Addis Abeba, January 08/2019 – A Draft Proclamation for the establishment of Administrative boundaries and Identity Issues Commission (herein after called Proclamation) was submitted to the House of Peoples Representatives (HPR), the lower house, for consideration and adoption.
The consideration process of the Proclamation witnessed unusual heated debate in the HPR; some Members of the Parliament (MPs) aggressively challenged the constitutionality of the establishment of the Commission while some others passionately supported it. The dissenting MPs raised two key interrelated legopolitical arguments in trying to halt the adoption of the Draft Proclamation. One of the contentions raised by the MPs is that the establishment of the Commission is inconsistent with the Constitution because it usurps the powers and functions of the House of Federation (HOF). The other argument they maintained is that the establishment of the Commission would be inconsistent with the powers of Regional States (States) enshrined in the Constitution. Simply put, the argument provided by these MPs entails that the establishment of the Commission would stripe the HOF and States of their constitutional power. Thus, they argue, the draft proclamation should be discarded because in terms of article 9(1) ‘a decision of an organ of state or a public official which contravenes the Constitution shall be of no effect’.
After a fierce debate, the Proclamation for the establishment of the Commission (Proclamation) was adopted by majority vote with 33 opposition and four abstentions.
Having observed the long tradition of the legislative organ, one might not reasonably imagine an issue that awakens the Parliament that has for long been in a mute mode. The situation shows the mounting importance of ethnicity and administrative boundaries in the Ethiopian political discourse. Indeed identity and administrative boundaries are such enthralling issues that divided not only the Parliament but also the ruling party.
Although it is strange to hear question of constitutionality in a parliament that has for long been comfortable with draconian laws (such as the anti-terrorism proclamation and civil society proclamation) which are proved to be entirely conflicting with the Constitution as well as the international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is a party, it would only be sound to argue in the normal legal mind that neither the parliament nor the executive should surpass the mandate entrusted to it by the Constitution. A genuine legal analysis should therefore avoid politicized views as much as possible and consider the subject matter only from a legal point of view and the overall context.
In this regard, this in-depth legal discourse will evaluate the soundness of the arguments that have actually been raised by dissenting MPs, setting aside the motive(s) behind the statements. In doing so, this in-depth discourse will discuss several points including but not limited to the general context, the legality of the initiation process, the constitutionality of raison d’être for the establishment of the Commission, the mandate of the Commission vis a vis the powers and functions of the House of Federation.