Africa > East Africa > Ethiopia > Ethiopia Government Profile

Ethiopia: Ethiopia Government Profile

2013/08/19

·Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Giorgis

President: Girma Woldegiorgis

 Hailemariam Desalegn was deputy to long-term leader Meles Zenawi

As a former deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Mr Hailemariam was considered a close ally of Meles Zenawi and following his swearing in, pledged to continue his "legacy without any change".

Meles Zenawi, who led the country since overthrowing the previous regime in 1991, died of complications following a long illness.

He was praised by a lot of for his success in revitalising Ethiopia's economy but criticised for his human rights record and his failure to allow a full democracy to flourish in Ethiopia. He led the country to war against Eritrea in 1998, and as well sent troops into Somalia.

Mr Hailemariam is to remain in office until elections in 2015.

An engineer by training he leads the ruling coalition Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

Government

In name, Ethiopia was a constitutional monarchy between 1931 and 1974, but sovereignty was vested solely in the emperor, a hereditary monarch. The ruler appointed the prime minister, senators, judges, governors, and mayors. The emperor was assisted by the Council of Ministers and the Crown Council, whose members he appointed.
 
Next the military takeover in 1974, the parliament was dissolved and the provisional military government (PMG) established. The PMG assumed full control of the government and continued to policy through its provisional military administrative council, as well called the Dergue, whose chairmanship Mengistu seized in February 1977. Government decisions were made by Mengistu on an ad hoc basis, sometimes in consultation with members of the Dergue's Standing Committee. Control over government ministries was maintained by assigning Dergue representatives to oversee their operations. The Commission for Organizing the Party of the Working People of Ethiopia acted as the Dergue's political arm.
 
The constitution approved by referendum on 1 February 1987 declared Ethiopia to be a people's democratic republic. A national assembly (Shengo), with 835 members chosen by proportional representation for the various nationalities, theoretically had supreme power. The president, who was elected to a five-year term by Shengo, acted as chief executive and commander-in-chief of the armed forces and nominated and presided over the cabinet and the national council, which had legislative power at the same time as the Shengo was not in session. The president as well appointed top officials of the Worker's Party of Ethiopia (WPE), which was called the leading force in the national and society. The assembly held its initial conference on 9 September; the next day, it elected Mengistu president. It as well redrew the political map, creating five "autonomous regions" in order to weaken the appeal of the independence movements. It failed. Despite the trappings of representative government, all power remained in Mengistu's hands. He was chief of national and government, leader of the only party and commander of the armed forces.
 
Next Mengistu's defeat in May 1991, a transitional government was established, under the leadership of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, a coalition of parties opposed to the Dergue and led by President Meles Zenawi. Elections for a constituent assembly were held in June 1994. A new constitution was drafted, providing for a due elected president, a bicameral legislature, regional autonomy with the right to secede, and a nine-national state structure. Elections to the newly established Federal Parliamentary Assembly were held in 1995; they resulted in a huge victory for the EPRDF owing to opposition boycotts.
 
In the May 2000 elections, Zenawi's coalition gained 368 of the 548 seats in the Council of People's Representative. Next presidential elections were scheduled for October 2007, and parliamentary elections were scheduled for May 2005.
The Federal Parliamentary Assembly has two chambers. The Council of People's Representative (Yehizbtewekayoch Mekir Bet), the lower chamber, has 548 members, elected for a five-year term in single seat constituencies. The Council of the Federation (Yefedereshn Mekir Bet) or upper chamber has 117 members chosen by national assemblies to serve five-year terms.
 

Local government

 
Ethiopia instantly has nine ethnically based states and two self-governing administrations—Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. Until 1987, Ethiopia was divided into 15 administrative regions, which in turn were subdivided into 103 sub-regions and 505 districts. In 1976, peasant associations were empowered to collect taxes and form women's associations, cooperatives, and militias. In the mid-1980s, an estimated 25,000 such peasant groups were in existence. Urban dwellers' associations were established for a variety of functions, inclunding law and order.
 
In 1987, at its initial sitting, the Shengo redrew the political map. It created five "autonomous regions" (Eritrea, Assab, Dire Dawa, Ogaden, and Tigre). The remaining provinces were further subdivided into 24 administrative zones.
The establishment of regions was altered with the creation of the transitional government in 1991. In 1993, Eritrea gained its independence. The new regime called for 14 regional governments, but the June 1992 elections for 11 of the 14 regional assemblies were challenged and widespread fraud was alleged. In the May 2000 elections, 3,300 regional and national seats were to be contested.
 

Judicial system

 
The government of Ethiopia is presently putting into place a decentralized federal system of courts consisting of regional and district courts consistent with the 1994 constitution. Each region has District (Woreda), higher and supreme courts. There are as well local Shari'ah courts which hear religion and family cases involving Muslims. The Federal High Court and Federal Supreme Court have jurisdiction over cases involving federal laws, transregional issues, and issues of national import. The president and vice president of the Federal Supreme Court are recommended by the prime minister and appointed by the Home of People's Representatives; for other federal judges, the prime minister submits to the Home of People's Representatives for appointment candidates selected by the Federal Judicial Administrative Council.
 
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. Trials are public. Defendants have a right to legal counsel and a public defender's office provides counsel to indigent defendants. The law, however, does not allow the defense access to prosecutorial evidence before the trial, and the current judiciary suffers from a lack of trained personnel and financial constraints. In 1995, the government began training new judges and prosecutors. However, it is estimated that the creation of a fully independent and skilled judicial system will take several decades.
 
In 1992, a appropriate prosecutor's office was established. In 1994 this office began trying defendants charged with crimes against humanity during the Mengistu regime. As of 1997, approximately 1,300 detainees were charged with war crimes. Up to 5,198 persons had been charged with war crimes by the end of 1999.
 
The Council of People's Representatives in October 1999 passed enabling legislation to meet the constitutional requirement for the creation of a human rights commission and office of the ombudsman. The commission has full powers to receive and investigate all complaints of human rights violations made against any person. By the end of 1999, neither entity was operational.
Government type: 

federal republic

Administrative divisions: 

9 ethnically based states (kililoch, singular - kilil) and 2 self-governing administrations* (astedaderoch, singular - astedader); Adis Abeba* (Addis Ababa), Afar, Amara (Amhara), Binshangul Gumuz, Dire Dawa*, Gambela Hizboch (Gambela Peoples), Hareri Hizb (Harari People), Oromiya (Oromia), Sumale (Somali), Tigray, Ye Debub Biheroch Bihereseboch na Hizboch (Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples)

Independence: 

oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world - at least 2,000 years

Constitution: 

ratified 8 December 1994, effective 22 August 1995

Legal system: 

based on civil law; currently transitional mix of national and regional courts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 

18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch: 

bicameral Parliament consists of the House of Federation (or upper chamber responsible for interpreting the constitution and federal-regional issues) (108 seats; members are chosen by state assemblies to serve five-year terms) and the House of People's Representatives (or lower chamber responsible for passing legislation) (547 seats; members are directly elected by popular vote from single-member districts to serve five-year terms) elections: last held 15 May 2005 (next to be held in 2010) election results: percent of vote - NA; seats by party - EPRDF 327, CUD 109, UEDF 52, SPDP 23, OFDM 11, BGPDUF 8, ANDP 8, independent 1, others 6, undeclared 2

Judicial branch: 

Federal Supreme Court (the president and vice president of the Federal Supreme Court are recommended by the prime minister and appointed by the House of People's Representatives; for other federal judges, the prime minister submits to the House of People's Representatives for appointment candidates selected by the Federal Judicial Administrative Council)

Political parties and leaders : 

Afar National Democratic Party or ANDP [Mohammed Kedir]; Arena Tigray; Benishangul Gumuz People's Democratic Unity Front or BGPDUF [Mulualem BESSE]; Coalition for Unity and Democratic Party or CUDP; Gurage Nationalities' Democratic Movement or GNDM; Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement or OFDM [BULCHA Demeksa]; Omoro People's Congress or OPC [IMERERA Gudina]; Somali Democratic Alliance Forces (SODAF); Somali People's Democratic Party or SPDP; United Ethiopian Democratic Forces or UEDF [BEYENE Petros]; Unity for Democracy and Justice or UDJ [Birtukan MEDEKSA, currently imprisoned]

Political pressure groups and leaders: 

Ethiopian People's Patriotic Front or EPPF; Ogaden National Liberation Front or ONLF; Oromo Liberation Front or OLF [DAOUD Ibsa]

International organization participation: 

ACP, AfDB, AU, COMESA, FAO, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MINURCAT, NAM, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMIL, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)

Flag description: 

three equal horizontal bands of green (top), yellow, and red, with a yellow pentagram and single yellow rays emanating from the angles between the points on a light blue disk centered on the three bands; Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa, and the three main colors of her flag were so often adopted by other African countries upon independence that they became known as the pan-African colors