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The current crisis in Ethiopia is forcing many a concerned citizen to rethink the founding principles and related issues that underlie the country’s governance system. In today’s installment, we will look at the judiciary or what it is supposed to deliver-justice. Ethiopia’s reigning federalism has put, amongst other things, the administration of justice, almost exclusively, in the hands of political appointees. Semantics aside, Ethiopia’s regional states are ethnically based and tend to be biased against ‘the others’. Nonetheless, the current political leadership in Ethiopia where EPRDF and affiliated political entities hold absolute power is being shaken to its core. Unintended consequences can potentially result in dislocating existing institutional setup!
Theoretically, justice is supposed to be impartial or blind to many outside factors that can potentially influence court rulings. The rule of law, facts, independence, ethics, integrity, morality and the likes, are important elements on which judgments are based. In our federal system, where the preponderance of ethnic politics is unavoidable, the delivery of justice had been significantly tainted, putting it mildly! With such undesirable interferences, some of the long established traditions associated with Ethiopia’s revered judiciary started to fade. The ‘Mafiosi State’ that operates clandestinely and leverages everything under the sky, manipulated court cases to satisfy its wanton desires. Such malpractices effectively removed the very glue that was holding Ethiopia’s diverse communities together, namely, trust & confidence in the judiciary! Consequently, the legitimacy of the court system and by implication the state itself, began to corrode. Without faith on the justice system, the subtle social compact developed through time and gave rise to relative peace between the diverse communities started to wane. Whether we like it or not, this, in a nutshell, is what happened in Ethiopia during the last quarter of a century. To recall: by the ‘Mafiosi State’, we mean the state that operates behind the formal state with immense political power leveraging all the institutions of government/ruling party. Its partners in crime are the famous oligarchs (foreign/local) under the tutelage of ‘godfathers’ of the ‘Mafiosi State’!
At the federal level, justice was also massively influenced by the ‘Mafiosi State.’ Again there are many blatant cases to illustrate the point. Ethiopia’s celebrated legal minds with tradition of fairness and erudition, found this degenerate behavior of the power that be absolutely repugnant and intentionally withdrew from the judiciary and related endeavors. In recent years, all rounded degeneration of justice delivery accelerated and the ‘Mafiosi State’ became the law onto itself! In the hands of the Mafiosi, justice became a political weapon to disfranchise and criminalize independently minded individuals and entities. At the federal level where ethnic politics is somewhat subdued (very mixed communities) and grievances can be conveniently hidden and ignored, the abuse of justice became frightening! Results are now clearly visible across this land of diversity. One of the rallying cries of the ongoing uprising is the resolute demand for justice! Mincing words in this late hour, we believe, only adds to confusion and mistrust. It is time to call a spade a spade. What is amazing in our twisted world is how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit. (Noël Coward)!
“We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word. Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter – but beautiful – struggle for a new world.” Rev. Martin Luther King. Good Day!