On the power of the federal government to develop and enforce criminal laws

The following is an extract from a monograph that I am developing on Ethiopian criminal law. I posted it here with a view to soliciting views from readers.

Ethiopia is a federal state. Hence, the first question that should be raised is as to how  trial jurisdiction is allocated between federal courts on the one hand and courts of regional states on the other.

Related to the jurisdiction to try criminal cases is the respective roles of federal and regional governments in the development of criminal laws. Article 51 of the Constitution enumerates the powers of the federal government. Since the federal government consists of legislative, executive and judicial arms, it can be assumed that, on these enumerated matters, the federal government will generally have legislative, executive and judicial powers. For example, the federal government is mandated to ‘determine matters relating to nationality’. On this basis, it may be submitted that, the federal government possesses legislative, judicial and executive powers over matters relating to nationality.

An exception is only with respect to certain matters. For example, the constitution authorizes the federal government to enact laws for the utilization and conservation of land and other natural resources. And regional states are entitled to administer land and other natural resources in accordance with federal laws. From these it follows that the federal government has only legislative power regarding utilization and conservation of natural resources. The power to administer such resources is left to regional states, except in relation to international rivers and waters or those crossing or linking two or more regional states. It can, therefore, be concluded that except in those cases where its power is specifically restricted, like in the case of natural resources, the federal government exercises legislative, judicial and executive powers over those matters enumerated in Article 51.

The Constitution goes further and explicitly deals with the powers of the House of Peoples’ Representatives, the legislative arm of the federal government. The House of Peoples’ Representatives is said have the power of legislation in all matters assigned by the constitution to federal jurisdiction. This is a reference to the twenty-one items enumerated in Article 51. Therefore, on these twenty-one items the House of Peoples’ Representatives exercises legislative power.

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On the power of the federal government to develop and enforce criminal laws: Part 2

In the previous post, I argued that legal form cannot and should not be used to allocate governmental powers and responsibilities between the federal government on the one hand and constituent units of the federation, i.e., regional states, on the other. On such basis I argued that criminal law as a form of law cannot be said to belong to the federal or regional level of government. Hence, I have cautioned against the literal and independent reading of article 55(5) of the constitution which says that the House of Peoples’ Representatives shall enact a criminal code and regional states shall enact criminal law on matters not covered by the federal criminal legislation.

I submitted that this constitutional provision should be read in light of Article 51 which deals with the powers and responsibilities of the federal government. Accordingly the federal government can pass any kind of law, including criminal law, on matters which fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Such matters are provided in Article 51. It is, therefore, the duty of the federal government to demonstrate that the criminal laws it has passed or plans to pass are relating to matters falling under one or more of the twenty-one items in Article 51 and other parts of the constitution. Regional states, on the other hand, can pass criminal legislation on matters which are outside the federal jurisdiction.

I finished the last post by posing a question. Regarding forestry offences, for example, can regional states provide for a higher penalty than what is provided in the federal law for the same offence? I will add another question here and address the two together: can regional states expand or contract the scope of federal offences relating to forestry?

As I have said, if we read Article 55 of the constitution literally and independent of Article 51, we ask a simple question: is the offence provided in the federal criminal legislation? If the answer is yes, then it follows that a given regional state can neither provide for a higher penalty nor expand and contract the definition of the relevant forestry offence. But I have suggested against this rather simplistic reading of the relevant constitutional provisions.

In my view, in order to answer the above question, we must first determine the respective roles of the federal government regarding management of forest resources? Does the federal government have exclusive power over the management of our forest resources? If the answer to this question were yes, then it follows that the federal government would have the exclusive power to develop and enforce forest laws, including criminal laws relating to forestry. But the constitutional reality is different.

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Constitutional Special Interest of the State of Oromia in Addis Ababa City Administration


The phraseology of special interest is technical employment. The geographical location, historical, socio economic underpinnings and legal grounds attract the attention of ONRS and Oromo people. These grounds inspire them to know about the City and special interest. The Constitutional Special Interest is not only ethical, political or legal issue but it also involves the identity of the People, indigenous people are the foundation. It is, therefore, a particularistic interest recognized and guaranteed, almost the same, when the Constitution comes into scene. It is particularistic because it is of a single state interest that it shares with no other constituent regional states.

Today, we do not watch concrete job being done to implement the interest and things are left in limbo.  After the enactment of the Constitution two Charters, Proclamation, (Proc.) No. 87/1997 and 361/2003, have been issued for the City. However, both of them have failed to state the relationship between ONRS and AACA along with the Constitution. Though both Charters empower the City government and Federal government to reach an agreement with the Region, this has not yet been materialized. For the people, therefore, the past decades have meant a major loss of control over special interest. They are the gate keepers, of success or failure to husband their interest.


Even after decades of  talk  about  the political safeguards  of  federalism, there is  a lot we  do not know  about the  formal  even  informal  ways  in  which states’ interests  influence parliamentarian decision  making. What seems clear, however, is that there are avenues of influence, often very strong ones.

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የወልቃይት ሕዝብ የማንነት ጥያቄና ሕገ መንግሥቱ



የማንነት ጥያቄ ምንድን ነው? የድንበር አከላለል ለውጥ (የድንበር ውዝግብ) ጥያቄስ ምንድን ነው? የኢትዮጵያ ሕግስ እንዴት ነው የሚጠብቃቸው? የዚህ ማስታወሻ ዓላማ እነዚህን ጉዳዩች ስለሚመለከቱት የሕግ ክፍሎች በማጥናትና ስለአተረጎማቸው አስተያየት በማቅረብ እነዚህን ጥያቄዎች መመለስ ነው፡፡ ከእነዚህ ባሻገር ይህ ማስታወሻ ስለ ትግራይ ሕዝብ መልክዓ ምድራዊ አሰፋፈር ታሪካዊ ዳሰሳ ባጭሩ አድርል፡፡

ይህን ማስታወሻ ለመጻፍ ያነሳሱኝ ነገሮች የፌዴሬሽን ምክር ቤት የወልቃይት ሕዝብ የአማራ ብሔርተኝነት የማንነት ጥያቄ ተወካዮች በቀረበለት በአዋጅ ቁጥር 251/1993 አንቀጽ 20 ድንጋጌ መሠረት የማንነት ጥያቄው በክልሉ በደረጃው ባሉ የአሰተዳደር እርከኖች ታይቶ ውሳኔ ማግኘት የሚገባው በመሆኑ ጉዳዩ በትግራይ ክልል እንዲታይ ብሎ በመወስን ማስተላለፉ እና የእኔ ማንነት ናቸው፡፡ በዚህ የተነሳ ዋናው ጥያቄ  የሆነውን የማንነት ጥያቄ ምንነትና የድንበር አከላለል ለውጥ (የድንበር ውዝግብ) ጥያቄ ምንነት በመመርመር ስለአተረጎገማቸው አስተያየት ማቅረብ ወደድኩኝ፡፡

1.    የማንነት ጥያቄ ባሕርይ ጥያቄውን የማቅረብ መብት    

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የፌዴሬሽኑ አባል ክልሎች የፌዴራሉን መንግሥት ሕጎች አልፈፅምም ማለት ይችሉ ይሆን?


የፌዴራል የሕዝብ ተወካዮች ምክር ቤት በኢ.ፌ.ዲ.ሪ ሕገ-መንግሥት አንቀጽ 53 መሠረት በተቋቋመ ወዲህ ላለፉት 24 ዓመታት በተለያዩ ጉዳዮች ላይ ከ1100 በላይ አዋጆችን ያወጣ ሲሆን ከእነዚህም አዋጆች ውስጥ በምክር ቤቱ በሚገኙ የገዢው ፓርቲ አባላት መካከል ሞቅ ያሉ ክርክሮችና የልዩነት ሃሳቦች ያስተናገዱ በጣት የሚቆጠሩ አዋጆች መሆናቸው የሚታወቅ ነው፡፡ ሞቅ ያሉ ንትርክ አዘልና የልዩነት ሃሳቦች ከተንፀባረቁባቸው ሕጎች መካከል ለአብነት ያህል በሚንስትሮች ምክር ቤት ከየካቲት 06 ቀን 2010 ዓ.ም ጀምሮ ተፈፃሚነት የነበረውንና ለሁለተኛ ጊዜ በሚኒስትሮች ምክር ቤት አዋጅ ቁጥር 2/2010 የታወጀውን የአስቸኳይ ጊዜ አዋጅ በህዝብ ተወካዮች ምክር ቤት ተቀባይነት እንዲያገኝ በቀረበ ወቅት የተደረገው እልህ አስጨራሽ ክርክር የቅርብ ጊዜ ትውስታ ነው፡፡

በተመሳሳይ መልኩ የአስተዳደር ወሰን እና የማንነት ጉዳዮች ኮሚሽን ማቋቋሚያ አዋጅ ቁጥር 1101/2011 የፀደቀባት ሁኔታ የጋለ ክርክርን ያስተናገደ ነበር፡፡ የፌዴራሉ የህዝብ ተወካዮች ምክር ቤት ታህሳስ 11 ቀን 2011 ዓ.ም ባካሄደው መደበኛ ስብሰባ የኮሚሽኑን ማቋቋሚያ አዋጅን በ33 ተቃውሞ በ4 ድምፅ ተዓቅቦ በአብላጫ ድምፅ አፅድቋል፡፡ በዚህ አዋጅ ላይ የተደረገው ክርክርና የሰላ ሂስ በምክር ቤቱ ባሉአባላት ብቻ ሳይወሰን ከምክር ቤቱ ውጪ ባሉ የፖለቲካና የሕግ ሊሂቃን መካከል የከረረ ክርክርና ትችት ሲያስተናግድ ሰንብቷል፡፡

የኮሚሽኑን ማቋቋሚያ አዋጅ ሕገ-መንግሥታዊነቱንና ሥልጣኑን በተመለከተ የሚቀርበው ድጋፍና ትችት በግለሰቦች ደረጃ ብቻ የቀረ ሳይሆን የትግራይ ክልል ምክር ቤት በጥር 18 ቀን 2011 ዓ.ም ባካሄደው 5ኛ ዓመት 14ኛ መደበኛ ጉባዔ ላይም የመከራከሪያ አድማስ ሆኖ በአዋጅ አፈፃፀም ላይ የክልል ምክር ቤቱን የውሳኔ ሃሳብ እስከማሰጠት ደርሷል፡፡

የዚህ ጽሑፍ መነሻ ሃሳብም የትግራይ ክልል ምክር ቤት በኮሚሽኑ ማቋቋሚያ አዋጅ ላይ በሰጠው የውሳኔ ሃሳብ ላይ ሲሆን በዚህም አግባብ የክልሉ ምክር ቤት የፌዴራሉን መንግሥት ሕጎች አልተገብርም ማለቱን ከኢ.ፌ.ዲ.ሪ ሕገ-መንግሥት አንፃር ያለውን ውጤት እና የአስተዳደር ወሰን እና የማንነት ጉዳዮች ኮሚሽን ሥልጣንና ተግባርን አጠቃላይ እንድምታ የምንዳስስ ይሆናል፡፡

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