PSI Holds a Validation Workshop on the Study of the "FDRE Constitution after Three Decades"

 The Policy Studies Institute's Center for Federalism and Diversity Management (PSI) hosted an internal validation workshop for a national study on "FDRE Constitution after Three Decades: Inquiring into whether and what to Amend" on January 18, 2023, at PSI. PSI researchers and the Director General, Professor Beyene Petros, participated in the workshop. The workshop was well attended and the participants actively participated in the discussion on this topic.

The study was conducted by four experts from Addis Ababa University- Dr. Desalegn Amsalu, Dr. Christophe van der Beken, Dr. Zemelak Ayitenew, and Mr. Abyiot Teklu. At the opening of the validation workshop, Dr. Tilahun Tefera, the coordinator of the Center for Studies on Federalism and Diversity Management, who also led this research project, said that experienced researchers in the fields of federalism, constitution, and ethnic diversity management conducted this study and received great appreciation from the Director General and the staff of PSI.

The researchers completed data collection for the study in the first three months of 2022 and submitted a full report on the study in September 2022. The purpose of the study was to find out if the public would like to see the FDRE Constitution changed and, if so, which of the "ethnic provisions" they would like to see changed. The study was conducted in ethnic communities. Forty-one ethnic communities were selected through systematic random sampling, and representative samples were drawn from each ethnic community. Both surveys and qualitative studies were used to collect data.

The results of the study show that the nations, nationalities, and peoples of Ethiopia are almost unanimously in favor of constitutional amendment, if not revision. The study clarified that revision refers to a complete or comprehensive change of a constitution, while amendment refers to reforming some parts of the constitution. The study found that many research participants believe it is more important to reform some aspects of the Constitution in order to maintain the balance between diversity and unity while preserving the fundamental principles of the Constitution such as the cultural and linguistic rights of the nations, nationalities, and peoples of the country.

The "ethnic provisions" that were the subject of the study are the following: the preamble clause We the nations, nationalities, and peoples..., the historical injustice clause also included in the preamble, Article 8 of the Constitution on the sovereignty of nations, nationalities, and peoples, Article 39, the status of ethnic parties in the event of constitutional revision, and the status of Addis Ababa. The findings show that while the nations, nationalities, and peoples are almost unanimously in favor of amending some aspects of these "ethnic provisions," there is a polarization of opinion on others. Almost all research participants agree with the need to amend the FDRE Constitution. They also support amending the secession clause in Article 39 and support some amendments to the ethnic-territorial provision. Despite agreement on some dimensions of the amendment, such as those mentioned above, the study revealed polarized opinions among different ethnic groups, because while most respondents from some ethnic groups support even the secession clause of Article 39; almost all respondents from other ethnic groups are in favor of its abolition.

The study makes several important recommendations if the constitutional amendment were to be undertaken. First, the study suggests following the amendment provisions of the Constitution to change the document, as this anchors a sense of continuity and regularity in the political culture of the country, as opposed to starting over every time there is a major change in our politics. However, if amending the Constitution is not possible because it is too strict to change human rights provisions such as Article 39, extra-constitutional mechanisms may need to be considered. The study emphasizes that the process of constitutional reform must be carried out carefully. Given the sensitive, controversial, and even ideological issue of ethnic rights, there should be a participatory and inclusive dialog with the public. A participatory and inclusive approach will also minimize the legitimacy deficit in constitutional reform.


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