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Ethiopia-The 1987 Constitution





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Ethiopia Index

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City Hall, Addis Ababa. Courtesy Thomas Ofcansky

The primary task facing the WPE following its formation in 1984 was to devise the new national constitution that would inaugurate the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (PDRE). In March 1986, a 343-member Constitutional Commission was formed to draft a new constitution based on the principles of scientific socialism. Eventually, the 122 full and alternate members of the WPE Central Committee who had been appointed to its membership dominated the commission.

The Constitutional Commission had its origins in the Institute for the Study of Ethiopian Nationalities, which the Derg had established in March 1983 to find solutions to problems resulting from Ethiopia's extreme ethnic diversity. The institute was staffed mostly by academics from Addis Ababa University, who continued to serve as advisers to the Constitutional Commission. The commission's diverse membership included religious leaders, artists, writers, doctors, academics, athletes, workers, and former nobility. There was also an attempt by those who chose appointees to the commission to make sure that all major ethnic nationalities had representation in the body.

For about six months, the commission debated the details of the new constitution. In June 1986, it issued a 120-article draft document. The government printed and distributed 1 million copies to kebeles and peasant associations throughout the country. During the next two months, the draft was discussed at about 25,000 locations. The regime used this method of discussion to legitimize the constitution-making process and to test the mood of the populace. In some cases, people attended constitutional discussion sessions only after pressure from local WPE cadres, but in other cases attendance was voluntary. Where popular interest was apparent, it centered on issues such as taxes, the role of religion, marriage, the organization of elections, and citizenship rights and obligations. By far the most controversial draft provision was the one that outlawed polygamy, which caused a furor among Muslims. Few questions were raised about the document's failure to address the nationalities problem and the right to selfdetermination . According to government officials, the citizenry submitted more than 500,000 suggested revisions. In August the commission reconvened to consider proposed amendments. In all, the commission accepted ninety-five amendments to the original draft. Most of the changes, however, were cosmetic.

The referendum on the constitution was held on February 1, 1987, and Mengistu announced the results three weeks later. He reported that 96 percent of the 14 million people eligible to participate (adults eighteen years of age and older) actually voted. Eighty-one percent of the electorate endorsed the constitution, while 18 percent opposed it (1 percent of the ballots were invalid). Although this was the first election in Ethiopia's history based on universal suffrage, the presence of communist cadres throughout the country ensured that the constitution would be adopted. In Tigray and Eritrea, however, the regime held referenda only in urban centers because much of these territories was controlled by the Tigray People's Liberation Front and the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, respectively (see Political Dynamics, this ch.). In other places, such as parts of Welo and Gonder regions, the vote took place amid heightened security measures.

The constitution officially took effect on February 22, 1987, when the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was proclaimed, although it was not until September that the new government was fully in place and the PMAC formally abolished (see The People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, ch. 1). The document, which established the normative foundations of the republic, consisted of seventeen chapters and 119 articles. The preamble traced Ethiopia's origins back to antiquity, proclaimed the historical heroism of its people, praised the country's substantial natural and human resources, and pledged to continue the struggle against imperialism, poverty, and hunger. The government's primary concern was proclaimed to be the country's development through the implementation of the Program for the National Democratic Revolution (PNDR). In the process, it was assumed that the material and technical bases necessary for establishing socialism would be created.

The constitution attempted to situate Ethiopia in the context of the worldwide movement of so-called "progressive states" and made no direct reference to Africa. Critics claim that the constitution was no more than an abridged version of the 1977 Soviet constitution, with the exception that strong powers were assigned to the newly created office of the president. A second difference between the Ethiopian and Soviet constitutions is that the former declared the country to be a unitary state rather than a union of republics. It was reported that the problem of nationalities was hotly debated in the Constitutional Commission, as well as in the WPE Central Committee, but the regime would not abandon its desire to create a single multiethnic state rather than a federation.

Data as of 1991



BackgroundUnique among African countries, the ancient Ethiopian monarchy maintained its freedom from colonial rule with the exception of a short-lived Italian occupation from 1936-41. In 1974, a military junta, the Derg, deposed Emperor Haile SELASSIE (who had ruled since 1930) and established a socialist state. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and massive refugee problems, the regime was finally toppled in 1991 by a coalition of rebel forces, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). A constitution was adopted in 1994, and Ethiopia's first multiparty elections were held in 1995. A border war with Eritrea late in the 1990s ended with a peace treaty in December 2000. The Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission in November 2007 remotely demarcated the border by geographical coordinates, but final demarcation of the boundary on the ground is currently on hold because of Ethiopian objections to an international commission's finding requiring it to surrender territory considered sensitive to Ethiopia.
LocationEastern Africa, west of Somalia
Area(sq km)total: 1,104,300 sq km
land: 1 million sq km
water: 104,300 sq km
Geographic coordinates8 00 N, 38 00 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 5,328 km
border countries: Djibouti 349 km, Eritrea 912 km, Kenya 861 km, Somalia 1,600 km, Sudan 1,606 km

Coastline(km)0 km (landlocked)

Climatetropical monsoon with wide topographic-induced variation

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Danakil Depression -125 m
highest point: Ras Dejen 4,533 m
Natural resourcessmall reserves of gold, platinum, copper, potash, natural gas, hydropower
Land use(%)arable land: 10.01%
permanent crops: 0.65%
other: 89.34% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)2,900 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)110 cu km (1987)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 5.56 cu km/yr (6%/0%/94%)
per capita: 72 cu m/yr (2002)
Natural hazardsgeologically active Great Rift Valley susceptible to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions; frequent droughts
Environment - current issuesdeforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification; water shortages in some areas from water-intensive farming and poor management
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea
Geography - notelandlocked - entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the de jure independence of Eritrea on 24 May 1993; the Blue Nile, the chief headstream of the Nile by water volume, rises in T'ana Hayk (Lake Tana) in northwest Ethiopia; three major crops are believed to have originated in Ethiopia: coffee, grain sorghum, and castor bean
Population85,237,338
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 46.1% (male 19,596,784/female 19,688,887)
15-64 years: 51.2% (male 21,376,495/female 22,304,812)
65 years and over: 2.7% (male 975,923/female 1,294,437) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 16.9 years
male: 16.6 years
female: 17.2 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)3.208% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)43.66 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)11.55 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)-0.02 migrant(s)/1,000 population
note: repatriation of Ethiopian refugees residing in Sudan is expected to continue for several years; some Sudanese, Somali, and Eritrean refugees, who fled to Ethiopia from the fighting or famine in their own countries, continue to return to their homes (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 17% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 4.3% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 80.8 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 92.06 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 69.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 55.41 years
male: 52.92 years
female: 57.97 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)6.12 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Ethiopian(s)
adjective: Ethiopian
Ethnic groups(%)Oromo 32.1%, Amara 30.1%, Tigraway 6.2%, Somalie 5.9%, Guragie 4.3%, Sidama 3.5%, Welaita 2.4%, other 15.4% (1994 census)

Religions(%)Christian 60.8% (Orthodox 50.6%, Protestant 10.2%), Muslim 32.8%, traditional 4.6%, other 1.8% (1994 census)
Languages(%)Amarigna 32.7%, Oromigna 31.6%, Tigrigna 6.1%, Somaligna 6%, Guaragigna 3.5%, Sidamigna 3.5%, Hadiyigna 1.7%, other 14.8%, English (major foreign language taught in schools) (1994 census)

Country nameconventional long form: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
conventional short form: Ethiopia
local long form: Ityop'iya Federalawi Demokrasiyawi Ripeblik
local short form: Ityop'iya
former: Abyssinia, Italian East Africa
abbreviation: FDRE
Government typefederal republic
Capitalname: Addis Ababa
geographic coordinates: 9 02 N, 38 42 E
time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions9 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)
Constitutionratified 8 December 1994, effective 22 August 1995

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

Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Executive branchchief of state: President GIRMA Woldegiorgis (since 8 October 2001)
head of government: Prime Minister MELES Zenawi (since August 1995)
cabinet: Council of Ministers as provided for in the December 1994 constitution; ministers are selected by the prime minister and approved by the House of People's Representatives
elections: president elected by the House of People's Representatives for a six-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 9 October 2007 (next to be held in October 2013); prime minister designated by the party in power following legislative elections
election results: GIRMA Woldegiorgis elected president; percent of vote by the House of People's Representatives - 79%

Legislative branchbicameral 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
note: some seats still remain vacant as detained opposition MPs did not take their seats

Judicial branchFederal 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 pressure groups and leadersEthiopian People's Patriotic Front or EPPF; Ogaden National Liberation Front or ONLF; Oromo Liberation Front or OLF [DAOUD Ibsa]
International organization participationACP, 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 descriptionthree 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

Economy - overviewEthiopia's poverty-stricken economy is based on agriculture, accounting for almost half of GDP, 60% of exports, and 80% of total employment. The agricultural sector suffers from frequent drought and poor cultivation practices. Coffee is critical to the Ethiopian economy with exports of some $350 million in 2006, but historically low prices have seen many farmers switching to qat to supplement income. The war with Eritrea in 1998-2000 and recurrent drought have buffeted the economy, in particular coffee production. In November 2001, Ethiopia qualified for debt relief from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, and in December 2005 the IMF forgave Ethiopia's debt. Under Ethiopia's constitution, the state owns all land and provides long-term leases to the tenants; the system continues to hamper growth in the industrial sector as entrepreneurs are unable to use land as collateral for loans. Drought struck again late in 2002, leading to a 3.3% decline in GDP in 2003. Normal weather patterns helped agricultural and GDP growth recover during 2004-08.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$70.23 billion (2008 est.)
$62.93 billion (2007 est.)
$56.64 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$26.39 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)11.6% (2008 est.)
11.1% (2007 est.)
10.9% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$900 (2008 est.)
$800 (2007 est.)
$700 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 44.9%
industry: 12.8%
services: 42.3% (2008 est.)
Labor force37.9 million (2007)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 80.2%
industry: 6.6%
services: 13.2% (2005)
Unemployment rate(%)NA%
Population below poverty line(%)38.7% (FY05/06 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: 4.1%
highest 10%: 25.6% (2005)
Distribution of family income - Gini index30 (2000)
40 (1995)
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)25.2% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $4.517 billion
expenditures: $5.34 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)44.4% (2008 est.)
17.2% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$NA (31 December 2008)
$3.651 billion (31 December 2006)
Stock of quasi money$NA (31 December 2008)
$3.258 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$NA (31 December 2008)
$6.694 billion (31 December 2006)
Market value of publicly traded shares$NA
Economic aid - recipient$1.6 billion (FY05/06)

Public debt(% of GDP)32% of GDP (2008 est.)
44.5% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - productscereals, pulses, coffee, oilseed, cotton, sugarcane, potatoes, qat, cut flowers; hides, cattle, sheep, goats; fish
Industriesfood processing, beverages, textiles, leather, chemicals, metals processing, cement

Industrial production growth rate(%)10.4% (2008 est.)

Current account balance-$1.806 billion (2008 est.)
-$827.9 million (2007 est.)
Exports$1.555 billion (2008 est.)
$1.285 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)coffee, qat, gold, leather products, live animals, oilseeds
Exports - partners(%)Germany 11.8%, Saudi Arabia 8.7%, Netherlands 8.6%, US 8.1%, Switzerland 7.7%, Italy 6.1%, China 6%, Sudan 5.5%, Japan 4.4% (2008)
Imports$7.206 billion (2008 est.)
$5.156 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)food and live animals, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, machinery, motor vehicles, cereals, textiles
Imports - partners(%)China 16.3%, Saudi Arabia 12%, India 8.7%, Italy 6%, Japan 4.9%, US 4.5% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$870.5 million (31 December 2008 est.)
$1.29 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$3.155 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$2.621 billion (31 December 2007 est.)

Exchange ratesbirr (ETB) per US dollar - 9.57 (2008 est.), 8.96 (2007), 8.69 (2006), 8.68 (2005), 8.6356 (2004)
note: since 24 October 2001, exchange rates are determined on a daily basis via interbank transactions regulated by the Central Bank

Currency (code)birr (ETB)

Telephones - main lines in use908,900 (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular3.168 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: inadequate telephone system; the number of fixed lines and mobile telephones is increasing from a very small base; combined fixed and mobile-cellular teledensity is only about 5 per 100 persons
domestic: open-wire; microwave radio relay; radio communication in the HF, VHF, and UHF frequencies; 2 domestic satellites provide the national trunk service
international: country code - 251; open-wire to Sudan and Djibouti; microwave radio relay to Kenya and Djibouti; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Pacific Ocean) (2008)
Internet country code.et
Internet users360,000 (2008)
Airports63 (2009)
Roadways(km)total: 36,469 km
paved: 6,980 km
unpaved: 29,489 km (2004)

Ports and terminalsEthiopia is landlocked and uses ports of Djibouti in Djibouti and Berbera in Somalia
Military branchesEthiopian National Defense Force (ENDF): Ground Forces, Ethiopian Air Force (ETAF) (2008)
note: Ethiopia is landlocked and has no navy; following the secession of Eritrea, Ethiopian naval facilities remained in Eritrean possession
Military service age and obligation(years of age)18 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service; theoretically, no compulsory military service, but the military can conduct call-ups when necessary and compliance is compulsory (2008)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 17,666,967
females age 16-49: 17,530,211 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 11,078,847
females age 16-49: 12,017,073 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 908,384
female: 916,354 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)3% of GDP (2006)
Disputes - internationalEritrea and Ethiopia agreed to abide by the 2002 Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission's (EEBC) delimitation decision, but neither party responded to the revised line detailed in the November 2006 EEBC Demarcation Statement; UN Peacekeeping Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), which has monitored the 25-km-wide Temporary Security Zone in Eritrea since 2000, is extended for six months in 2007 despite Eritrean restrictions on its operations and reduced force of 17,000; the undemarcated former British administrative line has little meaning as a political separation to rival clans within Ethiopia's Ogaden and southern Somalia's Oromo region; Ethiopian forces invaded southern Somalia and routed Islamist Courts from Mogadishu in January 2007; "Somaliland" secessionists provide port facilities in Berbera and trade ties to landlocked Ethiopia; civil unrest in eastern Sudan has hampered efforts to demarcate the porous boundary with Ethiopia

Refugees and internally displaced personsrefugees (country of origin): 66,980 (Sudan); 16,576 (Somalia); 13,078 (Eritrea)
IDPs: 200,000 (border war with Eritrea from 1998-2000, ethnic clashes in Gambela, and ongoing Ethiopian military counterinsurgency in Somali region; most IDPs are in Tigray and Gambela Provinces) (2007)
Electricity - production(kWh)3.46 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 1.3%
hydro: 97.6%
nuclear: 0%
other: 1.2% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)3.13 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)37,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)33,590 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)430,000 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)24.92 billion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)2.1% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS980,000 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths67,000 (2007 est.)
Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria
respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis
animal contact disease: rabies
water contact disease: schistosomiasis (2009)
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 42.7%
male: 50.3%
female: 35.1% (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 8 years
male: 8 years
female: 7 years (2007)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)6% of GDP (2006)








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