Home | Comment & Analysis    Sunday 23 May 2010

Ethiopian Parliament: The rubber stamp and the "Speakers’ Corner"

By Fitsum Alemu

May 22, 2010 — After one watches the “parliamentary” meetings and sees the assembled members with their varied “intelligence”, one has to pray for the country.

It is well-known that a Parliament supposed to be a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local or ethnic prejudices ought to guide, but the general good and the best interest of the country. Well, that is not the case in this Ethiopian “parliament”. Having been a member of the three consecutive “parliaments”, Ato Meles trained himself to talk, sometimes utters weird and unfortunate words and phrases which were repeated and quoted by friends and foes. The “speaker of the parliament”, Ato Teshome Toga, is incompetent to lead the meeting, as well as, afraid of following his own rules and discipline his boss, Ato Meles. Rather, the “speaker” has used his utmost power against the opposition. He shut them off and threatened them. It is disturbing to see the bullying and threatening of opposition members of parliament. What Ato Mels forgets or would like to forget is that, at the end of the day, in this “parliament”, he only represents the city of Adowa, if he really represents it at all. Opposition party members also represent districts- voters who sent them there. By insulting, threatening and bullying these members, he and the “speaker” are doing the same to the constituents. Instead of making this assembly “the house of bullies”, they could have spent their time by doing people’s business. One of them would be enacting real laws. Laws that will improve the everyday life of Ethiopian people, laws that facilitate growth and unity, laws that insure the respect of human and civil rights, laws that prohibits discrimination, laws that promotes equality and fair representation, laws that protects the environment, laws that give clear guidance about the role of the federal and regional governments, a law that creates a constitutional court to interpret the constitution, a land act which provides private ownership of a land, laws that regulates endowments and prohibits political parties from directly or indirectly engaging in business, many, many laws that will come up given the circumstances and events that triggers them. That should have been the role of parliament. Other countries of Africa are a head of Ethiopia by hundreds of miles. While the Ethiopia parliament sits and mostly deal with approving international aid agreements like board of directors of a big company, other African parliaments enacted laws that help their country’s development and advance the democratic process.

For instance, in 2009-2010 the Ethiopian parliament approved 58 International treaties dealing with aid and loan, and enacted 24 laws, including anti-terrorism law and charities law; in 2007- 2008, again the parliament approved 44 aid and loan agreements. Most of the laws that were passed since 2005 were intended to curb opposition activities, suppress free press, dismantle human rights organization, but strength the government financial resources so that it can spend unlimited resources to buy weapons and technology to monitor and persecute opponents and to hire more and more spies and security officers. That is why it passed the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, the Mass Media and Freedom of Information Proclamation, the Charities Act and the Electoral Code, to mention the few.

In comparison, the South African Parliament, in 2008, passed 21 bills that include social assistance, protection of information, regulation of the post office, consumer protection and even the sale and exchange of second hand goods. The Nigerian parliament debates dozens of bills dealing with employees rights, chemical waste management, lobbying, credit administration, disaster management, establishment of a space agency, cyber security, prohibition of torture, to mention some of them. Its counterpart in Kenya also passed 16 bills in 2008-2010. One of them is a new constitution. Moreover, the Kenyan parliament is debating bills like witness protection, free legal assistance and the control of alcohol drinks.

The point is, while other African parliaments are debating advanced issues and passing laws that serve the best interest of their country, the “parliament” of Ethiopia remained a rubber stamp for EPRDF’s loan and aid agreements and has continued to be a bullying field and a “speakers’ corner” of Ato Meles and co. That is why EPRDF is conducting election every five years, that is why people have to be killed, imprisoned, tortured, and that is why the country’s limited resources should be spent. It is high time for the Ethiopian people to say to EPRDF that you have sat too long for any good you have been doing.

The writer could be reached at fitsumka@aol.com