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Centre of Governance & Human Rights (CGHR)


28th November 2011

CGHR Research Group

The Rule by law in Ethiopia: Rendering constitutional limits on government power nonsensical

Adem Kassie (CGHR visiting doctoral student from University of Pretoria)

Rule of law is one of the most controversial yet most often used legal and political concepts. Scholars have distinguished between formal and substantive, and between thin and thick conceptions of the rule of law. Following the bandwagon, the Ethiopian Constitution commits itself to ‘building a political community founded on the rule of law’ and conditions the success of this laudable goal on the full respect of individual and people’s fundamental freedoms and rights. This paper to assessed the constitutional basis and understanding of the rule of law and limits on government power in Ethiopia. It then discussed the manifestation of rule by law or the law of rules (much in line with the thin or formal conceptions of rule of law) in practice particularly since the most contested 2005 Ethiopian elections. It also identified the constitutional, political, cultural, historical and practical factors that breed and reinforce rule by law and the defiance of the constitutional limits on government power including those limits embodied in the human rights guarantees. It concluded by suggesting the way forward in fulfilling the constitutional promise of a limited constitutional government.

A version of this paper has been published as a CGHR Working Paper.