It was a tense time for Ethiopia when the government had declared State of Emergency in November 2, 2021 just before three months from now and called on citizens to pick up arms and defend the state capital as terrorist forces pressed south towards the city following the capture of two key towns; Dessie and Kombolcha. Indeed, the state of emergency reflected the rapidly changing tide in a metastasizing war that threatens to tear apart Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country.
In those days, Tigriyan rebels took the towns of Dessie and Kombolcha, just 160 miles to the northeast of the capital-Addis Ababa.
States of emergency can also be used as a rationale or pretext for suspending rights and freedoms guaranteed under a country’s constitution or basic law, sometimes through martial law or revoking habeas corpus as the procedure for and legality of doing so vary by country.
Accordingly, under the State of Emergency, the Ethiopian government has sweeping powers to arrest any who are in unwanted movement and activities that threaten the lives of citizens and stability of the country as a whole. Even the Addis Ababa City administration had called on citizens to expose any strange person involved in illegal activities. In short, this may help anyone who read this piece understand the situation just before the State of Emergency (SoE).
On the day before yesterday, members of the House of People Representatives have attended the extraordinary summit. Lifting the State of Emergency was one of the debatable issues for MPs that took the longest time to make a decision. Some of the MPs had a firm stance to lift the SoE considering the country’s peace and security which they said “improving compared to the state of affairs just before three months” indicating “much remains to be done in this regard”. They also pinpointed the significance of lifting the SoE in terms of paving the way for a peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict apart from building a positive image of the country.
Other members of MPs had also opposed the lifting of the SoE reflecting their concern as there are some places which still are insecure since they are under the control of terrorist the TPLF and Shene fighters. One member of MP said; new ‘corrective measure’ is being put in place to deal with security threats in the Amhara, Afar, Benishangul Gumuz and Gambella regions and the Wollega area in the Oromia region just before the lifting of SoE.
Such kind of heated debate which was not common in Ethiopia due to the existence of a mono party dominated parliament which did not reflect public concern. Finally, Lawmakers voted to end the country’s three-month state of emergency early.
In my opinion, as it is a democratically elected regime, the government led by Abiy had not declared a SoE to prolong its tenure, or for extended periods of time so that derogations can be used to override human rights of citizens usually protected by the International Covenant on Civil and political rights.
Lifting the SoE is a timely decision as it will have a positive impact on the political, economic and social activities in and out of Ethiopia if it is followed by the release of prisoners who are under custody without charge during those periods.
The lifting of SoE mainly helps the country to curtail the pressure of westerners and their speedy movement to put sanction on Ethiopia, mend diplomatic rifts with a number of countries, recovers the hard hit tourism sector which is a source of foreign currency of the economy. This move would also help recover investments activities and initiate existing once as well as mobility.
However, this does not mean that the government will not exercise its power as per the law of the land. Apart from toiling day and night to end hostilities in peaceful means, it is imperative to take legal measures on those who are disturbing the people’s tranquility. The government led by Abiy is now lending hands for all political parties operating in and out of Ethiopia to be part of the national dialogue. This is appreciated which has never been exercised in the history of Ethiopia’s politics. What if some parties do not want to participate in the dialogue?
In my opinion, the voices of these parties need to be heard and treated as per the law of the land. If this is so, the incumbent government would concur with all parties and decide on the destiny of the country democratically.
Editor’s Note: The views entertained in this article do not necessarily reflect the stance of The
BY GIRMACHEW GASHAW
THURSDAY 17 FEBRUARY 2022