Dr. Adem Kassie Abebe, for Addis Standard
Addis Ababa, November 07/2018 – The wave of reforms that united Ethiopia and the world came to the shore of the judicial sector, appointing Meaza Ashenfi as the first president of the Supreme Court and a real-time figure inspired by the award-winning film "The Declaration" where the young lawyer opposes the tradition forced kidnappings in marriage. With Ethiopia joining the edge of the new era of democracy, the importance of an independent judiciary arbitrator of a democratic game can not be exaggerated. In an interview that soon after its official appointment, she showed that her priority will be 'restore public trust' & # 39; in justice. This is a commendable goal, though the Ethiopian courts have never really enjoyed the public trust to be redeemed, and its challenge will therefore be to build and nurture new confidence in the judiciary. This is an outstanding challenge, and this section proposes one possible measure that could help Meaz progress. But before I reach the central part of this contribution – court verifications, I would like to share my thoughts in the broader context of reform with the aim of emphasizing the importance of complementing the goodwill, which has so far been the source of most celebrated moves in Ethiopian politics, with institutional safeguards .
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed led and inspired the process of reconstruction and unprecedented democratic opening in the history of Ethiopia. Not everyone is happy, and most are cautiously optimistic; and the collapse of security and a relative disruption of law and order, and is often inevitable in the circumstances of the revolution, because what is different is more than just a slow evolution must be dealt with by anticipation, skill and time. Caution is understandable in a country that is cognizant of short moments of relief and joy that has undergone exhausting periods of darkness. Caution is not necessarily bad or distracted. Little dissatisfaction is needed for oil to continue fuel and burn the reform engine. Prime Minister Abiy and his team must be continually challenged if they want to grow insipid and improve their political programs and approaches. Encouraging signals of democratic upbringing hope to channel disapproval of organized and rigorous yet peaceful competition of ideas.
From an individual goodwill to an institutional reform
Until now, the reforms were mostly in the form of appointing new faces to critical positions. The new wave of women's nomination was particularly interesting for the Ethiopian public, continental and international observers of Ethiopian politics. Ethiopia now has a balanced cabinet where women have taken over 50 percent of the position, including significant ministries dealing with defense and the security sector. We also saw new and younger faces. This turning to inclusion of women and young people in leading positions is likely to have structural effects in the way that society evolves. Yet all these perspectives remain political appointments, based on the assumptions of political loyalty.
A better test of the goodwill of the new administration should instead be measured on the basis of appointment to institutions that require independence from political cars. And in that sense, appointing the head of state and the president of the Supreme Court are a significant beginning. In spite of the fact that while women are being raised to important positions, these two appointments are different because they include those who are apparently politically unconnected. The Presidency, if relevant and united, must remain above policy. And the appointment of Sahle-Work Zewdea, a prominent diplomat, as the country's president, stands at the test of that position. Similarly, the appointment of Meaza Ashenfiyya, a prominent advocate and founder of Ethiopian women's attorneys, as the president of the Supreme Court, for the first time, a truly independent figure occupied that position. The Reform train also knocked closer than I expected. A good friend and competent scientist, Dr. Gedion Timothewos, was appointed as one of three Deputy Chief State Attorney. As two above, he is one of the new groups of politically unrelated nominees. Although I believe that the prosecutor's office of the chief state attorney should be separated and given to an independent institution, for now the appointment of a young expert to the office welcomed the start.
An even better and more sustainable test of commitment to democratic reform is the adoption of institutional reforms. All the good names that have climbed the ladder of power are the result of a singular goodwill. Political goodwill, though necessary, is changeable. Institutions and procedures must be established assuming that people who will take them are not necessarily angels, and are always unsuccessful. Therefore, we should work on establishing procedures that will, more or less likely, lead to the appointment of qualified candidates with the necessary integrity. This is particularly necessary for independent institutions, including the Presidency, the judiciary, the voting committee, the human rights commission, the ombudsman, etc. The newly appointed Advisory Council for Law and Justice Reform is working on some of these issues and I hope that, over time, Goodwill will be complemented by procedural and institutional safeguards.
Confirming Trust in the Judiciary: Referral to Court Verification
Although many have expressed concern that Meazi does not have the necessary judicial experience, it will probably work in the judiciary. As an outsider, no unpredictable assumptions and sticky working habits affecting any lethargic institution, such as the Ethiopian judicial system, will be prevented. Challenges awaiting him immense. It will be the presidency of the judiciary that has again failed the people's hope; justice that caused more tears than it had dried up. Simply, the judiciary was an accomplice, if not an active and willing participant, over the past decades. Even in cases where independence from political institutions was not a problem, the judiciary is often frustrated by allegations of persistent corruption, extreme inability and lack of professionalism. Courts are often considered more executive than the executive. I hope that Meaza has the integrity, the ability, the driving and the vision to take up those occasions. But to achieve this, he will have to face the head problem. One of the possible ideas is judicial verification.
Judicial Exercise essentially involves a process through which participants must be subjected to tests of ability and integrity to determine the justification of their continuous positions. At the heart of the idea of a judicial assessment is that a justice that has failed to protect the freedom from the fear and the desire of a common man can not be trusted in maintaining the ideal that guarantees the constitutional, constitutional, and continental obligations of the etiodists. The unique aspect of the review process is the opportunity for the wider public to express their views and experiences with regard to individual judges.
Since judicial independence requires the judges to be protected from inadequate influence and threats, scrutiny may be controversial through the usual jurisdictional procedures. However, bypassing the existing legal protection will continue dangerous precedent and may send the wrong signal that new holders of power are trying to balance and replace the "old" court guard with their own sisters. Nevertheless, judicial independence must be compensated by judicial responsibility. As such, to the extent that the independence, integrity and integrity of the verification is guaranteed, this is justified. In order to ensure such independence and integrity, appropriate procedures should be pre-determined in consultation with judicial officers, including, where necessary, constitutional changes to protect the legality of the process. Although the reputation and position of individual judges might suffer during the verification process, the long-term institutional interest of the judiciary is likely to thrive. Kenya participated in a similar verification process after the adoption of the new constitution in 2010. Combined with other measures to improve access to justice, the process noted significant success, with the popular acceptance of the judiciary. However, maintaining judicial credibility requires more than just single-checking. It must be accompanied by deliberate and merciless efforts to improve the availability, speed and quality of delivery of justice as well as communication strategies for the constant involvement of the public and other critical participants.
The new president of the Supreme Court has a historic opportunity to promote the process of judicial cleansing and building up and strengthening of relative credibility. Popular support is the safest way for sustainable independence of the judiciary. There is, of course, the danger that new power-holders may catch up in the verification process. That is why the independence of the process is critical. In Kenya, one strategy was to ensure that three out of nine members of the testing body were foreigners. Ethiopia does not necessarily have to repeat the Kenyan process, but could focus on the successes and failures of the Kenian and other comparable experiences in the process of creating a process that will be independent in perception and reality. It is important that most Ethiopian judges serve the state level, and Meaza will have limited power to conduct downward scrutiny. Problems at the federal level are just as well, perhaps, worse than at the state level. Nonetheless, any attempt at federal scrutiny will probably trigger similar processes at the state level.
Editor's Note: Dr. Adem Kassie Abebe works on the Program for the Development of the Constitution of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). Can be obtained at a.abebe @ idea.int / adem.abebe @ gmail.com. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the official IDEA position.