The declaration of a state of emergency is quite in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Under Article 93, the Ethiopian Constitution clearly states that the Council of Ministers of the Federal Government shall have the power to decree a state of emergency, writes Zekarias Talo Anjulo.
Over the last months, people in different areas of the country, particularly Oromia and Amhara regional states, have been raising questions concerning lack of good governance, the need for an equitable share of resources and for a fairer distribution of economic development, and the provision of necessary employment opportunities for youths as well as allowing a greater degree of self-administration. The government has admitted that most of the complaints are fair, and has accepted them as legitimate public grievances. It has promised to take measures to deal with these grievances and to bring about the necessary broad socio-economic and political reforms in accordance with such public requests.
There has, of course, been another dimension to the protests. More recently, especially in parts of Oromia and Amhara regional states, groups have appeared to highjack the protests, changing legitimate public protests into chaotic, illegal and violent demonstrations which appear to have been aiming to destabilize, if not overthrow, the government. Hundreds have lost their lives, public and private property has been burnt down, and there have been violent clashes with security forces, affecting the nation’s law and order. There has been a whole range of violence and brutality unleashed under the guise of civil-disobedience and peaceful demonstrations.
Adding to the problems of domestic unrest and instability, the country has also been facing the continuous effort being made by different foreign actors to orchestrate “proxy war” against its sovereignty in an effort to cause the sort of collapse that it has repeatedly suggested would happen in Ethiopia. This has meant the provision of financial, technical and other support to some of the illegal opposition groups and individuals.
It has also included a massive amount of support on social media. Indeed, immediately after declaration of a state of emergency, some media outlets and social media users began politicizing and misinterpreting the output. Much of this has been unbalanced, and certainly highly inaccurate. Media outlets like ESAT even claimed the state of emergency declaration was deliberately aimed to abuse fundamental human and democratic rights and to impose restrictions on the diplomatic privileges and immunities codified under the Vienna Convention. They have even claimed the declaration of a state of emergency is unconstitutional.
This false propaganda has been actively propagated by extremists in the diaspora like Jawar Mohammed and supporters of terrorist organizations like the Oromo Liberation Front and Ginobt 7 which have been working to overthrow the government through a coup d’état or by producing enough disturbances to cause the government to collapse. They have, in effect, been working to politicize events, including the state of emergency, to grab the attention of Ethiopians, both in and out of the country, and trying to raise funds for their activities.
In fact, the declaration of a state of emergency is quite in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Under Article 93, the Ethiopian Constitution clearly states that the Council of Ministers of the Federal Government shall have the power to decree a state of emergency, should an external invasion, a breakdown of law and order which endangers the Constitutional order and which cannot be controlled by the regular law enforcement agencies and personnel, a natural disaster, or an epidemic, occur.
There are two crucial points engraved in Article 93. One is the issue of a breakdown of law and order which endangers the Constitutional order and which cannot be controlled by the regular law enforcement agencies and personnel. The recent series of demonstrations that have occurred in Oromia and Amhara regions have been illegal, without objective and purely destructive.
Demonstrators have destroyed public and privately-owned properties for no reason except to cause destruction. The normal security establishment has been unable to prevent these actions. These activities have been the obvious reason for the government to declare a state of emergency. Equally, this does not affect any fundamental human or democratic rights; it is only aimed to accelerate and carry forward the efforts being made by the government, and the people, to resolve the current pressing problems and to restore peace, stability, law and order in the country, thus allowing for the necessary reforms to be carried out.
The second element of Article 93 that is particularly relevant at the moment is external invasion. Eritrea, the foremost sponsor of terrorism in the region, Al-Shabaab, the East African branch of Al-Qaeda and now it appears that some Egyptian institutions have all been working to destabilize Ethiopia, trying to turn it into a failed state through proxy conflicts. These outside forces have been providing significant support, including technical, financial and even military, to terrorist groups and individuals inside the country. Faced with this externally supported domestic unrest and these threats, Ethiopia, has decided it is necessary to help put an end to this outside interference.
Politicization of the state of emergency is not something that can help either Ethiopia or, more importantly, the people of Ethiopia. The state of emergency provides for the opportunity to control external interference and allow the re-establishment of peace and security and therefore the continuation of development. It is no more than a security issue. Security issue is a matter of life and death. It is not a political act. The foremost responsibility of any government is ensuring peace and security of a country.
Even more importantly, as long as it is implemented effectively and efficiently, it will provide the space to allow the government to fulfill its promises to speed up the necessary urgent measures of reform that it has promised and bring about the necessary socio-economic and political changes to address the legitimate public grievances. We need to take the opportunity, and take it now.
Ed.’s Note: Zekarias Talo Anjulo is a diplomatic officer at the Public Diplomacy and Communication Directorate, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia . He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org