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An Analysis of the New Constitution ofEthiopia and the Process of Its Adoption Theodore M. Vestal Oklahoma State University And ere a man hath power to say "Behold!"/ The jaws of darkness do devour it up:/ So quick bright things come to confusion. A Midsummer Night's Dream, I, i, 143 The kitab or magic scroll of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE) is a long narrow band of parchment on which a calligraphic narrative is illustrated with the images of saints and angels alternating with astral shapes, diabolic masks, and interlaced patterns. As prepared by debieras of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the top of the TGE kitab is crowned by a painting of St. Meles Zenawi on a white horse spearing the evil dragon Mengistu Haile Marram, while the wide-eyed angel of the U.S. looks on approvingly from above. In the upper left corner of the icon is the figure of Issaias Afwerki, the President of Eritrea, slipping away with the spoils of war, the sacred soil of Ethiopia, under his arm. The narrative of the scroll tells the history of the TGE from the time of its founding in 1991 until its termination with the election of the new government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in 1995. The scroll is a talisman or amulet to protect the wearer (the TGE) from the evil eye (i.e. from the discerning eyes of critics who recognized the faults of the government in its efforts at "democratization") or to be used in magic rites for exorcising those possessed by evil spirits (those who opposed TGE policies). The entire length of the scroll equals the height of©Northeast African Studies (ISSN 0740-9133) Vol. 3, No. 2 (New Series) 1996, pp. 21-3821 22 Theodore M. Vestal the beneficiary (short in many respects). The unordained priests-artisans of the EPRDF had intended the kitab literally to protect the TGE from head to foot. Their design was foiled, however, by art and literary critics at home and abroad who understood the meaning of the paintings and who could read between the lines of the narrative and were thus able to sear the conscience of the public and to call attention to deficits of democracy in the TGE. Governance under the Transitional Charter The main features of the TGE's kitab have been well rehearsed.1 From a wartime insurgent group, the EPRDF was transformed into the transitional government by the magic wand of the U.S. State Department. Anointed with donor-nation dollars on the collateral of promised good "democratic" behavior, the EPRDF got to choose the players and make up the rules for a TGE. While most of the world breathed sighs of relief that Mengistu and the DERG were gone, few attended to the mischief of the TPLF-dominated EPRDF. Indeed, many friends of Ethiopia cheered the democratic shibboleths and the winds of freedom that seemed to blow across the country. Soon the true symbiotic nature of the Marxist-Leninist EPRDF/TGE surfaced. The anti-Mengistu alliance entered a new phase during which the weaker members were purged and a new authoritarian system was established. Ethnicity became the basis of rule, opposition was snuffed out, and basic human rights were denied by the arbitrary rule of unreachable authorities. One glaring public relations error marred the TGE's beguilement: the invitation to international observers to sprinkle holy water on the carefully orchestrated pinchbeck elections of 1992. Instead, the observers declared the proceedings to be all wet. Nevertheless, the TGE got away with continually manipulating the rules of the governance game. The U.S. and other donors were quite content to rock along with cosmetic changes for the TGE but with nothing fundamentally different being done. As the transition period came to a dejure if not defacto end, the wiles of the TGE became more blatant. The nuanced soft killing of opposition changed to the brazen thuggery unleashed at peaceful demonstrators at the An Analysis of the New Constitution ofEthiopia 23 Central High Court in Addis Ababa in September 1994. This Walpurgisnacht frenzy showed that the EPRDFXTGE now felt immunized against the "rule of anticipated reaction...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-6574
Print ISSN
0740-9133
Pages
pp. 21-38
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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