Making Extraordinary Power Part of the Ordinary Discourse? The Case of Ethiopian State of Emergency Declared on February 16




In this piece, I will examine the legality of and intent induced the State of Emergency (SoE) declared on Feb. 16, 2018, in Ethiopia. Throughout, I will utilise legal and public choice analytical models. To do so, I will start by giving an overview of SoE as a general practice and under the 1995 FDRE constitution. I will then employ functional analysis to highlight the functions of SoE – mainly reassurance and existential rationales. Tied to the functional review, I will discuss the possibility of abuse of function and alternatives to control an abuse through ex-ante and ex-post monitoring mechanisms. In the fourth section, I will turn to the examination of a motive element that may induce declaration of SoE with a focus on benevolent intent and as a power-maximizing tool. Against these theoretical backdrops, under the fifth section I will diagnose the legality of and the rationale that induced the declaration of the current SoE. I would argue that SoE is an extraordinary power to be used in any but dire circumstances. The vaguer the condition for declaring an emergency and the weaker the check and balance of emergency process, the higher will be the risk of emergency power abuse. Further, its repeated reoccurrence sets a threat of normalization of SoE which is as much dangerous as the threat it is meant to mitigate.      

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