Friday, March 15, 2013

The Absence of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi And its implications

The Absence of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
And its implications
What makes the party, the government and the state to continue in the
Absence of the Premier?
It has been more than seven weeks since Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has
been absent from public scene. There are many speculations about his health
status, where he is and how long he will stay out of public view.
On 19 July and 01 August 2012 Government Communication Minister Bereket
Simon told journalists that the Prime Minister was getting treatment abroad for
the ‘minor’ health problem he has faced and he would be back within a few
days. Mr. Bereket further said that nobody is assigned on the post of the Prime
Minister either temporarily or on a permanent basis and Mr. Meles is still In
charge of his activities. The Communication Minister also hinted that Prime
Minister Meles Zenawi may take a lengthy leave from his activities upon the
doctor’s advice, as he had been working restlessly for more than three decades,
since he joined the arm struggle to fight the Derg regime.
The aim of this brief piece is not to add on the speculations in the public.
Rather, the intention is to explain what I think is novel in the political history
of Ethiopia. For many people the Prime Minister was the only person who
guarantees the proper functioning of the state, the government and the party.
In the past two decades many people believed that if the head of the party was
not stable or unable to govern the country, there would be a crisis that affects
the government and the party.
Why did not this happen during the past five weeks or more? What held the
state, government and the party together in the absence of the Prime Minister?
Were the speculations and analysis of the many people particularly in the
Diaspora wrong? Is the concern of many citizens in the country ill placed?
The past many days have proved that the absence of the Head of government
from the public scene does not necessarily lead to fracture in the party
triggering political wrangling in the government or political crisis in the
country, at least so far.
My understanding is that the existing institutions are fast maturing to act and
function in the absence of the Prime Minister, contrary to traditional perception
in Ethiopia, to the effect that, it is very difficult to think of a stable and
peaceful Ethiopia in the absence of its leader. Though, Prime Minister Meles
has not been seen in public for the last several weeks albeit that he is incharge
according to Government Communication Office, we have seen neither a
significant political vacuum nor stalemate of the bureaucracy so far. And I
believe the main reasons for this stability and continuity in the government are
rooted in the strength of the organizing principles of state power, among which
the following are key factors.
The Federal Form of Government, the party structure and the
Unlike the previous regimes in Ethiopia the current federal form of government
has devolved accumulated power to the regional states, which are the integral
parts of the country. The 1995 constitution in article eight, number one clearly
stipulates that all sovereign power resides in the nations, nationalities and
peoples of Ethiopia.
The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is even
a reflection of this federal system. It is an alliance of four national groups: the
Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization (OPDO), the Amhara National
Democratic Movement (ANDM), the South Ethiopian Peoples' Democratic Front
(SEPDF) and the Tigrayan Peoples' Liberation Front (TPLF). The most important
power in the party is in the hands of the Executive Committee (EC) which are
thirty six, consisted of equal numbers of representatives of the four member
parties, which are elected by the Central Committee of the respective member
organizations making up the EPRDF.
Therefore, this creates, more or less a ‘fair’ distribution of power among EPRDF
member parties that prohibits the rise of one group over the other. This also
creates the absence of ‘strong man’ without Meles Zenawi; and other officials
are only becoming responsible for their own duties and responsibilities.
And when we come to our case, Article 75 (a) and (b) of the Federal Democratic
Republic of Ethiopia constitution, explicitly provides that the Deputy Prime
Minister will act on behalf of the Prime Minister in the latter’s absence, unless
or otherwise the parliament proposed another candidate for the post. Therefore
there is no confusion on the constitution regarding who will overtake
leadership of the country (either temporarily or on a permanent basis) in the
absence of the Head of Government. Therefore, it can be concluded that it is
impossible to seize or snatch power without the constitutional order and the
backing of the regional states, contrary to known traditional practice in the
Institutions of the Management of Power
Parliament as an embodiment of sovereignty of the people, with powers and
duties to determine the leadership and other components of state affairs
management normal state business is on course with each part of the
bureaucracy conducting its regular functions.
A Security and Defense Forces based on Professionalism
It is common knowledge that armed forces take advantage of temptations to
seize power, whatever pretexts present themselves. However, the EPRDF-led
government seems to have organized a national defense force with a doctrine
that emphasize professionalism in the defense of the state, the constitutional
order and the institutions of security for the populace. In other words, the
forces of national defense are poised as deterrence to any violent, illegal or
unconstitutional grab of power or any other way that disrupts the procedures
established by the Constitution.
The recent handling of ethnic clashes in the Southern part of the country was a
testament for the National Security and Defense Council on how such kind of
institutions are acting independently without direct involvement of the
Commander in Chief and the Prime Minister of the country. Thus, foreign
forces who wish to undermine the country’s security, like the Eritrean regime
and the Islamist Somali group Alshabab have not gained any advantage out of
this, and the country is continuing to be an icon of stability and peace in the
war torn region of the Horn of Africa.
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