The conference was organized by FES Ethiopia and a group of Ethiopian constitutional experts with the purpose to facilitate an open space for dialogue of key stakeholders on fundamental constitutional questions and with the idea to work towards fostering a shared vision. The conference was attended by political party representatives, government officials, civil society leaders and the academia.
The conference addressed various aspects of the Ethiopian constitution with a view to informing the ongoing discussions on constitutional resettlement in Ethiopia. The discussions emphasized the historical and political foundations of the current constitution; the challenges of the constitution in building a peaceful and united society; and the influence of the political practice in the exercise of the current constitutional provisions.
The historical dynamics of the Ethiopian constitution was traced from the dimension of political ideologies and political interests of different governments. The historical and philosophical foundation of the shift from the constitution of ‘Ethiopian peoples’ to the constitution of ‘nations, nationalities, and peoples’ was interrogated from legal, political, and sociological points of views.
The multinational constitutional imaginations of the Ethiopian politics were reflected to be shaped by the contradictory interpretation of Ethiopian political history and competing narratives ethnic relations.
The current constitutional order was discussed from practical point of view. The panelists and participants also reflected on issues that need to be included in Ethiopian constitutional order. The recognition of none-ethnic identities, constitution’s over-reliance on ethnicity as the sole indicator of identity; comprehensive protection for women, persons with disabilities, and minority groups were the major issues that are not well addressed in the current constitutional order.
The influence of the political practice on the full implementation of the provisions of the current constitution was another area of emphasis by the discussants. The exercise of separation of power and checks and balances, and religious secularism have been reported as areas of concern.
The conference also addressed the issue of constitutional resettlement within the context of the current national dialogue and transitional justice initiatives. How these initiatives are linked to and inform or shape the agenda of constitutional resettlement was deliberated. The conference panelists and participants shared insights in to what factors should be considered and suggested possible procedures and possible avenues for successful national dialogue and transitional justice.