዳል፡፡

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የአስተዳደር ወሰን እና የማንነት ጉዳዮች ኮሚሽን ሕገ-መንግሥታዊነት

ባለፈው ሳምንት መጨረሻ መንግሥት የአስተዳደር ወሰን እና የማንነት ጉዳዮች ኮሚሽንን የሚያቋቁም አዋጅ ማፅደቁ ይታወቃል፡፡ አዋጁ በተወካዮች ምክር ቤት ውስጥ የጦፈ ክርክርን አስነስቶ በ33 ተቃውሞ እና በ4 ድምፀ ተዓቅቦ በአብላጫ ድምፅ ቢፀድቅም በፓርላማ ውስጥ ለአዋጁ ድምፅ ከነፈጉ የሕዝብ ተወካዮች ጀምሮ እስከ ክልል መንግሥታት ድረስ ሰፊ ተቃውሞን አስተናግዷል፡፡ ለተቃውሞው መነሻ የሆነው ዋነው ጉዳይ የማንነትም ሆነ በክልሎች መካከል የሚነሱ አለመግባባቶችን መፍታት የፌዴሬሽን ምክር ቤት እና የክልሎች ሥልጣን ሆኖ ሳለ ሌላ ተቋም የማቋቋም አስፈላጊነት እና ሕገ መንግሥታዊነት ጥያቄ ነው፡፡

ለእነዚህ ጉዳዮች በሕግ አግባብ መልስ ለመስጠት ሁለት ጉዳዮችን በጥልቀት ማገናዘብ ይጠይቃል፡፡ አንደኛው እና መሠረታዊው ጉዳይ በሕገመንግሥቱ እና በሥራ ላይ በነበሩ ሕጎች  መሠረት የማንነት እና ራስን የማስተዳደር ጥያቄዎች እንዲሁም በክልሎች መካከል የሚነሱ አለመግባባቶች የሚፈቱበት ሥርዓት ምን እንደሆነ መፈተሸ ሲሆን ሁለተኛው ደግሞ ለኮሚሽኑ የተሰጠውን ሥልጣን እና ተግባር ከሕገ-መንግሥቱ ጋር በንፅፅር አይቶ ሕገ መንግሥታዊነቱን መመርመር ነው፡፡

የማንነት እና ራስን በራስ የማስተዳደር ጥያቄዎች

በሕገ መንግሥቱ መሠረት የማንነት እና ራስን በራስ የማስተዳደር ጥያቄዎችን የመፍታተት ሥልጣን በመሰረታዊነት የተሰጠው ለክልሎች (ምክር ቤት) ነው፡፡ ነገር ግን የመጨረሻ ውሳኔ የመስጠት ሥልጣን የፌዴሬሽን ምክር ቤት መሆኑ በሕገ መንግሥቱ ከመደንገጉም በላይ በአዋጅ ቁጥር 251/1993 እንደተቀመጠው ክልሎች ለቀረበላቸው ጥያቄ በአንድ ዓመት ውስጥ አጥጋቢ መልስ ካልሰጡ ጥያቄው በይግባኝ መልክ ለፌዴሬሽ ምክር ቤት ቀርቦ የመጨረሻ ውሳኔ ማግኘት ይችላል፡፡

በመሠረቱ በማንነት እና ራስን በራስ በማስተዳደር ጥያቄዎች መሀል ምን ልዩነት እና አንድነት እንዳለ በግልፅ ያስቀመጠ ሕግ የለም፡፡ በሕገ መንግሥቱና በሌሎች ሕጎችም ራስን በራስ የማስተዳደር ጥያቄ እንጂ ‹የማንነት ጥያቄ› በሚል አገላለፅ የተቀመጠ መብትም ሆነ ሥርዓት የለም፡፡ ከዚህ ባለፈም በአንዳንዶች ዘንድ በክልሎች መካከል የሚነሱ የወሰን አለመግባባቶች እና በማንነት ጥያቄዎች መካከል ያለውን ልዩነት ያለመረዳት ስህተት ይስተዋላል፡፡ በዚህ ላይ የሚነሱ ክፍተቶች እና አከራካሪ ጉዳዮች በሌላ ሰፊ ጽሑፍ ቢታዩ ተመራጭ ስለሆነ ዝርዝሩን በመተው ወደ ቀጣዩ ጉዳይ እናልፋለን፡፡

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የፌዴሬሽኑ አባል ክልሎች የፌዴራሉን መንግሥት ሕጎች አልፈፅምም ማለት ይችሉ ይሆን?

መግቢያ

የፌዴራል የሕዝብ ተወካዮች ምክር ቤት በኢ.ፌ.ዲ.ሪ ሕገ-መንግሥት አንቀጽ 53 መሠረት በተቋቋመ ወዲህ ላለፉት 24 ዓመታት በተለያዩ ጉዳዮች ላይ ከ1100 በላይ አዋጆችን ያወጣ ሲሆን ከእነዚህም አዋጆች ውስጥ በምክር ቤቱ በሚገኙ የገዢው ፓርቲ አባላት መካከል ሞቅ ያሉ ክርክሮችና የልዩነት ሃሳቦች ያስተናገዱ በጣት የሚቆጠሩ አዋጆች መሆናቸው የሚታወቅ ነው፡፡ ሞቅ ያሉ ንትርክ አዘልና የልዩነት ሃሳቦች ከተንፀባረቁባቸው ሕጎች መካከል ለአብነት ያህል በሚንስትሮች ምክር ቤት ከየካቲት 06 ቀን 2010 ዓ.ም ጀምሮ ተፈፃሚነት የነበረውንና ለሁለተኛ ጊዜ በሚኒስትሮች ምክር ቤት አዋጅ ቁጥር 2/2010 የታወጀውን የአስቸኳይ ጊዜ አዋጅ በህዝብ ተወካዮች ምክር ቤት ተቀባይነት እንዲያገኝ በቀረበ ወቅት የተደረገው እልህ አስጨራሽ ክርክር የቅርብ ጊዜ ትውስታ ነው፡፡

በተመሳሳይ መልኩ የአስተዳደር ወሰን እና የማንነት ጉዳዮች ኮሚሽን ማቋቋሚያ አዋጅ ቁጥር 1101/2011 የፀደቀባት ሁኔታ የጋለ ክርክርን ያስተናገደ ነበር፡፡ የፌዴራሉ የህዝብ ተወካዮች ምክር ቤት ታህሳስ 11 ቀን 2011 ዓ.ም ባካሄደው መደበኛ ስብሰባ የኮሚሽኑን ማቋቋሚያ አዋጅን በ33 ተቃውሞ በ4 ድምፅ ተዓቅቦ በአብላጫ ድምፅ አፅድቋል፡፡ በዚህ አዋጅ ላይ የተደረገው ክርክርና የሰላ ሂስ በምክር ቤቱ ባሉአባላት ብቻ ሳይወሰን ከምክር ቤቱ ውጪ ባሉ የፖለቲካና የሕግ ሊሂቃን መካከል የከረረ ክርክርና ትችት ሲያስተናግድ ሰንብቷል፡፡

የኮሚሽኑን ማቋቋሚያ አዋጅ ሕገ-መንግሥታዊነቱንና ሥልጣኑን በተመለከተ የሚቀርበው ድጋፍና ትችት በግለሰቦች ደረጃ ብቻ የቀረ ሳይሆን የትግራይ ክልል ምክር ቤት በጥር 18 ቀን 2011 ዓ.ም ባካሄደው 5ኛ ዓመት 14ኛ መደበኛ ጉባዔ ላይም የመከራከሪያ አድማስ ሆኖ በአዋጅ አፈፃፀም ላይ የክልል ምክር ቤቱን የውሳኔ ሃሳብ እስከማሰጠት ደርሷል፡፡

የዚህ ጽሑፍ መነሻ ሃሳብም የትግራይ ክልል ምክር ቤት በኮሚሽኑ ማቋቋሚያ አዋጅ ላይ በሰጠው የውሳኔ ሃሳብ ላይ ሲሆን በዚህም አግባብ የክልሉ ምክር ቤት የፌዴራሉን መንግሥት ሕጎች አልተገብርም ማለቱን ከኢ.ፌ.ዲ.ሪ ሕገ-መንግሥት አንፃር ያለውን ውጤት እና የአስተዳደር ወሰን እና የማንነት ጉዳዮች ኮሚሽን ሥልጣንና ተግባርን አጠቃላይ እንድምታ የምንዳስስ ይሆናል፡፡

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