Dr. Debretsion We are ready for open resistance His successors, the Derg, had to first form the Workers Party of Ethiopia (WPE) before granting their alternative Hige Mengist. The WPE emerged as the guiding force of Ethiopian society and was, hence, assumed to have a supra-Hige Mengist status consistent with that genre of political systems. The fact that the EPRDF passed numerous laws contrary to the letter and spirit of the present Hige Mengist evidences the same thinking outlasted the Derg.
Third, while the sense of owning the Constitution is not restricted to the narrow circle of rulers of the day, the ownership of Ethiopia’s successive Hige Mengists hardly extended beyond such a narrow circle. The fact that no one rose up in the defense of the last two Hige Mengists when they were unceremoniously scrapped testifies to this lack of a feeling of ownership. Whether the same would happen if the current Hige Mengist were scrapped remains to be seen.
Fourth, one of the critical roles of Constitutions is transforming the subjects of an autocrat into the empowered citizens of the democratic state by stipulating their rights and duties. The inclusive and emotive process of framing and ratifying a Constitution heralds this change of status. This process enables the concerned population to look back and realize it as an important historical landmark. Persons who were subjects before this historical juncture clearly recognize and celebrate their elevation to the citizen status.
On the other hand, Ethiopia’s successive Hige Mengists failed to herald in such a transformation. All sectors of Ethiopian society were obviously considered the subjects of Emperor Haile Selassie when the first Hige Mengist was enacted. Surprisingly, even the subsequent Hige Mengists did not serve as the political landmark ending the subject status despite enumerating the rights and duties of the populace primarily for cosmetic purposes.