Ethiopia: The Military - The One at Stake
“It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.” – Chuck Palahniuk
Article 87(3) of the FDRE constitution reads as: The armed forces shall protect the sovereignty of the country and carry out any responsibilities as may be assigned to them under any state of emergency declared in accordance with the Constitution.
The constitution entrust the military the power to protect the constitution from internal and external threats of aggression and encroachment. The whole intent of the article is that the military has the duty to maintain order and security. When the government is too weak or unwilling to protect the security and life of its citizens and things slips out of hands the military should step in to restore order and ensure that the constitution is upheld.
Now, it is evident that the situation in Amhara national regional state is so unconstitutional. People are killing ethnic Tigrian people, replace the legitimate national and regional flags with different flags; and public and private properties are under destruction. Looting and plunder are day to day phenomenon. Generally, the regional state has no government. Another ‘invisible government’ seems in full control of the state apparatus. The people are in unimaginable level of fear and uncertainty.
The constitution is not in place. Everyone including the government lacks the will and/power to enforce the law. The government is now devoid of its legitimacy. The state is descending in to chaos. In such cases, the military should fulfill its constitutional mandate and uphold the peace and security of the state as well as the people.
People are evacuating from their land, and their lives are at the hand of an invisible clandestine clique who intends to go as far as sweeping out ethnic Tigrian. The regional government has made it clear through its state media that the situation is out of its control. Then, what are we waiting for? If the civil government cannot take matters into its hand, another stronger and capable force must be in charge to avoid the risks of lawlessness and anarchy.
Order is the first and most important ingredient for statehood. . In the words of Francis Fukuyama “states need to provide public order and defense from external invasion (sic) and internal forces of instability before they can provide universal health or free education”.
Power must be centralized to make sure that things are in order. Particularly, the legitimate coercive power should be concentrated at the hand of one able-organ other than the civil one. Order can only be maintained by the military. Especially, the situation in Amhara Regional state in particular and the country in general must be contained with a bold involvement at least and the utmost control of the military.
In other words, military governments come to power, not because of the original sin or the superior firepower of the military, but because the civilian political order has proved unsatisfactory. As far as I know the civilian government has no charisma and has lost its reputation. No one fears the government which means no one respects it. So one with a certain combination of those things-fear and respect (consent and coercion) must be in charge essentially not to rule but to restore peace, order and security.
The most fundamental basis of the military’s claim to power and as an institution of governance is “that of being the most effective and rationale means of organizing force and pursuing war”, and therefore ensuring the preservation of a state’s security, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Others see the military as “a bulwark against social unrest, and a modernizing and stabilizing source of organizational strength in society to prevent subversion or a total collapse of the political order”.
That is why it’s convincing to state that at this moment the military is the best and of course the last resort to lift the people from its current situation.
The civilian political order is in a continuous shamble. The civilian leadership is dragging its feet both to maintain order and answer for the legitimate calls of the public. In the meantime, hundreds of lives have perished and property is destroyed. Still, the people continue calling for the government to protect them.
Generally, the public calls for the government action of whatsoever to ensure order and peace. However, there is no any sign of government will or projection of force to do so. Why? Primarily because of the intra-party and inter-party split there is no a center of command to enforce the constitution or any other government decisions.
If this situation continues, we will degenerate in to an utter collapse as we are on its edge. But before this happen, the military should be authorized to exercise its constitutional duty and play its historic role. And this is a propitious moment for the government to allow the military to fulfill its duty before matter get worse.
1/ JF Maitland-Jones, Politics in Africa: The Former British Territories, New York, WW Norton, 1973, p 110.
2/ E Hutchful and A Bathily (ed.),The Military and Militarism in Africa, Senegal, CODESRIA, 1998.
3/ F Fukuyama, State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century, New York, Cornell University Press, 2004
4/ Naidoo, S. The role of the military in democratic governance in Africa: the need to institutionalize civil–military relations.