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Open Letter to Ethiopian Parliamentarians (Yonas Biru)

የጠቅላይ ሚኒስቴሩ እንደ ስላሴዎች አንድም ሶስተም እየሆኑ የመምጣት አደጋዎች

Yonas Biru, PhD

Dear Honorable Parliamentarians:

I ask your indulgence and time to read this open letter, which serves as a follow up to my last week’s piece titled “A Candid Open Letter to PM Abiy: Ethiopia Needs a Statesman Not a Party Leader.”

Of recent, Ethiopians have watched a prelinary session of the Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives where Prime Minister Abiy made presentations and answered questions from the floor. The session manifested a disturbing display of a lopsided power dynamics akin to one between an imperious kindergarten teacher and her awed and coyed kindergartners. Your body language lexicon of discomfort spoke louder than the timid questions that some of your members mustered the courage to utter.

Your timidness in the face of an overbearing Prime Minister and an inherently flawed Constitution that lacks a constitutional leash to keep the executive branch in check is putting the nation in grave danger. The situation is exacerbated by an intellectually stunted and morally depraved political elite at home and in the diaspora.

Unfortunately, the Ethiopian intellectual class has failed to produce opinion leaders who could catalyze a groundswell of public opinion and a foundational political culture to keep the government within the confines of its constitutionally prescribed authorities.

Let us first address the inherently flawed constitution before turning to your breach of duty, and the curse of the stillborn and mummified Ethiopian intellectual nomenklatura.
የጠቅላይ ሚኒስቴሩ እንደ ስላሴዎች አንድም ሶስተም እየሆኑ የመምጣት አደጋዎች

In most democratic nations, governments are composed of three separate and equal branches: legislative (parliament/congress), executive (president/prime minister), and judicial (with supreme courts at the apex). By design each of the three branch is made independent and equally empowered to create a system of checks and balances.

When it functions as designed, this “checks and balances” system maintains a steady balance of power between the three branches and animates each branch to function properly. But alas, Ethiopia does not have a judicial branch within the paradigm of a three-branch constitutional governance structure. The people cannot take the executive or the legislative branch to court to protect themselves from the excesses of government.

What we have is a two-branch system of government: executive and legislative. If, out of fear or favor, the legislative branch bows to the executive branch, the Prime Minister will assume the status of a holy trinity bringing all branches of government under his control.

የኛ ሃገር ዴሞክራሲ ተብየው philosopher Montesquieu በ 18ኛው ክፍለ ዘመን “Spirit of the Laws” እና “trias politica” ብሎ እንደጻፈው ሳይሆን አቶ መለስ ዜናዊ ለዘር ፖለቲካ እንዲስማማ አድርገው እንደተረጎሙት ነው:: ባጭሩ ሲገለጽ ሳይቦካ የተጋገረ፣ ሳይበስል ያረረ፣ ሳያድር የሻገተ እና በድጋፍ የቆመ የአካልም የመንፈሰም ስንኩል ነው:: ከዛም አልፎ የሃሳብ ደሃ እና የእውቀት ረሃብተኛም ነው:: በህግ ልሂቃን እና በፖለቲካ ምሁራን እንዳልተጻፈ trias politicaን መጣሱ ብቻ ሳይሆን የኢትዮጵያን ልኡዋላዊነትንም ሰለባ ያደረጉ አንቀጾቹ ያሳብቃሉ::

In our constitution, the role of the judicial branch is entrusted with the Council of the Federation, which is part of the legislative branch. This is clearly stated in Article 53 of the Constitution: “The Federal Parliament shall be composed of two chambers, namely the Council of Peoples’ Representatives and the Council of the Federation.” This is not in the genre of the US Constitution where the two branches of Congress (the House and the Senate) are independent and equally empowered to enact laws or block laws from being enacted.

In Ethiopia, the Council of Federation is a pseudo constitutional organ created as an afterthought to give small tribes (አጋር ብሄሮች) an orphan-like status, rather than empowering them with a constitutional authority or ignoring them altogether. The Council is not empowered to pass or block laws. The framers of the Constitution made sure that small tribes were not empowered with such an authority, fearing they would align themselves with nationalist forces. The reasons are many.

First, tribal politics is inherently dangerous to small tribes. They cannot form a viable independent nation by themselves and their survival as a free and prosperous people depend on their ability to live with others under legal protection. Therefore, they see no benefit in Article 39.

Second, they also know that the cessation of larger tribal homelands (say Oromo and Amhara) from Ethiopia is not in their best economic interest. Their chance of surviving and thriving in a nationalist Ethiopia is far better than in a weaker and smaller Ethiopia that is shrinking by

secessionist drives. Therefore, they have inherent interest in seeing Article 39 expunged from the Constitution.

Third, the framers of the Constitution understood that if the Council of Federation was modeled after the US Senate and small tribes were given equal representation and equal right to enact or block laws like the US Senate, that will weaken tribal politics. Ethiopian politics would be shaped by negotiation and debates between the two chambers of the Parliament rather than by a tug of war between Oromo, Amhara, and Tigray. This means small tribal homelands would have a much stronger gravitas than the tribalist sentiment in the lower chamber in establishing the center of gravity of the national politics.

Finally, and importantly, the absence of a judicial branch in our system of government exposes smaller tribal homelands to a majority tyranny. The Constitution promulgates: (1) “The power of interpretation of the Constitution shall be vested in the Council of the Federation” and (2) “The Council of Federation shall perform the functions assigned to it jointly with the Council of Peoples’ Representatives.” Item 1 noted above empowers the Council of Federation with Constitutional interpretation, whereas item 2 relegates it as a second fiddle to the Council of House of Representatives.
Though the Constitution provides for a Constitutional Court with “judicial powers”, the Court’s decision is forwarded to the Council of Federations that can accept or reject it at its discretion. Assume that an Amhara individual or Amhara organizations filed a complaint against the Constitution of the Oromo tribal land that denies non-Oromos equal right. The plaintiff(s) can argue that the Oromo Constitution violates the Ethiopian Constitution that gives equal right to all Ethiopians and therefore cannot be enforced.

Assume the Court concurred with the plaintiff(s) and ordered the Oromo government to amend its constitution and forwarded its judgment to the Council of the Federation. Such a change can shake the foundation of the constitution. The Oromo members of the Council of the Federation can gather enough voice from Federalist forces to reject the Court’s judgement. This is the Constitution we call the law of the land, as laid out in Article 83 and 84 of the Constitution.

The ultimate decisions in constitutional conflicts that are legal in nature reside with the Council of Federation whose members are neither practicing lawyers nor legal scholars. In short, farmers, funeral DJs (ለቅሶ አስለቃሽ), የወፍጮ ቤት እና የጠጅ ቤት ባለቤቶች who are voted members of the Council become the overseers of the legality of the constitutional order.

Let us summarize. There is no independent judicial branch. The so-called Constitutional Court is accountable to the Council of Federations that serves as a pseudo judicial branch, and it, in turn, is accountable to the House of the People’s Representatives. Members of the Council of the Federation are appointed by the House of the People Representatives.

Let us conclude. In a nation where there is no true judicial branch and where the legislative branch willfully relinquishes its constitutional power in breach of its oath of office, the executive branch becomes the only empowered body.

The phenomena of having a prime minister, who also serves as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, the superintendent of the House of the People’s Representatives and the foster parent of the Council of Federation is dangerous. It necessarily, albeit gradually, transforms the prime-ministership into prime-monstership.

Honorable Sirs and Madams:

The people who sent you to Addis as their representatives did not send you with crayons and coloring books. You did not take an oath to be timid, much less to see the Prime Minister as kindergartners see their teacher with awe and reverence. Your oath requires you to fulfill your duty.

As a reminder this is the oath you undertook: “As a member of the house, I shall be faithful to the constitution. I shall undertake to discharge the responsibilities vested in me by the country and its people with integrity, diligence and in accordance with law and order.” Live up to your duty that you accepted under the weight of oath or resign and go back home.

አሻራም አቧራም መፍጠር ያልቻሉ የልሂቃን መሃይሞች

I have written a lot about why the Ethiopian intellectual class has failed to produce opinion leaders. As I stated above, in other nations, intellectuals play a significant role to catalyze a groundswell of public opinion and a foundational political culture to keep the government within the confines of its constitutionally prescribed authorities. I will not rehash the arguments here. Instead, I will share the link and encourage you to consult it: “Ethiopia’s Political Problems Reside in Its Mythological National Identity.”

Ethiopia has colorful intellectuals covering a wide spectrum. On one end of the spectrum reside intellectuals sharing the same DNA construct with Professor Al Mariam. The other end is home

to people in the genre of Ato Yared Tibebu. The Professor’s reverence to Prime Minster Abiy and Ato Yared’s veneration to TPLF reminds me of the singer who lamented with “በአባቷ እምላለሁ አባቴን አስክዳኝ” conundrum.

Intellectuals are supposed to see political developments through a strategic lens to understand and reflect on current realities. Forget Tigrayan intellectuals. They are outliers even in an outlier space. Instead, let us focus on Amhara and Oromo tribal intellectuals who are busy feeding off of each other’s stupidity. They spend half their lives scavenging quotes from each other to use them as a fodder to keep the flame of tribal hate politics burning.

Anyone who has followed Jawar’s Facebook page before he was imprisoned knows that he was an excellent social media scavenger. He never missed an opportunity to share stupid anti-Oromo quotes spewed by Amhara tribalists. He was not shy to explain his actions on his official Facebook page that he was “not causing fire.” Instead, he was “just fueling a fire lit up by the action and inaction of the political parties and their leaders.”

The emergence of Jawar on the Ethiopian politics was consequential. The Amhara tribal land prayed for a leader to counterbalance him. As a punishment, God sent them Eskinder Nega, a random-walking and noisemaking clown. God doubled down his wrath on the Amhara tribalists, sending their way Shaleka Dawit, an Ivy-League trained lawyer with sophomoric sophistry, embalmed with formalin solution that is good for an autopsy of a rotten body politics rather than for a resuscitation of the political life of a nation in a dire need of peace and security.

With Eskinder and Shaleka Dawit, the Amhara tribal politics became an unholy joint project of an Orthodox political zealot and a retired communist. As if by curse, their marriage gave birth to a new diaspora movement led by “Vision Ethiopia” that is neither visionary nor Ethiopian in substance.

Both the Amhara and Oromo tribalists have one primary purpose. That is to present the other side in a bad light. Scavenged social media quotes and slogans are carefully quilted and stretched to link them to the PM or his administration to develop conspiracy theories. Far from being a constructive force, the intellectual clan has become the most destructive force Ethiopia has ever seen.

Even worse, the intellectual class’ damage is not contained within the Ethiopian geographic proper. Messing up international relations have become their preoccupation – an area they evidently least understand. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing intellectuals in the

diaspora አካኪ ዘራፍing in response to Professor Al Mariam’s delusional, if not utterly idiotic, article that he titled “Clash of Civilizations: Ethiopia and the US at a Crossroad.”

Meanwhile the diaspora intellectual nomenklatura was jumping around performing “የወላይትኛ ጭፈራ” and circling around the colorful Professor, doing “የትግርኛ እስክስታ.” The dance may be appealing to the eye.

But there is also an ongoing saddening spectacle. Blinded and dumbified with the exorbitance of a mythological Ethiopian identity, the intellectual nomenklatura was reminding Americans of “የማትረባ ፍየል ዘጠኝ ትወልዳለች ዘጠኙም ያልቃሉ እሷም ትሞታለች:: I guess they took to heart Professor Al’s assurance that “Ethiopia will Win.” አያታችን “መሃይምነት ጸጋ ነው ድንቁርናን ባይመጥናትም ቅሉ” ትል ነበር::

Fast forward to March 24. Ethiopia was increasingly confronted with a chronic shortage of foreign exchange reserves, facing the risk of defaulting on its international loans and not being able to pay for critical imported goods, including fuel and cooking oil.

The US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, showed up in Addis for a two-day meeting (March 21-22) dangling the HR6600 bill, which is different from, and more powerful than, a resolution that we were used to seeing in the past. Oblivious to the danger that Ethiopia was facing, the #NoMore community continued its dramatic እንጣጥ እንጣጥing, choreographed for a traditional አካኪ ዘራፍ and communistic “ፋኖ ተሰማራ እንደ ሆቺሚኒ እንደ ቼጉቬራ” crap. In the meantime, the Ethiopian government capitulated to international pressure. It issued a press release, effective immediately:

“Cognizant of the need to take extraordinary measures to save lives and reduce human suffering, the Government of Ethiopia hereby declares an indefinite humanitarian truce effective immediately.” The statement added: “Flights for ICRC, WHO, and the European Union have been facilitated to deliver humanitarian aid,”.

Ignoring Ato Yared Tibebu’s nauseatingly repetitive “በሁለት ሳምንት አዲስ አበባ በሕዋሓት እጅ ትጋባለች” ጥንቆላ, TPLF issued a similar capitulative statement, affirming “commitment to implementing a cessation of hostilities effective immediately.” This is either surrender or capitulation. TPLF followers can take their pick. Or Ato Yared can pick one for them.

Either the Prime Minister’s office and TPLF officials shared their drafts and agreed to use the phrase “effective immediately” or they were both told to add it. There is no way to sugarcoat the

5 thoughts on “Open Letter to Ethiopian Parliamentarians (Yonas Biru)”

  1. I was just wondering. I was wondering how the writer will expect members of the parliament will read his article with open heart and mind when he denigrates them kindergartners. i don’t know how they will continue reading the open letter after being insulted as immature with a brain of a 6-7 year old kid in kindergarten..

  2. I suggest that Dr. Yonas Biru should also focus on de-fascistization of Tigray (ridding Tigray of fascism). De-fascistizing Tigray is needed to end instability and suffering in Tigray.

  3. አለም

    ዶ/ር ዮናስ ብሩ ከቅርብ ጊዜ ወዲህ የሚጽፉትን ስከታተል ነበር። በጠ/ሚሩ የተሰየመው የኢኮኖሚ አማካሪ ቡድን ውስጥ ሰብሳቢ ሆነው እንደ ነበረ። ከዶ/ር እሌኒ ገብረመድህን ጋር በነበራቸው አለመግባባት እንደለቀቁ። ጠ/ሚሩን እና አስተዳደራቸውን እንደሚደግፉ በተለያዩ መድረኮች ሲገልጹ እንደ ቆዩ። እንደ ወያኔ በፐብሊክ ሪሌሽንስ በኩል የታያቸውን ድክመት እና መፍትሔውን ደጋግመው ቢያቀርቡም ጠ/ሚሩ ችላ እንዳሉ በቊጭት ገልጸዋል። ከዚያ በዋሽንግተን ዲሲ አምባሳደርነትን ለዶ/ር ዮናስ አንድ ሰው የጠየቀበት ጽሑፍ ተለጥፎ ነበር። ዶ/ር ዮናስም ራሳቸው ወይ በፐብሊክ ሪሌሽኑ በኩል መርዳት እንዲችሉ እንዲመቻች በተለያየ መልክ ጥያቄ አቅርበው ነበር። በቅርቡ የጻፏቸው ሁለት ጽሑፎች ግ ን መልካቸው የተለወጠ ይመስላል። በጠ/ሚር ዐቢይ አመራር ላይ ቀጥተኛ ጥያቄ የሚያነሳ ጽሑፍ ሆኗል። ግለሰቡ ወይ ከመነሻው ሥልጣን ፈልገው ይሆናል፤ እና አኩርፈዋል። ወይም ያልኩት ካልሆነ የማለት ዐመል አለባቸው፤ ያልተስማሟቸውን “ቆረቆንዳ” እስከ ማለት ይደርሳሉ። አገራቸውን እንደሚወድዱ ግን መካድ አይቻልም። ችሎታቸው ከፍተኛ እንደ ሆነ መካድ አይቻልም።

    1. So you know, I have made it clear from the get go that I am not interested in government position and will not accept one if offered. I offered to help them set up a PR shop and made it clear I do not need payment. I offered to help for six month without pay or government position. For four years I provided recommendations to no avail. I am writing an honest commentary to present the unvarnished problem. Next time try to comment on the substance of the article rather than speculating on the motive of the writer.

  4. Yonas Biru’s brutally honest opinion could be a hard pill to swallow for many Ethiopians let alone the parliamentarians, but I share his frustrations. I wish he didn’t reduce and lamented all elected members of the parliament to farmers and funeral DJs. However, he was spot on describing the characters he mentioned on his opinion piece. I wish Professor Al, stops worshiping the prime minster in his weekly commentaries and as the good political scientist point out some of his failings. The prime minster is a democratically elected and visionary leader but so was Hitler, or more recently Zimbabwe’s Mugabe, Russia’s Putin, or Turkey’s Erdogan, absolute power changed these leaders to benevolent dictators. Yonas characterisation of Jawar as an educated idiot, Eskender as a person who desperately needs psychological assistance and above all the description, he offered for the two old fools who squandered their youth in the killing fields of communist inspired wars of Ethiopia by the names of Shaleka Dawit and Yared was accurate. He was right in his observation that “Ethiopia’s political problems reside in Its mythological national identity.” This myth has not only been pushed by ordinary citizens but supported and amplified by the so called educated and enlightened Ethiopians. The West was not trying to get Ethiopia, it simply outraged by the perceived human right abuses directed at Tigrayans. The colossal failure of the prime minster was making his case in the western corridors of power and this failure still costs the country dearly. To their credit the Woyanes played this game well, they have not only managed to cover the massive human right abuses they committed against every Ethiopian, including Tigran’s in their 27 long years of brutal rules but also generate sympathy towards their cause. If this is not failure, I don’t know what it is and Yonas pointed this failure in an open and honest manner using colourful language. Bravo for once being brutally honest as well as uncompromising.

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