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  • Documents on Democracy


On 22 July 1991 in Addis Ababa, representatives from the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) reached agreement on the Transitional Period Charter of Ethiopia. (See J. Stephen Morrison's essay on pp. 125-37 above.) Excerpts from the Charter appear below:

WHEREAS the overthrow of the military dictatorship that has ruled Ethiopia for 17 years presents a historical moment, providing the peoples of Ethiopia with the opportunity to rebuild the country and restructure the state democratically;

WHEREAS the military dictatorship was, in essence, a continuation of the previous regimes and its demise marks the end of an era of subjugation and oppression, thus starting a new chapter in Ethiopian history in which freedom, equal rights, and self-determination of all the peoples shall be the governing principles of political, economic, and social life, and thereby contributing to the welfare of the Ethiopian peoples and rescuing them from centuries of subjugation and backwardness;

WHEREAS peace and stability as essential conditions of development require the end of hostilities, the healing of wounds caused by conflicts, and the establishment and maintenance of good neighborliness and cooperation;

WHEREAS to this end, all institutions of repression installed by the previous regimes shall be dismantled, regional prejudices redressed and the rights and interests of the deprived citizens safeguarded by a democratic government elected by and accountable to the people;

WHEREAS . . . the peace-loving and democratic forces present in the Ethiopian society and having varied views, having met in a conference convened from July 1-5 in Addis Ababa, have discussed and approved the Charter laying down the rules governing the Transitional [End Page 158] Government as well as setting down the principles for the transitional period. Now, therefore, it is hereby proclaimed as follows:

Part I. Democratic Rights.

Article 1. Based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly by resolution 217 A(III) of 10 December 1948, individual human rights shall be respected fully, and without any limitation whatsoever. Particularly every individual shall have:

  1. a. The freedom of conscience, expression, association, and peaceable assembly;

  2. b. The right to engage in unrestricted political activity and to organize political parties, provided the exercise of such right does not infringe upon the rights of others.

Article 2. The right of nations, nationalities, and peoples to self-determination is affirmed. To this end, each nation, nationality, and people is guaranteed the right to:

  1. a. Preserve its identity and have it respected, promote its culture and history, and use and develop its language;

  2. b. Administer its own affairs within its own defined territory and effectively participate in the central government on the basis of freedom and fair and proper representation;

  3. c. Exercise its right to self-determination of independence, when the concerned nation/nationality and people [are] convinced that the above rights are denied, abridged, or abrogated . . . .

Part III. Structure and Composition of the Transitional Government.

Article 6. There shall be established a Transitional Government consisting of a Council of Representatives and a Council of Ministers.

Article 7. The Council of Representatives shall be composed of representatives of national liberation movements, other political organizations, and prominent individuals to make up a total of no more than 87 members.

Article 8. The Transitional Government shall exercise all legal and political responsibility for the governance of Ethiopia until it hands over power to a government popularly elected on the basis of a new Constitution.

Article 9. The Council of Representatives shall exercise legislative functions as follows and oversee the work of the Council of Ministers:

  1. a. Draw up its rules of procedures;

  2. b. Election of its chairperson, who shall also be the head of state, and a vice-chairperson and secretary. The head of state shall appoint the prime minister, whose appointment shall be approved by the Council of Representatives. The head of state, the prime minister, the vice-chairperson, and secretary of the Council of Representatives shall be from different nations/nationalities; [End Page 159]

  3. c. Approve the prime minister's nomination of the members of the Council of Ministers drawn up...