By ASHEBIR Amaro March 4, 2018
The federal government of Ethiopia reinstated the State of Emergency two weeks ago after assessing the security situation of the country. Since the House was in recess, the SOE was enforced since decreed by the Cabinet. As per the provisions of the constitution the House called for an emergency session fifteen day after the declaration by as provided for by article 93 of the constitution. As soon as the session was called those who are against it have campaigned fiercely and staunchly. The extremists, from their comfort seat in the US or Europe, have been trying to create havoc in the country and went out of their to frighten the MPs and their families especially MPs from the Oromia constituency. It was to be noted that this was happening knowing full well that the SOE was endorsed and supported by the EXCOM of EPRDF including OPDO leadership.
To the surprise of many, information was coming out that MPs from the Oromia region were not in the mood to support the SOE. Efforts were made to address their concerns in the presence of the Chair, deputy chair of OPDO and the Speaker. Joint forum was conducted in the presence of all the chairpersons of the constituent members of EPRDF to trash out the concerns and difference all MPs including MPs from non EPRDF regions. That was an excellent political exercise and at the end of the 7-hour meeting, consensus was forged, according to those who were in the attendance. This was a day earlier than the emergency sitting on Friday.
The house was unusually packed and it appeared that MPs were well whipped. 490 of the MPs were present and took part in the proceeding. There was a heated debated which was a sign of maturity of our democracy and I was very pleased that MPs had the gut to question such a serious matter. That was one big take away from the emergency meeting. For curious observer of the debate, no MP objected the SOE law and argued against it with compelling reason. Rather all raised several concerns and introduced amendments which were in order. The concerns raised were, in my opinion, adequately and convincingly addressed by the Attorney General. After all this exercise, many were amazed to have 88 MPs voted against the SOE law. People might think this fine and it is the right of thenMPs to do so. I beg do differ here.
Now what is the implication and meaning of this politically? In any party-based politics MPs are elected on the platform of their party. No one had a personal manifesto and all EPRDF members were given the support of their respective constituency because the electorate supported not the individual candidate, but the manifesto tabled by EPRDF. This essentially meant that they cannot oppose the very policy that rendered them the membership of the house. How does this relate to the state of emergency? Any law is stipulated to enforce the ruling party’s policy.
Law is just an instrument. Unless they have clearly refuted that the law basically is in contradiction with the constitution, which no MP did, then there is no political, moral or legal ground to oppose or abstain from the vote. It essentially negates with the position of their party, which agreed before the law came to Cabinet. As there is clearly division of labor among the three branches of the federal government, the MPs are entitled to scrutiny and oversight of the application of SOE and have every right to oppose and reject the performance of the Command post, if they so find any violation in the implementation of the law. Under normal circumstances, the party could have recalled those who abstained and opposed the state of emergency.
That being aside, there were some serious observation that was source of worry. In spite of the fact that each MP has a constituency, once they are in the house they collectively represent the interests of all Ethiopians. Some argument that was mainly referring to region or community only as if the state of emergency was singled out any given region or community was incomprehensible. That is a very dangerous attitude to be rectified. Of course any concern or injustice against any constituency should be raised. The parliament is an expression of the sovereignty of the peoples of Ethiopia. The responsibility of MPs is enormous especially more so now. MPs are politicians and need to have vision, wisdom and magnanimity. They should behave and act above and beyond group interests. They should always keep in mind that they represent even those who did not vote for them. There are millions of Ethiopians who did not vote for MPs in the house, however it is expected that those in the house equally defend and protect the needs and interest of the opposition as they are also citizens of the country. It is my sincere hope our representatives would display maturity and play their role especially when our country is going through such challenging period. Our guarantee and shield are our constitutional and constitutional order.