Article 87 of the Ethiopian constitituion relates to the Principles for National Defence . It is enumerated below. I would like to focus on the last three sub-articles.
- The composition of the national armed forces shall reflect the equitable representation of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia.
- The Minister of Defence shall be a civilian.
- 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 armed forces shall at all times obey and respect the Constitution.
- The armed forces shall carry out their functions free of any partisanship to any political organization(s).
Sub-article 3 shows that the role of the armed forces is
- to protect the sovereignty of the country and
- perform duties under state of emergency if the state of emergency is constitutional.
In performing their duties in sub-article 3 they are to also keep in mind what is in sub-articles 4 and 5, which is
- the armed forces are to obey and respect the constitution at all times and
- they are to show no partisanship to any political organization(s).
The fact that a state of emergency is delcared (not sure if it is true currently) can not be used as an excuse to ignore their duties under article 87 sub-articles 4 and 5. The duty to obey and respect the constitution is not the same as obeying the government. The armed forces need to understand that the people have rights under the constitution that no government official can deny. But the current crisis has shown us that the army neither obeys nor respects the constitution. Obeying and respecting the constitution requires disobeying the unconstitutional order of the Prime Minister or any government official to shoot, kill and arrest citizens for exercising their rights under the constitution.
It is clear the armed forces allegiance is to the Prime Minister not the constitution. This should not be acceptable. The Ethiopian people need the protection of their armed forces not bullets for freely exercising their rights.
Note: I am not a lawyer but just was curious as to the relationship between the role of the military under the constitution and what happened since the May 15, 2005 election.