May 16, 2023

Government Think Tank Calls for Constitutional Amendment in Ethiopia

City: Addis AbabaPoliticsNewsCurrent Affairs

Ethiopia's long-standing 29-year-old constitution has been a source of controversy and speculation in the political sphere.

Avatar: Ilyas Kifle
By Ilyas Kifle

Ilyas is a reporter at Addis Zeybe experienced in creative writing and content production.

Government Think Tank Calls for Constitutional Amendment in Ethiopia

Ethiopian government-funded think tank, Policy studies institute(PSI) calls for a constitutional amendment on research publicized today, May 16, 2023, according to Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation. 

Established in November 2018, the PSI recently conducted a comprehensive study on the ethnic-related provisions and articles within the Ethiopian constitution, led by Prof. Beyene Petros, a renowned professor of Biomedical Sciences and a long-time opposition figure during the EPRDF era. The study utilized a systematic random sampling method to ensure the validity and representativeness of their findings.

Created by merging two state-owned think tanks, the Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI) and the Policy Study and Research Center (PSRC), the PSI aims to conduct rigorous research and policy analysis, providing knowledge-based inputs to policy-making and implementation. In addition, the institute claimed it is committed to disseminating its research outputs and findings to the policy and research community, academia, the development community, and other stakeholders.

Ethiopia's constitution, adopted in 1995, established a federal democratic republic, defining the rights and responsibilities of citizens and the governmental structure. However, specific provisions and articles, particularly those related to ethnic matters, have been the subject of ongoing debate and contention over the years.

The PSI's study focused specifically on the ethnic-related provisions and articles within the constitution, employing a systematic random sampling approach. While the report does not provide details on how the findings will be integrated regarding the Tigray region, all other regional states, apart from Tigray, were part of the study.

According to the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation's report, the study conducted by the PSI highlights the need for improvements in various areas. These include revisiting Article 8 of the constitution, which stipulates ethnic groups as sovereign owners of the nation, as well as aspects such as the working language of the federal government, the national emblem, the administrative boundaries based on ethnicity, and the controversial Article 39, which grants ethnic groups the right to self-determination, including the right to secession. Additionally, the study suggests addressing issues related to the organization of political parties based on ethnic groups and the administration of Addis Ababa, among others.

Critics of the constitution argue that it portrays Ethiopia as a loose confederation and overlooks its rich history of independence and cultural diversity. Moreover, they contend that the emphasis on ethnic-based federalism and self-determination rights has the potential to fragment the nation and undermine its unity. Observers point to the recent war in northern Ethiopia, which claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands, and nationwide ethnic-based conflicts as byproducts of the country's constitutional structure.

The PSI's call for a constitutional amendment comes when Ethiopia is engaged in discussions and deliberations to address political crises and conflicts within the country. Various initiatives, including national dialogues facilitated by organizations like Destiny Ethiopia, have been implemented to promote inclusive and constructive dialogue among different stakeholders.

While the Ethiopian government has established the Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission to address the need for constitutional reforms, there are differing opinions among political parties regarding the transparency and effectiveness of the commission in resolving the constitutional issues at hand. In addition, recent developments, such as the dominance of Oromos in the federal government and social reengineering efforts that target Amharic-speaking and diverse communities, raise questions about the Abiy administration's commitment to steering Ethiopia away from tribal politics.