The Ethiopian constitution explicitly guarantees the rule of law. It protects human and democratic rights. It provides that no one is above the law and that one shall be held accountable if one infringes the rights enshrined under it.
That is why it is generally agreed that the Ethiopian constitution should be regarded as one of the finest constitutions in the whole world, at least on paper. It is, however, deplorable and, indeed, dismaying that despite the lofty principles and guarantees provided for by the constitution, the government, which has been entrusted with the task of implementing the constitution, is infiltrated by individuals who actively undermine the rule of law.
The public can lead a peaceful and stable life when it places its trust in the government’s ability to uphold the law and protect its right and security. This is its ultimate guarantee. But, sadly enough, most government officials openly flout the constitution and the law instead of serving the public. Their actions demonstrate that they believe not in the rule of law but in the subservience of law to their own petty interests.
They give decisions that violate the law; they interpret the law as they see fit; they use the judiciary and law enforcement organs as instruments to advance their personal interests. Corruption is rampant.
But this is not the only problem. No action is taken when the chain of command is broken by subordinates who disregard and even reverse the lawful decisions of their superiors. This undermines not only the rule of law but the integrity of the country’s political system as well.
The phenomenon is not limited to a few government institutions; it is spreading like wildfire and threatening to destroy the entire fabric of society. The EPRDF leaders turned deaf ear to the system which is leading the country to point of no return, in socio-economic underdevelopments.
The public is finding it difficult to blame the government as a whole for the injustices its officials commit because it knows that it is officials who are preventing it from discharging its duties properly. But, on the other hand, it cannot absolve the government of any responsibility as the injustices are perpetrated in government institutions and by its own political appointees. As a result, the public has become confused and disillusioned.
The culprits operate under a loose network, a network of corruption and crime which is against the Constitution of the land and against Ethiopian and public interest. The members of the network communicate regularly and are assigned specific tasks to do. Anyone who is liked or detested by a member of the group is likewise liked or detested by the rest. While innocent people are subjected to all manner of injustice, they get rich and powerful by the day.
Their sin is not limited to undermining the rule of law, however. They obstruct the channels through which complaints against them can be lodged; they paralyze the offices which receive complaints and, if that cannot be done, they manage to put in place persons who are sympathetic to them.
Even though these individuals’ capacity to do harm is evident and considerable, they do not have the ability to conceal their identity. They can be identified by their names, addresses and the official positions they hold. But they keep on doing whatever they please because no one is willing to take action when their misdeeds are brought to light.
Given this blatant undermining of the rule of law, it is not surprising that the people of Ethiopia are excited to hear news that the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) intends to undertake a critical self-evaluation. They are hoping that the perpetrators of injustice will be exposed, purged and replaced by others who serve them with integrity and that, as a result, the rule of law prevails everywhere in the country. However in reality, they do not take any measure against their corrupt officials. It is hard to imagine that the whole system will be free from corruption where the top-leaders are corrupt and take laws into their hands.