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Chapter One

1.1 Understanding Civic and Ethical Study


1.2 The Origin and Meaning of Civics and Ethical Study

The subject field of civic and ethical study originates from the nature of human being
itself i.e. from the natural behavior and level of interaction of human beings. One basic
nature of human beings related with this statement is the fact that as “man is a social
animal”, whose life is closely related to each other. Almost all instincts, demands and
progresses of human beings are fulfilled in society. The superiority that human beings try
to achieve over nature and other living things is the result of the social bond among
human beings. If such bond is a requirement for the survival of human beings, then what
should be the pattern of social interaction that exist among human beings is closely
related with the subject matter of civics. In this regard civic and ethical study is
considered as a subject field which is mainly concerned with teaching citizens as to how
they can live harmonious and peaceful life with other citizens and as to how they can
resolve conflicts peacefully among themselves.

1.3 Definition and Meaning of Civics and Ethics

1.3.1 The Notion of Civics
Etymologically, the term civics was derived from the Latin words ‘civis’ which means a
citizen and ‘civitas’, which also means ‘city-state’1.The two Latin words gave birth to the
branch of social science known as ‘civics’. Civics as a branch of social science deals with
the rights and responsibilities of citizens. Citizens are legal members of a politically
organized community- called state. The term Citizen refers to a person who has the right

City-states are a self-governing and self-contained urban center, usually surrounded by a small dependent
rural area. The typical city-state of antiquity was the Greek city, such as Athens, which had complete
political independence. Rome in its early days was a city-state. During the period from the fall of the
Roman Empire to the 19th century, many cities of northern Italy, such as Florence and Genoa, were city-
states. Several north German cities also functioned as city-states, of which Bremen and Hamburg retained
some independence well into the 19th century. As a separate and autonomous political unit, the city-state
cannot exist within an empire or a modern national state.

to be a full member of a particular state, while the actual legal status of membership to a
state is called citizenship. Civics deals with the various aspects of social life of a citizen.
It studies everything about citizens.

Civics is also concerned with the intensive study and understanding of political
institutions such as law making institutions or legislatives (parliament), executive bodies,
and political institutions of various type or kinds existing in a country. The purpose of
government, the nature of law, and the way private behavior affects the public order and
the political system are also the concerns of civics. Furthermore, the oxford dictionary
defines civics as “a subject that studies the way government works and deals with the
rights and duties that individuals have as a citizen and members of the state”. In this
context civics could be considered as the science of comparative government and a
means of administering public trusts. This concept implies that civics is certainly part of
the study of politics. Therefore, it will be plausible to understand the concept of civics as
a subject that focuses on the functions of government and its means of administration.
Civics also entails values and important principles that serve as the foundation for
democratic form of government. These values include justice, honesty, self discipline,
equality, majority rule with respect to minority rights, and respect for the self and others.

Critical Thinking:
1. Why we study about the function of government and its means of administration?

This is because of the direct relationship between our rights and responsibilities and the
government’s duty to enforce this human necessity. Since the actions of government have
direct effect on the lives of citizens, members of that particular society must know the
privileges and obligations that they demand from the government. You may wonder what
the government is good for and its purpose? As an authority that rules a country, it is an
essential part of a nation. The government tends to provide stability, which makes many
things possible. It makes laws, provides services, and keeps order and solves
disagreements between individuals, groups, and nations. With the use of laws, the
government helps establish order and provides security for its citizens.

Government is necessary to ensure the proper use of force. For this reason, it must
specify objective laws and to clarify the use of force, and it must have the ability to
enforce these laws. The purpose of government is to protect the individual rights of its
citizens. Since rights can be assaulted both within a country and outside of it; the
government must deal with either treat. This requires an army for defense of the country,
and a police system to protect the individual citizens from other individuals within the
country. Not only does the government make laws but it also makes sure that people obey
them. In addition to providing and enforcing the laws the government set up the armed
forces, police forces to protect its citizens. However, the question arises whether the
government has an absolute right to punish the dissenters? The widely accepted view is
that people should obey the government, at the same time, have a duty to disobey the
government under certain valid conditions.

1.3.2 The Notion of Ethics

Etymologically, the term “ethics” was derived from a Greek words “ethika” and “ethos”,
which means a “character,” or “custom”. It also refers to the principles or standards of
human conduct, sometimes called morals (Latin mores, “customs”), and, by extension, it
is the study of such principles and sometimes called moral philosophy. Moreover,
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “Ethics’’ as “the study of standards of conduct
and moral judgment: the system of morals of a particular person, religion, group, etc’’.
Ethics, as a branch of philosophy, is considered as a normative science, because it is
concerned with norms of human conduct, as distinguished from the formal sciences, such
as mathematics and logic, and the empirical sciences, such as chemistry and physics.
The origin of ethics traces back to ancient Greece during the 5th c B.C in times of
Socrates. Socrates who was one of the great philosophers, in his dialogues to his student,
Plato, initiated the question of ethics. During the Medieval period of Western Europeans,
Ethics was highly associated with Christianity and blind obedience to the Christian
church. Similarly, again in other parts of the world Ethics was linked with the religious
beliefs of Buddhism, Confucius, Hinduism, and Islam. It is also a fact that even presently
Ethics is usually considered as part of religion, sanctioned by religions authority in some
traditional societies.

1.4 The Difference between Ethics and Morality
The terms ethics and morality are used in relation to beliefs about the right and wrong
behaviors or actions. The two terms, while referring to similar concept, differ slightly in
meaning and sometimes may used interchangeably or synonymously. Ethics is used as
just another word for “morality” and used to refer to the moral code or normative theory
of an individual or group and also the terms “moral” and “ethical” are often used
interchangeably as equivalent to the “right” or “good” and as opposed to “immoral” and
“unethical”. However, it does not necessarily mean that these two terms are equivalent
and can be used interchangeably. It is worth nothing that though people erroneously use
the term morality and ethics, interchangeably, however, the term morality and moral
refers to the conduct itself while ethics and ethical refer to the study of moral conduct
(morality) or the code that one follows.
Ethics refers to the philosophic study of morality, in which one relies on formal theory,
rules, principally of codes of conduct to determine the “right” course of action. In
contrast, morality describes ones personal commitment to value that is frequently
influenced by social norms and expectations. Moreover, Ethics is the more formal and
systematic study of moral beliefs, where as morality is the adherence to informal personal

1.5 The Goals of Civic and Ethical Study

The goals of teaching various subjects are normally very similar and they are generally
guided by economic and social considerations. The aims and objectives of teaching civic
and ethical study include all the aims and objectives of education. The goal of civic and
ethical study can be realized by the active participation of citizens in a society. The extent
and intensity of citizen’s active participation reflect the realization of the goals. Civic and
ethical study has the following basic goals/objectives.
1.5.1. Ideal Citizenship
The most crucial aim of teaching Civics and Ethics is to create ideal citizens: that is to
acquaint students all the qualities of an ideal citizen. An ideal citizen has the following
♣ Believes in equality of opportunity for all people

♣ Values, respects, and defends basic human rights and privileges guaranteed by the
country’s constitution
♣ Respects and upholds the law and its various agencies
♣ Understand and accepts the principle of democracy
♣ Puts the general welfare above his own welfare
♣ Freely exercises his political or democratic rights
♣ Accepts his civic responsibilities and discharges them to the best of his capacity
♣ Realizes the necessary connection of education with democracy and so forth.

1.5.2 National Character and Patriotism

For a country to progress effectively, its citizens must be soaked in the spirit of
patriotism. Citizens should be prepared to sacrifice everything for their country. They
should also be proud of their country. They should also be proud of their identity, cultural
heritage and uphold the values of the society. These things can be implanted into the
minds of students at their impressionable age, in a psychological and scientific manner.
The teacher should try to develop national character in them and base it on the virtues of
co-operation, love, sympathy etc.

1.5.3 Development of Democratic Outlook and Strengthening Democracy

Democratic out looks should be inculcated into the minds of the young generation. This
can be realized by teaching students democratic values, principles and cultivate them in
such a way that they could shoulder the responsibility of their country.

1.5.4 Providing Citizens with the Knowledge and Intellectual Skills

Providing students with the appropriate knowledge and intellectual skills are very
important to monitor and influence government rules, decisions and actions that greatly
affect individual rights and without which the good of the society cannot be materialized.

1.5.5 Strengthening National and International Integration

Teaching civic and ethical study can help learners to create a sound base for the
continued oneness and unity of country. Presently the world is becoming a village and as
a result a man can be a real citizen of his/her country only when he/she possesses in

international outlook. This outlook greatly helps to have the attitude of cooperation and
peaceful way of living.

1.6 Competences of Good Citizens

Class Activity:
1. How do you describe a “good citizen”? What are the best qualities?

How do we acquire the knowledge and skill that enable to identify our rights and duties
as individual citizens? Where is the source of power that helps to ensure our rights?
Knowledge and skills can be gained through learning and experience while the power to
master our rights might be generated when we are organized and make institutions that
safeguard our interests.

Active or effective participation of citizens in the multifaceted problems of the society is

an imperative. Any kind of participation may not be successful and bring change in the
society. What is required is informed decision and action. For that citizens need to have
competences which include civic knowledge, civic skills and civic attitudes. This lesson
describes the competences required from good citizens, including civic knowledge, civic
skills and civic dispositions.

As the roles of good citizens are multifaceted and many, there are minimum competences
that are required from them. These are civic Knowledge, civic skills and civic attitudes.

1.6.1 Civic Knowledge

Civic knowledge implies general information and awareness about the social, cultural,
political, environmental, historical and economical conditions and realities of the past and
the present and also the challenges and prospects ahead of the country. Citizens need to
know their country, its people, history, culture, resources and the like. To that end,
knowledge of history, politics (democracy, constitutions, state and government),
sociology, globalization, environment, philosophy, and economics is very valuable.

1.6.2 Civic Attitudes/ Disposition
Another component, which is required from citizens, is what we call civic attitudes. Civic
attitudes involve those character traits, or dispositions which are engrained in the mind of
citizens. Civic attitudes or orientations will develop once citizens acquired civic
knowledge. In order to discharge ones responsibility, for example, community service,
citizens need to develop positive outlook and concern for the community. Altruistic
qualities are required to help the poor and vulnerable ones in the community.

1. Can you mention some of the civic attitudes required from good citizens?

i. Tolerance
The first and primary disposition that is required from good citizen is tolerance. Political
tolerance and cultural tolerance is critical to build up a democratic system in our country.
In democracy, peoples are allowed to hold and express their own political view. As result
of such freedom, different view are circulated and reflected in the society. That is the
beauty of democracy. Citizens will have options to choose in such political markets. In
order to ensure the freedom of expression and an assembly, the culture of tolerance is a
pillar. So, tolerance could be understood as citizens’ readiness and desire to
accommodate differences of religion, political views, ethnicity, etc. At societal level,
tolerance would mean, for instance, a peaceful co-existence of different cultural,
linguistic and religious communities. In Ethiopia where we have more than 80 linguistic
communities, tolerance is a critical virtue expected from each and every citizen. It would
include, then, accepting or recognizing, valuing or appreciating and respecting diversity.
Diversity is natural and normal; exists independently of the preferences of individual
citizen and citizens of a democratic nation are expected to recognize, appreciate and
respect it.

♣ Accepting diversity: it refers to recognizing the fact that Ethiopia is a diverse and
plural society having different cultural, linguistic, religious and social structures.
♣ Valuing diversity: implies that citizens need to appreciate diversity. It is natural
and hence need to be valued positively. It provides options for citizens, too.
♣ Respect: diversity need to be respected. Respect is the key principle to live with
ii. Open-mindedness and Civic-mindedness
Another vital disposition of good citizen is open-mindedness. It implies citizens’
readiness to enter into a dialogue, listen others view and change positions consequently.
In dialogue the stronger idea wins! A related, but different disposition is what we call it
civic-mindedness. This implies citizens’ readiness to sacrifice their individual interests
and values for the sake of promoting the collective interest or the common good. It
involves the altruistic qualities of citizens. So, good citizens always stand for the public
interest and die for it!

iii. Loyalty
Loyalty is another element of civic dispositions. Loyalty involves things like keeping
promises or keeping ones words, keeping relationship, being faithful or trustworthy.
Loyalty is required at different capacity of citizen. For example, an office holder or
official is expected to be loyal to the people that voted for him/her. Similarly, the civil
servant is expected to serve the public loyally. In doing so, a public servant or employee
is expected to respect the rules and regulations of the employer.
In addition, good citizens are expected to govern their own behaviors without fear of
external actors. As the saying goes virtuous citizens’ act virtuously! Aristotelian notion
of virtue implies the ability to do the right thing at the right time in the right way for the
right purpose. Citizens are expected to act virtuously at any circumstance of life. We
know that a robber would act rightly in the presence of police. But we know that s/he
might do his/her business -robbery after the police leave the place.

1.6.3 Civic Skills

Civic skills are the third elements which are required from good citizens. These involve
skills of decision making, communication, conflict resolution, compromise, persuasion,
creativity and the like. Civic skills are very important to put the civic knowledge into a
good effect. Such skills are vital for describing, analyzing or systematizing a certain

phenomenon and also very important for problem solving. The following can be listed in
this regard:
♣ To take part in political discussions, consciousness of current political issues, to
be able to evaluate a position or decision, to take a position or defend it
♣ To resolve conflicts in a peaceful way
♣ To interpret the media messages (interests and value systems that are involved
♣ To have media skills to look, choose, and ‘use the buttons’
♣ To have language competence, reading and writing
♣ To be capable in critical handling of information and information technology
♣ To possess communication skills
♣ To know how to vote, to monitor and influence policies and decisions
♣ To use the media in an active way (not as consumer, but as producer of media
♣ To participate in voluntary organizations
♣ To build coalitions, co-operate and interact
♣ To be capable to handle multiculturalism etc

Chapter Two

2.1. Understanding Society, State and Government

2.2. Society

Class Work
1. How do you define Society?
2. What are the conditions to be fulfilled to be called a society?

Society is usually defined as the interaction of human groups whose members live by
common rules of conduct. By rules of conduct is to mean not just enforceable commands,
but regular and predictable behavior. All human activities, such as marriage, work and
recreation are carried on within a frame work of such rules. Society exists when people
share so many rule of conduct that they are able to understand and predict one another’s
behavior. However, the mere existence of individuals can not regarded as society as there

are certain condition for a grouping of individuals to have the virtue of society, such as
society individuals should live together for a long period of time, share certain common
goal, interest, value etc.

2.3. State
State is an institution through which the dynamics of politics is organized and formalized.
Regarding the nature of the state, sometimes it is considered as the expression of society,
at other times it has been excoriated as a vicious parasite riding on the shoulder of
society. Historically political thinkers attempted to discover the nature of the state and its

The conceptions about the state show differences in the expression of political scientists,
political philosophers and lawyers. In addition, definitions of the state are almost as
numerous as the authors who wrote about it. Scholars remarked the difference where
historians may regard the state as a concrete reality, philosophers may regard it as an
abstraction and lawyers regard it as a juristic person of formulating a single definition
that would fit variety of state existence. The following are some of the conceptions about
what the state is. The state to some is;

♣ A tiny republic
♣ A great federal union
♣ A state which is simple government structure
♣ One with a huge bureaucracy
♣ That barely maintains internal order or a police state
♣ A body whose foreign policies are swaged (maintained) by powerful neighbors
♣ A body that is greatest in world diplomacy
The concept of state is central to traditional approaches in political science. Different
scholars have various conceptions about the state. There were numerous philosophical
explanations about the state.

 A state is an autonomous political unit, encompassing many communities

 A state is a society politically organized and is more than a mere collection of
families or an agglomeration of occupational organizations

 A state is the fundamental association for the maintenance and development of
social order, and to this end, its central institution is endowed with the united
power of the community.
 The state is the institution or sets of institutions, which serve certain elementary
common purpose and conditions of life.

2.4. Attributes/Elements of State

The state is essentially characterized by the following five attributes: population, defined
territory, government, sovereignty and recognition.
i. Population
Since state is a human association, the first essential element that constitutes a state is the
people who are residing (living) within a certain defined area. No minimum number is
required to constitute the population of a state. How much people constitute state? No
exact answer can be given to such a question. We have states with a population of about
1.3. Billion as China and few thousand population number like San Marino. In this
direction, we may appreciate the view of Aristotle that the population of a state should
neither be so large that administration may be a problem nor so small that the people may
not lead a life of peace and stability.

Another question that arises at this stage is whether the population of a state should be
homogenous or not. It is good that the population of a state is homogenous, because it
makes the task of national integration easy. However, in a multi-cultural state, societies
have a population marked by diversity in respects of race, religion, language, culture etc.

ii. Defined Territory

This refers to the internationally accepted demarcated geographical boundary that
includes the land, water, airspace and other natural resources. Territory is the second
most essential attribute of modern statehood, i.e. definite portions of the earth’s surface
marked off from the portions occupied by population of other states.

iii. Government
Government is the soul and brain of the state. It implements the will of the community. It
protects the people against conditions of insecurity. If state is regarded as the first

condition of a civilized life, it is due to the existence of a government that maintains law
and order and makes ‘good life’ possible. The government is the machinery that
terminates the condition of anarchy. Government is the administrative wing of the state.

iv. Sovereignty
Sovereignty is power over the people of an area unrestrained (unfettered) by laws
originating outside the area or independence and completely free of direct external
control. It means the state is the final and ultimate source of all laws with its territorial
As already pointed out, sovereignty is the attribute of a state. It is a creation of modern
times. It is that highest power of the state that distinguishes it from all other associations
of human beings. It has two aspects: internal and external.

1. Internal sovereignty: refers to a state’s government not those of any other states
deciding how it will manage its domestic affairs, problems, and formulates its
own laws and rules. In other words, it means that inside the state there can be no
other authority that may claim equality with it.
2. External sovereignty: In the external sphere, it implies that the country should be
free from foreign control of any kind and its right to define its interests and
decides what its objectives are to be, the priorities among these objectives. It is,
however, a different matter that a state willingly accepts some international
obligations in the form of membership of the League of Nations or of the United
Nations. The existence of sovereign authority appears in the form of law. It is for
this reason that the law of the state is binding on all and its violation is visited
with suitable punishment.
It is universally admitted that a sovereign state is legally competent to issue any
command, which is binding on all citizens and their association.

v. Recognition
For a political unit to be accepted as a state with an “international personality” of its own,
it must be recognized as such by a significant portion of the international community.
It follows that a state, has five essential elements. As such, a proper definition of this
term should include its physical and spiritual elements. It is also required that all the five

elements should be studied in the order given above. Therefore, the most appropriate
definition of the state is that state is a community of persons more or less numerous,
permanently occupying a definite portion of territory, independent or nearly so of
external control, and possessing an organized government to which the great body of
inhabitants render habitual obedience.

2.5 Theories on the Origin and Development of State

i. The Divine Right Theory
This theory claims the state to be of a divine creation. In this sense, the state is created
by God not only in the general sense in which everything that exists is said to be the
creation of the divine will but also in a special sense of a deliberate, direct, specific act of
creation with a particular end in view: the peace on this earth for the preservation of
human being. Thus, the state is seen as an institution created by God, and rulers were
regarded as God’s own representatives or agents on earth.

That is, it is of God’s will that in human society some are born to rule while other are
born to be ruled. Furthermore, the theory asserts that the social order, in which the
position of the individual is determined hierarchically on the basis of birth or hereditary
succession was God given and thus it is legitimate and unchangeable. This theory served
as justification for the power of the feudal emperor’s of Europe during the middle ages
and in other areas where feudalism predominated. This theory however, neglects the
historical fact that the reality of politics and state structure are not only the results of
everyday human interactions and relations but also highly dynamic. As a result, this
theory has lost its significance in modern times. With the advancement of education the
people have discarded the theory and adapt others.

ii. The Genetic Theory

While divine right theory is a matter of faith or religious form, the genetic theory is based
on sociological facts. Here the argument is that state is an eventual extension of the
family. The first group of collective human life is the family or the house hold, the last is
the state. The earliest advocator of this theory is Aristotle in whose view: a society of
many families is called a village, and a village is most naturally composed the

descendents of one family, the children and the children’s for which reason states were
originally governed by kings,… and when many villages so entirely join themselves
together as in every respect to form but one society, that society is state. Certain it is that
family is the first unit of social development. Historians of ancient law and early
institutions have sought to study the subject of family, its composition, residence of
authority in the family and its growth in to the clan or tribe and eventually into the state.
If viewed from the stand point of sociology, the genetic theory on the origin of state
makes sense. It is not hypothetical like the theory of divine right. But the point of
criticism is that it stands on social rather than political hypothesis. The whole attempt is
to demonstrate the process- first of household, and then elder male ruled family, then a
tribe of persons of this family descent and finally the state.

iii. The Force/Conquest/Expansion Theory

According to the force theory the state is neither a creation of God, nor a result of the
irresistible social development. It is primarily the consequence of the forcible subjugation
through long continued warfare among primitive groups. That means the state is the
result of wars and conflicts that have been endemic in the history of human beings. From
the very beginning of human history there has always been a struggle among different
social groups to achieve economic advantages resulting in the ascendancy of some over
others. Ultimately, these wars of conquest resulted in the occupation of more and more
territories and led to the rise of states.

Hence, by this theory the state is primarily seen as an entity created by the use of physical
force. In other words, the state is created through a process of conquest and coercion of
the weak by the strong. Hence military power and physical strength of a society is
considered as to be of great importance for the creation and consolidation of the state.
The force theory has its own weakness. Force may be one of the factors but it cannot be
treated as the only factor in the origin of state, military power and physical force alone
cannot explain the complex phenomenon of political systems for mere force cannot
maintain lasting relations between the rulers and the ruled.

iv. The social contract/Consent Theory
The social contract theory holds that the state is an artificial creation based on voluntary
agreement or contract among people. The theory was originated and developed in the
16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Its starting point is a hypothetical “State of nature” or a
condition that prevailed before the creation of the state. According to Thomas Hobbes,
one of the advocators of this theory, the state of nature was a very horrible condition in
which man was the enemy of man. Man being a selfish, egoistic, brutal and aggressive
creature is free to defend himself either by running away from the scene or by killing his
enemy singly or in group with others. There was nothing like peace, security, order,
property, justice etc and anything what we find now in a state. There is all but fear and
danger of a violent death in the state of nature. The “law of nature” (commonsense)
informs man to be in competition with others and so invade others for some gain and
other evil things. In short, life of man was solitary, nasty, poor, brutish and short. So to
terminate the state of nature, contract is made by the people. Hobbes argue, law of nature
informs the people to surrender their all natural rights in favor of a man (assembly of
man) as the price for living in an institution that ensures them liberty, property, and the
entire of a good life. By such contract society, state and government came in to being: a
‘common power’ is instituted that would keep all in awe and ensure security of their life
and possessions. It shows that each individual agreed with all the others to surrender his
right to govern himself, to some particular man or assembly. By doing this they
established the state. Social contract in this way is the instrument that substitutes the state
of nature with a civil (political) society.
In sharp contrast to the divine right theory, it developed its argument from the doctrine of
popular sovereignty. Thus, according to this theory, since the state is established by the
consent of the people, its main purpose is to protect and safeguard people’s inalienable
rights such as the right to life, liberty and property.

The social contract theory was further developed in the age of revolution in the fight
against the rule of absolute monarchies. This theory advocated popular sovereignty,
limited government and individual rights. However, this theory gives priority to the
individual over society. The main problem of this theory is, therefore, that it is difficult to
reconcile the contradiction on between its individualistic premises as the individual is
born in to society and is indefinitely tied to it in many ways. With its limitations in its
premise, however, this theory is currently operational in international politics. The major
exponents of the social contract theory were the British political thinkers Thomas
Hobbes (1588- 1679) and John Locke (1632-1704), and the French thinker Jean
Jacques Rousseau (1712- 1778).

v. The Marxist Theory

Like other theories on the subject of the state, this theory takes into account one factor,
the fact of class contradictions. According to this theory, there was no state in the most
primitive stage of social life as there were no contending classes. The state arose as a
matter of necessity when society was divided into two hostile classes, each having its
own interest. The origin of state, therefore, should be treated in the fact of class
antagonisms. With the invention of agriculture and creation of private property, the
dominant class came into being by virtue of being the owner of the means of production.
It required some authority (the state) to protect its interests that lay in the exploration and
oppression of the class having no ownership of the means of production.
Simply it means, primitive society that had no private property and no class had no state
either. Naturally, there were certain social functions, but they were performed by men
chosen by all members of society, which had the right to dismiss these people at any time
and to appoint others. In those primitive times relation between people were regulated by
public opinion. The further development of the productive forces led to the disintegration
of primitive society. Private property appeared, accompanied by classes-slaves and slave
owners. It becomes necessary to protect private property, the rule and security of its
owners, and this brought the state into being. Therefore, the state is the produce of class
society. Thus, state is not something introduced into society from the outside, but it is a
product of societies internal developed.

The essence of the whole argument is that the state had not always existed and it may not
always exist. It had come into being with the rise of class contradictions, so it will wither
away (die out) with the end of class antagonisms. Thus, the proponents of the Marxist
theory believe that with the historical process of disappearance of private property and
antagonistic social classes, the state will be disappeared. Consequently, communism an

envisioned social system, where everybody will be equal and all have whatever they
want, would prevail. Although its proponents and followers struggled to realize the
visions of communism for almost two centuries neither equality for all nor fulfillment of
wants has been materialized.

vi. The Evolutionary Theory

The evolutionary theory is like a rejection as well as a synthesized version of the key
elements of all the theories on the origin of state as discussed above. It emphasizes two
important points. First, the state is not a make but a growth. It is a result of a very long
evolution covering hundreds and thousands of years. Second, not one but many factors
have played their part in state building. Thus, state is neither a handiwork of God, nor a
result of a superior physical force, nor a creation of a social contract, nor a more
expansion family system and the like.

As state is a result of a very long process of evolution, there are factors that have played
their part in its gradual development.

All the aforementioned theories depict that explanations about the origin of the state vary
greatly among different people in different times. However, as the result of accumulated
knowledge and culture in politics, nowadays, there is a widely held consensus about the
practice and idea of the modern state. The consensus is on the fact that the idea of modern
state is a typical 17th century European creation. This period saw the break up and
disintegration of the medieval European Christendom and the emergence of secular and
sovereign political units in the form of modern state.

2.6 State Structure

2.6.1 Unitary State Structure/Unitarism
The classification about the forms of state is related with structure and distribution of
state power. In history, commonly practiced forms of state are unitary and federal forms
of state. Unitarism is a form of state structure that is characterized by centralization of
power and indivisible sovereignty. The national government is legally supreme over sub-
national territorial bodies or units. In other words, a unitary state is one in which no other
governmental body but the central government has any areas of public that are

exclusively under control. In a unitary state, sub national bodies may be potentially over
ruled by the central government in any political decision they make.

In unitary government, there is only one source of authority whatever local territorial
units exist. Local units are merely agencies of the central government established for its
convenience in local administration. They owe their legal existence to it (their power is
increased or diminished or their legal existence ended). E.g. Britain, the Netherlands,
Romania, Poland etc.

2.6.2. Essential Features of Unitary State

Distinctive (principal) features of a unitary form of state structure include the following:
 Supremacy of the Central Legislature/Parliament: There is only one
(unicameral) kind of legislature, which is invariably (always) absolutely supreme.
It is the only body that enacts and monitors the law. Other bodies (sub-national
bodies to implement the laws) are made by the central legislature/parliament.
 Absence of subsidiary sovereign bodies: Sovereignty is vested in the national
/central government and hence sub national bodies are not sovereign because
sovereignty in unitary form of state structure is indivisible. But subsidiary
legislatures can exist when represented by the central government. However it
can be ruined by the central government at any time.
 Re-centralization of power at the will of the national/central government
unilaterally: This is to mean that power that may have been decentralized to sub-
national bodies can be re-centralized at the will of the central government
 Unchecked centralization of power at the center: Sub national bodies
(regional, provincial and local bodies) can be reshaped, reorganized and even
abolished at will of the central government.
In the modern world, there are factors that inhibit centralized law making processes.
These are:
 Complexity of political, economic, and social conditions within the confines of
the state and at the international level.
 Increased population size, and territory (internal demarcation)

 Topography of the country
 Population settlement
 People's history, language, culture and psychological make-up etc.
A majority of states in the world are unitary systems. But there are great differences
among these unitary states in the institutions and procedures through which their central
government interact with their territorial subunits. Unitary government does not
necessarily mean highly centralized government. Sub-national units can be granted some
kind of autonomy by national government, which has the legal authority to take it back at
any time it wishes. The degree of local autonomy varies from state to state; for example:
in Britain (United Kingdom) the statutes of parliament (laws made by the parliament)
have created local governments so that local people may manage their local affairs. The
actions of local councils are not interfered unless they overstep the legal boundary. In
France, on the other hand, council of departments and communes are subject to constant
detailed supervision by central authority.
Despite the difference on the nature of center-local units relations in general terms,
Unitarism does not mean under-participation of the people in the governance of their
country. But there are possibilities of the people to take part in the government through:

 Electing delegates (representatives) to parliament.

 Referendum
 Initiative of proposals
 Recall- the right of the people to take back or cancel decision that is contrary to
the interests of the people and also the right to remove delegates from office.

Potential advantages/merits of unitary system:

 The organization is relatively simple
 Conflict of jurisdiction is avoided
 Duplication of civil servants and services are comparatively rare because powers and
functions are centralized at the center /National government.
 Uniformity of law, policy and administration can be maintained throughout the whole state.
 It is advantageous to a country with relatively small area and homogenous population. But it
is not good in a country with widely different economic and social interests and with widely
different standards of political conduct.

Potential disadvantages/demerits:
 Overburdens the national legislature with numerous local matters. In fast changing world,
the central authority cannot cope with and maintain pace with the issues prevailing.
2.6.3. Federal State Structure/Federalism
Federal form of state structure (federal state) is the form of state where by power is
formally (constitutionally) divided between the federal /national/ central government and
sub-national /regional/or provincial government, each of which is locally supreme in its
own sphere. In federal state, the legislative authority is divided between a central or
federal government and sub national government.
It is a direct opposite of unitary government. It provides for an actual division of powers
between two or more nearly independent governments each of which exercises control
within its scope of authority, over the same people. Generally federalism is a political
union of different political units (a creation against particularism and centralism).

Federalism is the basis of the political organization of several states of today. It may vary
from place to place and from time to time. The indispensable quality of the federal state
is a distribution of the powers of government between the federal authority and the
federating units. The federal type of constitution has been adopted and is being adopted
by a number of nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America as a response to their often
widely diversified linguistic, territorial and political traditions, e.g. Ethiopia, Nigeria,
India, Brazil, USA, Canada, Australia, and Germany etc.

2.6.4 Essential /Principal Features of Federal Form of State

♣ The existence of dual polities: two relatively autonomous levels of government i.e.
the federal /central government and sub national (regional) state levels possess a
range of powers and functions that others cannot encroach.
♣ Written constitution: A federal state has a written (codified) constitution. The
written constitution stipulates formal (constitutional) division of authority between
the federal /central government and sub national governments. The responsibilities
and powers of each level of government are defined in a codified or written
constitution. Therefore, the relationship between the federal state and sub national
regional states is conducted within a formal legal framework.
♣ Supremacy of federal government and constitution: In most states, the federal
government and constitution is superior and supreme over the sub-national
government and constitution in conducting key issues and activities of the country.

Federal authority and federal units have constitution of their own. Though federal
units have their own local constitutions, they are accountable to the federal
constitution. The federal constitution contains articles that stipulate (specify) about
power sharing (distribution), rights and duties of the federal authority and units etc.
♣ Equal power shared by the federal authority and federal units/decentralized
federalism. This does not mean they have equal power in one affair, rather the
reserve powers (power applied when required but reserve until then) and federal
powers are seen equally.
♣ Absence of re-centralization of powers and authority by the central/federal
government at its will or unilaterally.
♣ Absence of amending the constitution or some of its provisions by federal
government unilaterally. Hence, it needs the consent or agreement of the sub
national/regional governments for amending the federal constitution.
♣ Constitutional arbiter: The formal provisions of the constitution are interpreted by a
supreme court (the judiciary) at the federal level, which there by arbitrates in case of
conflict (disputes) between federal and regional government. In determining, the
respective fields of jurisdiction of each level, the judiciary in a federal level (system)
is able to determine. However, in Ethiopia, it is the House of Federation (HF) that is
lodged with the highest power of interpreting the FDRE constitution.
♣ Linking institutions: In order to foster or develop cooperation, partnership and
understandings between the federal and regional (sub-national) governments, the
regional (sub-national) governments must be given representation through a bi-
cameral legislature.

2.6.5 Processes of Federalism

Two processes of federalism may be identified.
I. ‘Holding Together’ Federations (Federalism by Disagregation)
They develop from unitary state, as government’s response to alleviate threats of
secession by territorially clustered minorities. Such federations often grant some sub-
units particular domains of sovereignty E.g. over language and cultural rights in an
asymmetric federation while maintaining broad scope of action for central government
and majorities. Examples include India, Belgium, Canada and Spain.
i. ‘Coming Together Federations’ (Federalism by Aggregation)
Independent states may come together by ceding or pooling sovereign powers in certain
domain for the sake of goods otherwise unattainable, such federations are typically
arranged to constrain the center and prevent majorities form overriding a sub-unit.
Examples include the present USA, Switzerland, and Australia.

2.6.6 Power Distribution in Federal Form of State

The power distribution in federal form of state is categorized in exclusive power,
concurrent power and reserved powers (residuary powers to federal authority and
federating units). How these power distributions are practiced? Let see the practice of
exclusive and concurrent power distribution in Ethiopia.
I. Exclusive power: Exclusive powers refer to powers not shared powers, only
exercised by federal authority or federal units. Let's take the Ethiopian federal
practice as an example. The following are exclusive powers by the federal
♣ To enact laws and constitutional laws and follows its application
♣ To keep the country's constitutional system
♣ Foreign Affairs
♣ Defense
♣ Printing and circulating of money
II. Concurrent powers: This refers to the powers exercised commonly by
federal authority and federal units.
♣ Social sectors (like education, health, labor and social affairs, culture and
information, civil service)
♣ Planning
♣ Transport and communication
♣ Internal security
♣ Agriculture, Industry, Trade, Tourism, Finance and Justice ---etc
III. Residual/reserved powers: The powers left without mentioning in the

Potential advantages/merits of federalism:
 It is essential to large states
 Combines national unity and local autonomy and the rights of self-
government. In modern political theory and practice, the federal idea is
normally linked with democratic institution and the protection of the
individual and minority groups.
 Maintains balance between centrifugal (unifying) and centripetal
(integrating) forces in a sate.
 It stimulates interest in government by leaving the determination of local
policy in the hands of local officers and assemblies who are responsible to
local electorate.
 It relives the central legislature and authorities from the necessity of devoting
time and energy to the solution of local problems.

Potential disadvantages/demerits:
 There is duplication of activities and services, which results in expense. It is
not always easy to deal with a specific situation.
 The division of power between the federal units may lead to conflicts of
jurisdiction between national and local officials or a sort of 'no Man's Land"
in which neither authority takes decisive action.

2.7 Government
 Government is the central agency or complex totality of interrelated
organizations exercising over all control over a society of a territorially delimited
sub divisions of a society. As such, government is the most essential component
and administrative wing of the state.
 Government refers to some particular set of institutions and organs that make
laws (the legislative body), implements public policies (executive body) and law
interpreting body (the judiciary body). As such, a government is a group of people
within the state who have the ultimate authority to act on behalf of the state

 Government refers to the institutional processes through which collective and
usually binding laws and decisions are made through its various branches of

2.8 The Major Functions of Government

In a modern state, government functions have greatly expounded with the emergence of
government as the most active force vehicle in political, social, and economic
development. Accordingly, the major purposes and functions of government include the
♣ Self-preservation: Any government must keep its state from internal and external
threats. That is, order, predictability, internal security and external defense are
among the major functions whether it is democratic or authoritarian.
♣ Management of conflict (supervision and resolution of conflict): Governments
usually develops and consolidates institutions and procedures for the
management of conflict. It is obvious that conflict is inevitable and inescapable
characterizing human beings. Therefore, building and effectively applying the
institutions for resolving and managing conflict is an indispensable function for
developing and consolidating peace, security and stability and tranquility.
♣ Regulation of the Economy: Government plays the role of regulating the
economy like regulation of policies such as agriculture, industry, transportation,
taxes, tariffs, etc. Moreover, governments usually play role on controlling the
distribution of resources in their societies. Hence, it is the government that
determines which resources are to be publicly controlled and which are to be in
private hands.
♣ Protection of political, human, social and economic rights of its citizens:
Especially those rights enshrined in the constitution of state.
♣ Provision of necessary goods and/or services to the public. Governments,
especially in developing countries like Ethiopia, usually participate in providing
necessary goods and services to its citizens. Such goods and services include:
provision of education, health care, development of public works, conservation of

natural resources, developing water supply, electricity, telecommunication, etc to
the public.

2.9. Government Structure: Vertical Vs Horizontal Arrangement

Although nation-states are treated as discrete and unified entities as far as international
politics is concerned, each nation state incorporates a range of internal division and levels
of power. Most significantly, there are territorial based divisions between central or
national governments and various forms of provincial, state and local governments.
These divisions are crucially shaped by state’s constitutional structure, that is, by
whatever it has federal or unitary systems of governments. Each system establishes a
particular territorial distribution of government power, thus, providing a framework
within which centre-periphery relationships can be conducted.

Accordingly, all modern states are divided on territorial basis vertically between
central/national and periphery (regional, provincial or local) institutions. The nature of
such divisions varies enormously, however. These differences include the constitutional
framework within which center-periphery relationships are conducted; the division of
functions and responsibilities between the levels of government; that means by which
their personnel’s are appointed and recruited, the political, economic, administrative and
other powers that the center can use to control the periphery, and the independence that
peripheral bodies enjoy. On the same vein, governments are also divided horizontally
among the legislative, executive and judiciary organs.

2.9.1 Vertical Arrangement/Organization

The vertical arrangement or organization of government specifically shows the
relationship between the central/ national government and sub national bodies or
institutions such as the regional, provincial or local bodies.
A. The Central/ National Government: the central/national government refers to
the levels of government that controls the overall affairs of the state. This means,
in most cases, that the central government assumes overall control of the state’s
economic life, and supervises matters such as internal trade, transport and
communications. Accordingly, the central/national government is the level of

government that situated at the top of the governmental structure of any state.
Thus, the central/national government is the level of government that is
responsible to enable the state to function as an actor on the international or world
state. It would possesses the machinery for entering into strategic alliance,
negotiating trade agreements, gaining representation at international summit
meetings, or becoming a member of supranational bodies. That is why the central
government is invariably responsible for a state’s external relations, as
demonstrated by this control of the foreign, diplomatic and defense policy.
Moreover, some form of central government is necessary to mediate between sub
national bodies to ensure cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

In this sense, there are some powerful reasons that strengthen the existence of central
government at the expense of sub-national institutions/bodies. Among other things, the
following includes the main arguments:

 National Unity: Central government alone articulates the interests of the whole
rather than the various parts. That is, the interest of the nation rather than those of
sectional, ethnic, or regional sub-groups. A strong centre ensures that the
government addresses the common interest of the entire community.
 Uniformity: Central government alone can establish uniform laws and public
services that help people to move more easily from one part of country to another.
 Equality: Only the central government can rectify inequalities that arise from the
fact that the areas with the greatest social needs are invariably those with the least
potential for raising revenue.
 Prosperity: Economic development centralization invariably goes hand in hand.
Only central government, for instance, can manage a single currency, control tax,
and spending policies with a view to ensuring sustainable growth, and if
necessary provide an infrastructure in the form of roads, railways, air ports and so

B. The Sub-national government: Although the national/central governments are the

dominant forms of political systems, an extraordinary indispensable range of political
organization below national /central level also exists in all forms of governments- the
government of the regions or provinces and local governments. Thus, the sub-national
governments are the levels of governments that exist always below the upper/top national
government, with the responsibility and function to control and administer all affairs of
the state in their respective regions and districts. In other words, the notion sub-national
governments, in its simplest sense, is government that is specific to particular regions or
locality, for example, a region, village, district, town, city etc. More particularly, it is a
form of government that has no share in sovereignty, and is thus entirely subordinate to
central authority, in the case of unitary states, or in a federal system, state or regional
authority. This level of government is in fact universal, being found in federal and non-
federal systems as well as in unitary ones. These sub-national entities are in fact the basic
political organizations for all political systems of the world.

The essential reasons for establishing the sub-national or regional/local governments

 Participation: Sub-national governments are certainly more effective than the
central governments in providing opportunities for citizens to participate in the
political life of their community. The benefits of widening the scope of political
participation include the fact that it helps to create a better educated and more
informed citizenry.
 Responsiveness: Sub-national institutions are usually ‘closer’ to the people and
more sensitive to their needs. This both strengthens democratic accountability and
ensures that government responds not merely to the overall interests of society,
but also to the specific needs of particular communities.
 Legitimacy: Physical distance from the government affects the accessibility or
rightness of its decisions. Decisions made at a local level are more likely to be
seen as understandable and therefore legitimate. In contrast, central government
may appear remote, both geographically and politically.
 Liberty: As power tends to be corrupt, centralization of power at the center
threatens to turn government into tyranny against the individual. Thus,
decentralization to sub-national bodies protects liberty by dispersing government

power, thereby creating a network of checks and balances, i.e. sub-national bodies
check central government as well as each other.

2.9.2 Horizontal Arrangement/ Organization

Under modern political theory, government is understood as having three main branches.
These are the legislative, the executive and judiciary branches/organs. Each organ has its
own distinct roles and responsibilities, the legislature makes law, the executive enforce
and implement laws and the judiciary interprets the law. The Legislative Organ

A legislature is a type of representative assembly with the power to adopt laws.
Legislature is known by many names, the most commonly being parliament and
congress, the legislature is formally supreme and appoints the executive in the case of
parliamentary systems. In presidential systems of governments, the legislature is
considered as a power branch, which is equal to, and independent of the executive. In
addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise taxes and
adopt the budget and other money bills. Consent of the legislature is also often required
to ratify treaties and declare war. Structural Arrangements of the Legislature

Parliaments differ in a number of respects. For example, their members may be elected,
appointed, even selected by inheritance, or any combination of these methods. When
members are elected, this may be on the basis of population (in the form of equal-size
constituencies), or through regions or states. The franchise may be restricted or universal,
and various electoral systems may be used. The size of parliaments also varies
considerably. However, the principal structural differences between parliaments are
whether they comprise one chamber or two. Powers and Functions of the Legislature

Although the role of legislature varies from state to state and from system to system, in
every case it fulfills a complex of functions. Above all, legislature provides a link
between government and the people, a channel of communication that can both support

government and help to uphold the regime, enforce government to respond to public
demands and anxieties. Among many others, the principal functions of the legislative
branch include:
♣ Statue making/legislation. Every legislative has the power to make statues. The
concept of statues making is more accurate to describe what the legislature
actually does the law making.
♣ Representation of citizenry: Assemblies /Parliaments play an important
representative role in providing a link between government and the people. Thus,
the people (the governed) are usually represented in the legislative branch of
♣ Control of administration: The legislative body plays pivotal role in supervising
the executive who is supposed to administer by implementing the laws and
decisions passed by the legislative. That is, the legislative body plays great role in
scrutinizing and over sighting meaning that assemblies /the legislative body has
the power to be scrutinizing body, to check and balance the executive body and to
deliver responsible or accountable government.
♣ Constitutional making/ amending: The legislative body of the government can
play or have the function of constitutional making/amending. But, how to
undertake the constitutional making /amending may vary from country to country
having various state structures. For example, in a federal form of state structure,
the constitutional amending or modification is usually carried by a joint
agreement between the federal and regional /state government by following a
certain set of procedures.
♣ Electoral and deposing functions: The legislative body plays the function of
electing the Prime minister in a parliamentary form of government. In addition
they also play voting on motion of “no confidence” to reelect and defeat the
incumbent prime minister, etc. Added to this is that, in a presidential system, the
legislative body plays the role of removal the president by the principle of
♣ Financial functions: The legislative body holds the “power of the purse”, i.e., to
determine the nature and amount of taxes and appropriations. It also plays the role

budget approval presented by, for example each ministry. Moreover, government
can legally spend only funds appropriated or approved by it. Therefore, it has the
executives and others.
♣ Investigative functions: Most often, legislatives through established “selective
committees” are engaged in digging up information it desires on maters not
covered by its “legal standing committee.” For example, in Ethiopia, the
legislative body (the parliament) plays this role by establishing “commission of
inquiry” to investigate to any information and evidences. In this regard, a
“commission of Inquiry” played, for example, to investigate and digging out the
causes, the profile and the consequences of the Gambela conflict that had
happened in 1996 E.C The Executive Organ

In its broadest sense, the executive is the branch of government responsible for the
implementation or enforcement of laws and policies made by the legislature. In its
coverage, the executive branch extends from the head of government to the members of
enforcement agencies such as police and the military, and includes both ministers and
civil servants. However, more commonly, the term is now used in a narrower sense to
describe the smaller body of decision-maker who take overall responsibility for the
direction and coordination of government policy.
The executive is the irreducible core of government. Political systems can operate
without constitutions, assemblies, judiciaries and even parties, but they cannot survive
without an executive branch to formulate government policy and ensure that it is
implemented. This is the potential power of the executive that much of political
development has taken the form of attempts to check or constrain them, either by forcing
them to within a constitutional framework, or by making them accountable to popular
assembly or democratic electorate. Structural Arrangements

As discussed earlier, the executive is technically the branch of government that is
responsible for the execution or implementation of policy. In practice; however, their
responsibilities tend to be substantially broader as well as more complex. This
complexity also extends to the composition of executive. Thus, members of the executive
have been categorized in one of two ways. First a distinction is often drawn between the
‘chief executive’ and the ‘executive’ based on the levels of status and responsibility that
have been identified with in the executive. Second, based on recruitment, responsibility,
status and political orientations, and so on; the executive can also sub-divide between the
‘political’ executive and the ‘bureaucratic’ executive. This highlights the difference
between politicians and civil servants, and more broadly between politics and

Hierarchically the executive is, commonly, categorized into two, the chief executive and
executive. The chief executive refers to the one individual or small group (such as a
president, prime minister, or ruling junta) at the apex of the executive structure of the
political system. The executive is much broader term, including all the people and
organizational machinery that are below the chief executive in the executive structure.
Thus, broadly the concept executive encompasses upper and middle-level decision
makers in all the departments, agencies, or other administrative units that are in the chief
executive’s chain of command.

The distinction between political and bureaucratic or official posts is most clear in the
case of parliamentary executive, where differences in recruitment, responsibility, status
and political orientation can be identified. In parliamentary system, the political executive
comprises elected politicians and ministers drawn from and accountable to the assembly:
their job is to make policy, in accordance with the political and ideological priorities of
their party, and to oversee its implementation. The bureaucratic executive, on the other
hand, comprises appointed and professional civil servants whose job is to offer advice
and administer policy, and generally subject to the requirements of political neutrality
and loyalty to, their ministers. Powers and Functions of the Executive

As its most simple, the chief function of the executive organ of government is to execute
or implement laws, order, decisions, regulations, and the like that are enacted by the
legislative branch. Such function also covers prevention of violation of laws and the

proper punishment for law-breakers, in turn maintaining peace and good government in
the country. Hence, these roles extend over a variety of areas and this means that the
members of the executive have to carry out several powers and functions.

i. The Political Executive

The task of political executive is to provide leadership. In this sense, the executive
functions as the ‘commanding heights’ of state apparatus, the core of state itself. The
most important of the areas are the following:
♣ Enforcement functions: The core/the chief function of executive body is to enforce
(implement) all laws, rules, decisions made by the legislative body and the judiciary
body (court’s decision).
♣ Formulation and execution of administrative policy: The executive body boldly
exercise formulation of regulation (sub-legislative power and issues law of rules) and
allocates funds to various public activities.
♣ Control of military forces: The executive branch has the power to determine how
and where troops, the military, warplanes and ships may be used in period of conflict
and peace.
♣ Control of foreign relations: The executive branch is charged with conducting of
foreign relations with other states. Besides, the chief executive also grants or
withholds recognition to the governments of foreign state. In addition, the chief
executive, ambassadors and other foreign service officers.
♣ Policy-making leadership: The political executive is looked to, in particular, to
develop coherent economic and social programmes and policies that meet the needs
of society.
♣ Popular leadership: The popularity of the political executive more than any other
part of political system, is crucial to the character and stability of the regime
(government) as a whole. At a policy level, it is the ability of the executive to
mobilize support that ensures the compliance and cooperation of the general public.
♣ Bureaucratic leadership: The task of overseeing the implementation of policy
means that the political executive has major bureaucratic and administrative

responsibilities. In this sense, the chief executive, ministries, and secretaries
constitute a “top management” charged with twining the machinery of government.
♣ Crisis leadership: A crucial power that the political executive has over the assembly/
parliament is its ability to take swift and decisive action when crises break out in
either domestic or international politics is invariably the executive that responds, by
virtue of its hierarchical structure and the scope it provides for personal leadership.

ii. Bureaucratic Executive

Among other things, the primary and main functions of the bureaucratic executive are the
execution and enforcement of the laws made by the legislature and the policies decided
by the political executives. Indeed, while the other functions of government (such as
representation, policy making, interest articulation) are carried out by a variety of
institutions, policy implementation is the solely the responsibility of civil servants
working under their political masters. Moreover, in addition to their primary function to
they have important roles in the following areas:
♣ Administration: the core function of the bureaucracy is to implement or execute
law and policy, it is thus charged with administering government business. That is
why the bureaucracy is sometimes referred to as ‘the administration’, while the
political executive is termed ‘the government’. This distinction implies that a
clear line can be drawn between the policy-making role of a politicians and the
policy implementing role of bureaucrats. Certainly, the vast majority of the
world’s civil servants are engaged almost executively in administrative
responsibilities that range from the implementation of welfare and social security
programmes to the regulation of economy, the granting of licenses, and the
provision of information and advice to citizens at home and abroad.
♣ Policy Advice: the political significances of the bureaucracy stems largely from
its role as the chief source of the policy information and advice available to
government. This policy role helps to distinguish top-level civil servants, who
have daily contact with politicians and are expected to act as policy advisor, from
middle-ranking and junior-ranking civil servants, who deal with more routine
administrative matters. Quite simply, decisions made by political executives are
made on the basis of the information available, and this means that the content of
the decisions is invariably structured by the advice offered. Moreover, as the
principal source of the advice available to the politicians, bureaucrats effectively
control the flow of information, that is, politicians know that civil servants tell
♣ Articulating Interest: as one of their formal functions, bureaucrats often help to
articulate and sometimes aggregate interests. Bureaucrats are brought into contact
with interest groups through their task of policy implementation and their
involvement in policy formulation and advice.
♣ Political Stability: the final function of bureaucrats is to provide a focus of
stability and continuity with in political systems. This is sometimes seen as a
particular importance in developing states, where the existence of a body of
trained career officials may provide the only guarantee that the government is
conducted in orderly and reliable fashions. This stability depends very largely on
the status of bureaucrats as permanent and professional public servants; that is,
while ministers and governments come and go, the bureaucracy is always there. The Judiciary Organ

The judiciary is the branch of government that is empowered to decide legal disputes.
Most, but not all, governments have specialized judicial structure that include the systems
of court and judge. Thus, the central function of judges is to adjudicate on the meaning of
law, in the sense that they interpret or construct laws. The significance of this role
varieties from state to state and from system to system, however, it is particularly
important in states with codified constitutions, where it extends to the interpretation of
the constitution itself, and so allow judge to attribute in dispute between the major
institutions of government or in one between the state and the individual. Accordingly,
the major powers and functions of the judiciary organs may include the following areas:

♣ Adjudication: the first and for most function of the judge is to administer justice.
They hear and decide cases, such as civil, criminal and constitutional, in the light
of the argument given by the concerned parties. To a large extent, the courts are
regarded as the defender of the rights and liberties of the people. In states having

written constitutions, courts are also entrusted with power of interpreting the
fundamental law the land/country, that is, the constitution.
♣ Formulating case law: Case law is developed where judges must decide how a
law, whether common or statute, should apply in a particular case. This kind of
law is often referred to as judge-made law because the interpretation is made by
the judge in each case and becomes binding on all other courts.
♣ Protection of individual rights: The judiciary body has great role in protecting
the constitutionally guaranteed rights of individuals mainly through the process of
due process of law. For example the judiciary plays a great role in the protection
against unreasonable or arbitrary laws and procedures by the government and its
institutions at any level.
♣ Guardian of the constitution: in most federal systems, the court acts as the
guardian of the constitution and an umpire between the central and regional
governments. All constitutional disputes among the regional states or between the
regional states and central/federal governments are settled by the highest court of
the country. However, there are differences among federal states in empowering
the power to interpret the federal constitution. For example in Ethiopia it is not
the federal Supreme Court, but house of federation that has the power to interpret
the FDRE constitution.
♣ Judicial Review: another significant function of the courts, particularly of the
high and supreme courts, is to look in to constitutional validity of the legislative
measure or executive action, and then declare it unsound and void to the extent of
its being against to the fundamental law of the land. This is known as power of
judicial review. That is, the power of the judiciary to review the laws, decrees,
and actions of other branches of government, and to declare them invalid.
2.10 Forms of Government
i. Monarchy
It is the oldest form of government in which the ruling power invested in a single person
who weak crown. In its widest sense, “any government in which the supreme and final
authority is in the hands of a single person is a monarchy. There are two types of

A. Traditional monarchy: the king or the queen maintain his/her position by claim
of legitimate blood decent than their appeal as popular leaders, for example,
Hohenzollerns in Germany, Hapsburgs in Austro-Hungary, Romania, in Russia,
Solomonic in Ethiopia.etc.

B. Constitutional Monarchy: The king or the queen is ceremonial head of the state,
an indispensable figure in all great official occasions and a symbol of national
unity and authority of the state but lacking real power e.g. Britain, Japan …etc.

ii. Dictatorship/Monocracy
The existence of dictatorship has its proof in the position of a person who holds extra
constitutional powers and identifies himself with the state. He is the head of the state, of
the government, of the party kind of opposition to his power invites mutilation. It means
absolute rule of a single person who occupies his position by means of force and as such is
not accountable to any popular institution.

iii. Oligarchy/Aristocracy
It is rule by few. Many of the classical conditions of oligarchic rule were found until
recently in those part of Asia in which governing elites were recruited exclusively from a
ruling caste a hereditary social groupings set apart from the rest of society by religion,
kinship, economic status, prestige and language. In contemporary world, in some counties
that have not experienced the full impact of industrialization, governing elites are still
often recruited from a ruling class (a stratum of society that monopolizes the main social
and economic function in the system). Such elites exercise their power in the interest of
the ruling class.

i. Constitutional Government
It is defined by the existence of a constitution that effectively controls the exercise of
political power.

2.11 Systems of Government

The other conventional method of classifying and especially of describing political
systems is by defining the pattern of power and interaction between the legislative and

executive structures: that is, the relationship between the legislative and executive. The
taxonomy in this context emphasizes the two most common patterns through which the
executive and the legislative structures interact to perform the functions of rule making
and rule application. In the contemporary world, though there are various systems of
government based on their characteristics, the most common systems of government are:
1. Parliamentary Systems of Government
2. Presidential Systems of Government

2.11.1 Parliamentary Systems of Government

A Parliamentary system/form of government refers to the form of government in which
the government governs in and through the parliament/ assembly, there by fusing the
legislative and executive branch of government. In other words, it refers to a system of
government, which vests the political leadership in a legislative body (the parliament)
which, in turn, selects the executive body (the cabinet + prime minister) entirely or
largely from its membership. Eg. Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Australia, Israel, India,
Ethiopia etc. The Principal Features of a Parliamentary System

♣ Government is formed as a result of parliament/ assembly elections, based on the
strength of party or a cooperative coalition party’s representation; therefore, there
is no separately elected political executive.
♣ A parliament of representatives is elected by the citizens of the state. In federal
state structure like Ethiopia, the citizens directly elect representatives both to the
Federal parliament, and regional parliament.
♣ The executive power of the government (both political executives like the Prime
Minster and ministers at a federal and at Regional level) is lodged with group of
people who are elected and even approved by the parliament to conduct of the
affairs of the state.
♣ Most or all members of the cabinet (council of ministers) are usually members of
the parliament/ Assembly. And usually, the party or cooperative coalitions of
parties that have majority seat or control that take on executive responsibilities in
addition to their legislative chores.

♣ The cabinet (council of ministers) retains executive power only as long as it has
the “confidence” of the parliament; that is, only as long as majority vote in the
parliament may unseat a cabinet. This is referred to as the “ Government falling”
♣ The government can, in most cases, dissolve the parliament, meaning that
electoral terms are usually flexible within a maximum limit. As such, just as the
parliament holds the cabinet (council of ministers) in jeopardy, the reader of the
cabinet (usually the PM) has the right to have the parliament disbanded, with the
consent of the majority members of the parliament.
♣ As the head of the government is the Prime Minister, there is a separate head of
the state, i.e., the constitutional monarch or non- executive president. In Ethiopia
case, the head of the state is the president, who is non-political executive who
cannot be a member of any political party. He/she is the figurehead of the state.
♣ The PM (Prime Minister), who is the head of the government, retains office only
as long as he/she can command majority support in parliament. If an issue is made
the basis for a vote of “no confidence” in the legislative and results in a vote for
of no confidence, the PM must resign because the parliament has the ultimate
power; the ability to remove.
♣ Electoral Terms of the PM is not fixed.

Generally, this system of government has its best feature in the rule of a body of
ministers (the cabinet) accountable to the parliament directly, and through it, indirectly to
accountable to the electorate/ the people.

2.11.2 Presidential System of Government

Presidential system of government is a form of government, which is chiefly
characterized by separations of powers between the legislative and executive branches of
government. E.g. USA, Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica etc. The Distinguishable Features of a Presidential System of Government

♣ Real authority of the president: the leadership of the executive is in the hands of
the president who is elected by the people for a fixed period as of four years in the
United States. The procedure of decision may be either direct or indirect and the
constitution may also specify as either direct or indirect and the constitution may
also specify as to the number of tenures a person may hold (as of two term in the
US). He may nominate his ministers as his advisers. The body of the ministers is
called the cabinet. The president may change the portfolios of his ministers as per
his will, or may dismiss any one of them in case he loses the confidence of the
“boss”. He formulates national policy, orders mobilization of troops, declares
state of emergency, and takes all necessary steps for the enforcement of law and
maintenance of order in the country. In short, he governs like the real ruler of the
♣ Separation of legislative from the executive: The president and his ministers
cannot be the members of the legislature. In case the president appoints a member
of legislature as his minister, he has to leave his legislature membership. It is for
this reason that the president and his ministers do not take part in the deliberations
of the legislature. The president may go to the legislature either for delivering an
important address, or he may send “messages” that may be accepted by the
legislature. Even his ministers may attend a session of the legislature and may
also take part in the discussion, but they have no right to vote. Moreover, the
executive and the legislative organs of government are separately elected and
work independently and separately.
♣ It is based on the strict application of the principle of separation of powers
between the legislative and executive organs of government.
♣ Each of the executive and legislative are vested with arrange of independent
constitutional powers.
♣ The roles of head of state and head of government (the chief executive) are
combined in the offices of the president. As such, the executive authority is vested
in or concentrated in the hands of the president; the cabinet and ministers being
merely advisors and responsible to the president.
♣ Electoral terms of the president are fixed: That is, the president is supposed to be
lead and govern the state for four years in one term for example, in USA. And,
he/she can be reelected for the second term (having four years). But, he/she
cannot be elected for more than two terms (having 8 years totally).

♣ The president can neither “dissolve” the legislative nor be dismissed by the
Congress /Assembly except possibly through “impeachment”. The process of
impeachment is provided to remove the president in case he held guilty of
violating the Oath of office. The president is under an oath that he will defend and
protect the constitution of the state. In case he does otherwise, the process of
impeachment may be cause to remove him from office. Usually the power of
impeachment is given to the legislative.

Chapter Three
3.1. Understanding Citizenship
Dear Students! Welcome to the third chapter of this module. Citizenship is a
relationship between an individual and a state, defined by the law of that state, with
corresponding duties and rights in that state. Nationality, although often synonymous
with citizenship, includes the relationship of an individual to a state but suggests other
privileges, especially protection aboard.
Citizenship is full membership in a state or in some other unit of government. Almost all
people have citizenship in at least one country. Not all the people in a nation are citizens
of that country. For example, many countries have non-citizen nationals. The word
national is often used as another word for citizen. In some cases, however, national
means a person who owes loyalty to a country but lacks full membership in it. Non-
citizen nationals of the United States include the people of American Samoa, a group of
pacific islands controlled by the United States. The people of American Samoa have the
protection of the U.S government but lack some of the special rights of citizens. People
who are neither citizens nor non-citizen nationals of a country are aliens there. Most
aliens are citizens or non-citizen nationals of one country who are traveling or living in
another. Many aliens have a permit called a Visa allowing them to visit or live where they
do not citizenship. Illegal aliens are non-citizens living in a country without proper

3.2. Ways of Acquiring and Loosing Citizenship (Emphasis on Ethiopia)
Nations have various laws that govern the granting of citizenship. People become citizens
in two ways.
1. By Birth, and
2. By Law (naturalization)

3.2.1. By Birth
Most people become citizens of a country simply by being born there. Individuals acquire
citizenship by birth in two ways, i.e. via right of soil (jus Soli) and right of blood (jus
The right to citizenship in the country of one’s birth is called jus soli pronounced juhs
SoHly, a Latin phrase that means right of soil. The laws of most nations, including
Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, grant citizenship based on jus soli.

However, some nations limit jus soli to children whose parents already have citizenship
in that nation. Some nations also deny jus soli to certain groups of persons. This law of
soil does not allow the children of diplomats to get citizenship. The diplomats are
foreigners who represent the countries they come from. As agents for their countries,
these diplomats have diplomatic privileges and immunities. There are two types of

♣ Inviolability: This immunity allows diplomats, the embassy, or its legation

quarters and the residents’ inviolability. No one is allowed to intimidate, attack, or
go against their rights and privileges in what places, residential quarters, or at any
other places. And this kind of intimidation or attack of diplomatic personnel
would be considered as provocative of the sending country’s rights and privileges.
And this may lead to conflict between the two countries which send the personnel
and the receiving country which hosts the diplomat.
♣ Extraterritoriality: This means that the diplomats and their properties are
considered as out of the territory and jurisdiction of the host country. For
example, the American Embassy in Ethiopia has diplomats and properties that
belong to America, not to Ethiopia. The soil in which they reside and work is

considered as the soil and property of the government of America. This, thus,
implies that the American diplomats work in the soil of America, not in the soil of
Ethiopia. Children who were born from such diplomats are considered to have
been born in the soil of America and therefore they are not guaranteed citizenship
of the host country, Ethiopia. This could hold true even when the spouse where in
transit to the host country from another third state. This, thus, means that the
diplomat of America could not be governed by the law of Ethiopia but by the law
of their country, America.
It was internationally agreed that diplomats should enjoy such status and privileges so
that the diplomats could perform their duties with no imposition or hindrance from the
authorities or individuals of the host state. Thus, we say diplomats are privileged or
immune personnel.

Diplomats have many functions to perform. One of their functions is to negotiate with the
receiving state on matters related to political, economical, social, etc affairs representing
the state of their own country. The other function of diplomats is to work as
representatives of the state of their country on various occasions that require
representation of the sender state. They could also gather information related with their
work and report to the state of their country. This information should be of economic,
political, and social aspects. The intention is to create better relations between the two
states. However, a diplomat is not a spy. Moreover, a diplomat has the function of
protecting the rights and properties of fellow citizens s/he is expected to help them when
they are in trouble in the country in which s/he is diplomat. Thus, we say a diplomat is a
“trouble shooter” or “problem solver”. Finally, a diplomat tries to establish good relations
between the state of his/her country and the host country. This could be done by
participating in seminars, conferences, and ceremonies to be held in the host country.

Some countries use another rule of citizenship instead of jus soli or in addition to it. This
rule provides that the citizenship of children is determined by the nationality of their
parents, no matter where the children are born. The right to citizenship in the country of
one’s parents is called jus Sanguinis (pronounced juhs SANGWOH nohs). The phrase is a
Latin term that means right of blood. Ethiopia, Canada, France, the United States, and a

number of other nations grant jus Sanguinis to children born abroad if one or both parents
are citizens.

3.2.2. By Law/ Naturalization

It is the legal process by which foreigners become citizens of a country they have
adopted. Each nation sets requirements that alien must meets to become naturalized. For
example, aliens cannot undergo naturalization in Canada or the United States unless they
have lived in their new country for a number of years.
On the other hand, Israel allows Jewish immigrants to become Israeli citizens the day
they arrive under a rule called the Law of Return. Many nations naturalize only people
who understand the rights and duties of citizenship and can use the national language.

3.3. Ways of Acquiring Citizenship in Ethiopia

1. By Birth: According to the Ethiopian Nationality proclamation of 2003, article 3(1),
any person shall be an Ethiopian national by descent where both or either of his
parents is Ethiopian.
2. By Law (Naturalization):- Any foreigner may acquire Ethiopian nationality by law
in accordance with the provisions of Articles 5-12 of the Ethiopian Nationality
proclamation of 2003.
A. Marriage: A foreigner who is married to an Ethiopian national may acquire
Ethiopian nationality (refer to the annexed Ethiopian Nationality proclamation of
2003, article 6). Naturalization through marriage has an international acceptance.
Besides, status of citizenship cannot be obliterated even if the partners get
B. Legitimation (Cases of Adoption): This is citizenship by recognition. An
illegitimate child has the right to get his biological or caretaker father/mother
citizenship after legitimation. Such process is usually attributed to a father
/mother of multiple citizenship. And child adopted by Ethiopian national may
acquire Ethiopian nationality by law (refer the annexed Ethiopia Nationality
proclamation of 2003, article 7).
C. Grant on Application: Depending on their rules, different countries adopt
requirements to grant citizenship by application. According to the Ethiopian

Nationality proclamation of 2003 article 5, the following are the requirements
(Refer to the annexed Ethiopian Nationality proclamation of 2003, article 5).

i. One who is majority or legal age; i.e., eighteen

ii. One who lived in Ethiopia for a total of at least four years
iii. Not dependant (self-reliant), that is, he/she must have sufficient and lawful
source of income to maintain himself and his family.
iv. One who is able to communicate in any of the languages of the nations and
nationalities of the country
v. One who is a person of good character
vi. One has no record of criminal conviction.
vii. One who be able to show that he has been released from his previous
nationality or the possibility of obtaining such a release upon the acquisition of
Ethiopian nationality or that he is a stateless person, and
viii. He/she shall be required to take the oath of allegiance stated under Article 12
of this proclamation.

D. Reintegration/ Restoration: A person who has lost his/her citizenship due to some
reasons may get it back if he/she fulfills some conditions as laid down by the laws of the
state. According to the Ethiopian Nationality proclamation article 22, a person who was
an Ethiopian national and who has acquired foreign nationality by law shall be readmitted
to Ethiopian nationality if he/she:
i. Returns to domicile in Ethiopia
ii. Renounces his foreign nationality; and
iii. Applies to the security, Immigration and Refugee Affairs Authority

E. Citizenship by Special Case: Citizenship can be given to an individual or collectives

without undergoing all the legal procedures related to acquisition of citizenship. As to the
Ethiopian Nationality proclamation article 8, a foreigner who has made an outstanding

contribution in the interest of Ethiopia may be conferred with Ethiopian Nationality by
law irrespective of the conditions stated under sub-articles (2) and (3) of Article 5 of the
proclamation. That is, he/she is not required to live in Ethiopia for a total of four years
and may lack the ability to communicate in any of the languages of the country.

F. Citizenship by Political Case (Process): The political case refers to acquisition of

citizenship by conquest or cession of territory. Cession is voluntary process whereas
conquest is coercive act. Citizenship by political case is possible in two ways, these are:
i. When the people of subjugated state are incorporated within the territory of the
victorious state, they acquire citizenship of the new state. When large number of
people acquires citizenship at the same time, such practice is termed as collective
ii. Due to the merger of one state or region of a state with another state, citizens of
the merged territory become citizens of the new state in which they are merged.
Example, when the United States bought the Louisiana territory from France in
1803, the treaty provided that all the people in the area should become American

G. Option: This is a modern development due to the direct participation of the

inhabitants in their status of citizenship. In voluntary partition, cession or exchange of
territories option is given to the inhabitants to choose only the citizenship of one state,
e.g. when the territory of India was divided into Pakistan and India.

H. De facto Citizenship/ Citizenship by Claim: A woman or man can marry another

national without undergoing the required legal procedure of marriage. Under such
condition the married woman or man can possibly claim citizenship of her husband’s (his
wife’s) country. Such kind of citizenship by claim /assumption is termed as apparent

3.4. Dual Citizenship

Some people hold citizenship in two nations. The condition of being a citizen of two
nations is called dual citizenship or dual nationality. Some people gain dual citizenship
by birth. For example, a baby born to a French family visiting the United States would

have U.S. citizenship by jus soli. The baby also would have French citizenship by jus
Sanguinis. People whose parents are citizens of two countries might have dual nationality
by jus Sanguinis.

Some people have dual citizenship as a result of naturalization e.g. a nation might allow
its naturalized citizens to keep their original citizenship. Such persons could claim
citizenship in two countries. Or, a nation might refuse to allow its people to give up their
citizenship. People who declared that they no longer were citizens of such a country and
became naturalized in another still would be claimed as citizens by the original nation.

3.5. Ways of Loosing Citizenship

Various states adopt different principles on those citizens who violate the nation’s
citizenship. The following points discuss the various modes of loosing citizenship.

A. Renunciation/ Expatriation: The United Nations Universal Declaration on Human

Rights of 1948, Article 15(2) provides the right to the individual to renounce his/her
citizenship and seek the citizenship of some other state according to his/her choice.
Most countries recognize the right of any citizen to expatriate (émigré) himself/herself or
give up his/her allegiance or loyalty to one country for allegiance of another country. A
person gives up his citizenship in one country when he is naturalized in another, if the
country he/she leaves recognizes his/her right of expatriation. In such condition the
person ceases to be citizen of the former state. Ethiopia also recognizes the right of its
citizens to expatriate and renounce their Ethiopian citizenship status (Refer the annexed
Ethiopian Nationality proclamation article 19).

The personal decision of a person to renounce or give up his/her citizenship emanates

when the state harasses the person and when the person dislikes the policies or politics or
ideologies pursued by the state or for other reasons like better economic standing.

B. Deprivation: A citizen of a state may be deprived of his/her citizenship, if he/she is

guilty of committing certain serious crimes against the state. Such as:
♣ To make access national secrets to alien country.
♣ Serving in another country’s armed forces or government
♣ Trying to overthrow the government by force.
♣ Promising loyalty to another country.
♣ Becoming naturalized in another country etc.
But according to the Ethiopian Nationality proclamation of 2003, article 17; no Ethiopian
may be deprived of his nationality by the decision of any government authority unless
he/she loses his/her Ethiopian nationality under article 19 or 20 of the proclamation.
C. Substitution: Citizenship may be lost when the original citizenship is substituted by
another state, where it is acquired through naturalization. According to the Ethiopian
Nationality proclamation article 20, Ethiopian nationality can be lost upon acquisition of
other nationality. On the other side, this may also take place when a particular territory is
annexed by another state; the inhabitants’ citizenship within the annexed territory will be
replaced by the citizenship of the subjugator.
D. Lapse: Citizenship may be lost, if the person stays outside of his/her country for a
long and continuous period. E.g., if an Indian citizen stays out continuously for more than
seven years, the person will lose his/her Indian citizenship by the principle of lapse. The
principle of lapse has no application according to the Ethiopian Nationality proclamation
of 2003.
Statelessness is lack of citizenship in any country. Children of alien parents are born
stateless if the country of their birth does not grant jus soli and the parents’ homeland does
not grant jus Sanguinis. People can become stateless by giving up citizenship in one country
without gaining citizenship in another.

Some people become stateless as a result of government action. For example, a

government might punish citizens by expatriating them, leaving them stateless. In 1935,
the German government led by the Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler expatriated all Jews living
in Germany. Many other people become stateless when their homelands are destroyed by

Stateless persons have no government from which to ask protection. So, there is an
international concern over the case of stateless persons. To settle such conditions, the
United Nations has adopted a convention on the protection and reduction of stateless
persons. States are expected to observe the convention in resolving the plight of stateless

Chapter Four
4.1. Constitution and Constitutionalism

4.2. Meaning of Constitution

It is the fundamental law of a nation or state that establishes the institution and system of
government, defines the scope of governmental sovereign powers, and guarantees
individual civil rights and civil liberties.
Constitution can be defined as: a frame of political society, organized through and by
law, that is to say one in which law has established permanent institutions with
recognized functions and definite rights. Again, a constitution possibly said to be a
collection of principles according to which the powers of the government, the rights of
the governed, and the relations between the two are adjusted.

Constitution is the aggregate of laws and customs under which the life of the state goes
on. Government without a Constitution is a power without a right. Historically, before the
evolution of modern-style, codified national constitutions, the term constitution could be
applied to any important law that governed the functioning of a government. In this case
we can say that constitution is a state book of fundamental political principles, and
establishing the structure, procedures, powers and duties, of a government, which help
the government to guide the nation/state.
To be brief, we know that State, like any other organization, requires a set of laws to
govern it. Thus, a constitution is a body of laws that determines the nature of the State. It
is a fundamental document according to which the government of the State functions. A
constitution is, therefore, the basic law which defines and delimits the powers of various
organs of the government and it also enumerates the basic rights of the citizens.

But whatever its form, a true constitution will have the following facts: first, how the
various agencies are organized; secondly, what power is entrusted to those agencies; and
thirdly, in what manner such power is to be exercised. Like a human body, constitutions
have organs which work harmoniously. In order to function well a state, or body politic,

is said to have a constitution in which its organs and their functions are definitely
arranged and are not subject to the some dictators.

4.3. Meaning of Constitutionalism

Constitution consists of a set of rules or norms creating, structuring and defining the
limits of, government power or authority. Understood in this way, all states have
constitutions and all states are constitutional states. Anything recognizable as a state must
have some acknowledged means of constituting and specifying the limits placed upon the
three basic forms of government power: legislative power, executive power and judicial
power. Constitutionalism is thus, the idea that government can and should be legally
limited in its powers, and that its authority depends on its observing these limitations.

There is a close connection between constitutionalism and the rule of law. Both are
premised on the importance of limits on the power of the state and its institutions, with
law as the principal means of defining and ensuring the limits. In all its successive
phases, constitutionalism has one essential quality: it is a legal limitation on
government; it is the anti-thesis of arbitrary rule; its opposite is dictatorial
government, the government of will instead of law. Both constitution and rule of law
were concerned about the limits on state power, but unlike the origins of the rule of
law, constitutionalism also emphasized the political mandate and accountability of the
government, which placed a greater importance on the legislature.

Generally constitutionalism is the doctrine that governmental power should be

constrained by individual rights and a system of checks and balances, codified in a formal
constitution. The constitution should, moreover, be considered superior to other laws and
be enforced within a legal system with independent courts. At the core of this idea is the
view that a well-functioning political system needs a clear division of power.

4.4. The Major Purposes of Constitution

Among the usually recognized purposes of constitutions the following are the major:
♣ A constitution is charter of government: Government derives its whole
authority from the governed. The constitution sets out the form of the
government, creates the branches of government and determines their powers and

authorities. It specifies the purpose of the government, the power of each
department of the government, the state-society relationship, the relationship
between various governmental institutions, and the limits of the government.
♣ The constitution is a job description: In a democratic state, the people as a
whole hire some officials to administer the government for public good, and the
constitution is the employment contract and job description. Although many other
laws are also job descriptions for the government, the constitution is the highest.
The constitution is a guide for legislation and for the interpretation of legislation.
♣ The constitution put limits on the powers of government and rights
protection function: Constitutional provision could be enforcing or empowering
whose objective is giving powers to government. But there must also be
‘Negative Clause’ or ‘No Clause’, so that a constitution could be a guardian of
fundamental rights. Negative clauses, by putting specifically what governments
must not do, will limiting and tie the hands of those who exercise powers.
Otherwise, the people will certainly be exposed to various kinds of abuses of
♣ The constitution is a commitment device: In a democratic state, the constitution
binds not only the government, but also the people. Through the constitution, the
people collectively commit to certain institutional procedure for managing public
affairs and resolving social conflicts. Thus, the constitution not only limits the
arbitrary power of the government, it also prevents public administration from
being poisoned by people's short-term temper and passions. Through the
constitution, the people collectively commit to be abide by the terms of
♣ The constitution as covenant, symbol, and aspiration: In so far as a
constitution is a covenant by which a group of people agree to transform
themselves in to a nation, it may function for the founding generation like a
marriage concluded through the pledging partners’ positive and active consent to
remain a nation for better or worse, through prosperity and poverty, in peace and
war. A constitution may serve as a binding statement of a people’s aspirations for
themselves as a nation. In short, a constitutional text may guide as well as express

a people’s hopes for themselves as a society. The ideals the words enshrine, the
processes they describe, and the actions they legitimize must either help to change
the citizenry or at least reflect their current values. Otherwise, it will quickly fade.
This is why we see differences among constitutions.

4.5. Modern Classification of Constitutions

In effect, it is difficult to divide states into classes by taking each state as a whole in turn,
because the totality of powers of all states is the same; that is to say, every state is a
sovereign body politic. If a community is not this, it is not a state. The only manner in
which states may be differentiated is according to the structural peculiarities of their
governmental organization.

The basis of our constitutional classification, therefore, should be found, under the
following heads: the nature of the state to which the constitution applies i.e. whether
unitary or federal; the nature of the constitution whether written or unwritten and flexible
or rigid; the nature of the legislature; the nature of the executive; and the nature of
judiciary. Accordingly, in this section we will try to see the characteristic features of
written or unwritten, flexible or rigid and finally unitary or federal constitutions.

4.5.1. Written Vs Unwritten

A constitution is a set of rules, generally in written form, which identify and regulate the
major institutions of the state and govern the relationship between the state and the
individual citizen. In most countries the written constitution is the ultimate source of
legal authority; all actions of government and the law-making body (the legislature)
must conform to the constitution. In order to uphold and interpret the constitution there
will be a Supreme Court. As the constitution is the ultimate authority, any action which
contravenes the rules of the constitution will be both unconstitutional and unlawful.
Written constitutions also contain procedural rules for the amendment of the
Simply, written and unwritten is a distinction between those rules regulating a
government, mostly rule of law-which are written down either in a constitution or in
some act of parliament or other legal documents, and other rules, mainly the customs and

conventions and usages regulating the government, which have usually not been precisely
formulated and put in writing. Constitutions, whether written or unwritten, will share
common features. They will identify the principal institutions of the state – the executive,
the legislature and the judiciary. In relation to each of these, the constitution will specify
their functions and powers. In addition the constitution will identify the rights and
freedoms of citizens, through a Bill of Rights which operates both to protect citizens and
to restrict the power of the state.

A constitution may be written or unwritten. A written constitution is always enacted

while an unwritten Constitution is evolved. A written constitution is one which is framed at
a given time and comes into practice on a fixed date. An unwritten constitution on the
other hand is a result of evolution it is given by history. It is never framed by any
Constituent Assembly. It is based on conventions, customs and statutes that grow over the
centuries. The British Constitution is the best example of an evolved and unwritten

The strength of a written or enacted constitution is that it is clear and definite. When the
constitution is in the form of a document, people have a clear understanding about the
powers of the government. In a written constitution the rights of the people are secure. In a
federal State like Ethiopia, there are two sets of governments: Federal Government and
State Governments. The written constitution mentions clearly the division of powers
between those levels of government.

The weakness of a written constitution is that it fails to adapt itself to changing conditions
easily. Generally, the process of amending or changing a written constitution is
comparatively complex. It is generally said that written constitution is helpful in providing
solid government, but this viewpoint can also be disputed. For example, England is a well
administered country though its constitution is unwritten.

A written constitution has three important advantages: the first is that a single text
contains the sum of what state authority consists of, how it is constituted, how it can
be used, and what non-violent methods of addressing disputes are to be adopted. This
gives clarity.

The second argument is that such a text can be made available to all inhabitants (and
visitors). The basis of the political system is therefore comprehensible to all, instead
of in the hands of a specialized guardian classes. This is vital when there are to be
dealings between individuals and the State.

The third argument is that because the limits of state power are so clear, it is
necessary to invoke an amendment process, in order to change even a small
component of the constitution.
On the other hand, the disadvantage of written Constitution may be the following: the
first is that, the implementation of a written constitution usually involves interpretation.
In some instances such interpretation leads to dispute between branches of the
government. It is also not possible to absolutely define the extent of devolution of power
among different levels of governance in a country. Further, written constitution is not
easily adaptable to changing circumstances to make this real, written constitutions need
to be continuously amended or modified.

In contrast, one of the major advantage of unwritten constitution is, relatively speaking it
is more flexible. However, it is disadvantageous because there is no single document that
clearly states the fundamental rights and duties of citizens and of governments. In this
case, it would be difficult to quickly determine which aspects of the constitution is
violated and when. Since there is no legal restraint and because it is not accessible to
public, it can easily be distorted or even changed without the consent of the people. As a
result there may arise difference in society regarding which conventions or custom is
acceptable and which is not, since there could exist different conventions and customs in
a country. Because of its inaccessibility, it is nearly impossible to create awareness
through education on the fundamental constitutional rights and freedoms, duties, and
obligations of citizens.

To sum up, a constitution generally called written is one in the form of a document which
has special sanctity. A constitution generally called unwritten is one which has grown up
on the basis of custom rather than of written law. But sometimes the so-called written
constitution is a very complete instrument in which the framers of the constitutions have
attempted to arrange for every conceivable contingency in its operation. In other cases,

the written constitution is found in a number of fundamental laws which the constitution
makers have either framed or adopted with a view for giving as wide a scope as possible
to the process of ordinary legislation for the development of the constitution within the
framework thus set. It is, of course, necessary to distinguish between written and the
unwritten constitution and, we shall refer to the former as a documentary and to the latter
as a non-documentary constitution.

4.5.2. Rigid Vs Flexible

Constitutions may also be classified as rigid or flexible. A rigid constitution is one in which
amendment is very difficult, requiring special procedures to be employed before any
changes can be made. Where constitutions were devised by their founders as a complete
statement of arrangements for the future, it will generally be difficult to amend them. For
this reason it is particularly difficult to amend a written constitution: it is ‘rigid’, rather than

flexible’ in nature. The Constitutions of, the United States of America, Switzerland and
Australia are considered as rigid constitutions. On the contrary, a flexible constitution is
one which can be amended easily by an ordinary legislative process. It can be amended
without any special procedure. For example; the Constitution of England is flexible
because any provision can be changed by an act of Parliament.
The strength of a rigid constitution is that it is a guarantee against quick changes. It is
stable, whereas a flexible constitution is unstable. Moreover, the fundamental rights of the
people and the interests of the minorities are more secure under a rigid constitution. A
flexible constitution, however, is considered progressive in nature and helpful in the
development of the nation as it changes easily and adapts to the changing circumstances. A
rigid constitution, on the other hand, may not be easily changed according to the changing

4.5.3. Unitary Vs Federal

Every modern constitution state belongs to one of two great classes: Unitary or Federal
and this introduces of difference of the very first importance. A unitary state is one
organized under a single central government; that is to say, whatever powers are
possessed by the various districts within the area administered as a whole by the central
government, are held at the discretion of that government, and the central power is

supreme over the whole without any restrictions imposed by any law granting social
powers to its parts. Unitarianism in the political sense was the habitual exercise of
supreme legislative authority by one central power. The best example of unitary state is
the United Kingdom. Of course, in the case of the United Kingdom, local government is
strong, but the central government can take all those powers of the local government at
any time.
Actually, it is important to distinguish clearly between local government in a unitary state
and state government within a federal state. In a federal state the powers of the central or
federal authority are limited by certain powers. We note, therefore, in a federal state a
distinction of powers between the federal authority and the authorities of the units
forming the federation. This being the case, there must be some authority which
determines this distribution. The authority is the constitution itself.

A federal constitution will state either the rights that are to be retained by the federating
units or the rights that the federal authority takes over. In either case it stands to reason
that neither the ordinary legislature of the individual states nor the legislature of the union
can have the power to alter the constitution without some special means being adopted
for discovering the views of the constituent members. These means in federal country, the
constitution will define which powers are exercisable by the central/federal government,
and which powers are exercisable by the constituent parts of the federation, usually known as
states. In a federal state power is diffused rather than concentrated in any one body. The
constitution has overriding force and any conflicts between the federal government and
state governments will be determined according to the constitution. Clearly, in federal
countries the constitution is seen as a covenant. Thus, the constitution is serving as the
fundamental laws of a country. This is one of the essential characteristics features of a
federal state.

Thus, true federalism shows three clearly marked characteristics: first; the supremacy of
the constitution, by means of which the federation is established; secondly; the
distribution of powers between the federal state and the co-ordinate states forming it; and
thirdly, some supreme authority to settle any dispute which may arise between the federal
and state authorities. Not all states which we call federal states are exactly like this.

Federalism is, in fact has its own unique and as well as common characteristics features.
Those that do not exactly conform to the type of completely federalized state we may call
quasi-federal states.

4.6. Understanding Democracy

Democracy is not an exclusive property of developed countries or Western societies.
Democratic norms and principles are universal, but the institutions which inform
democracy and concrete forms of its political practices may vary in time and space (i.e.
through historical era and from country to country). Thus, as a universal form of rule with
specific manifestations in time and space, democracy is a political concept founded on
three underlining ideas, namely, democracy as a value, a process and a practice.

Strictly speaking, there are conceptual and methodological difficulties in understanding

and defining democracy. In this case, one difficulty in defining democracy arises from
the fact that political systems are in a continual state of evolution. As ideas change, so the
content of the word democracy changes in people’s minds. A consequence of this change
of attitude has been that the term is now used to describe so many different forms of
government. It is this very popularity of the term that makes democracy a difficult
concept to understand. When a term means anything to anyone, it is in danger of
becoming entirely meaningless.

1. Can you define democracy in your own words?

It is evident that the term democracy is used to cover wide ranges of political systems;
some of which are old and experienced, while others relatively new and inexperienced.
Their rate of advance towards their political, social and economic goals varies widely.
Despite these facts, scholars, politicians and others attempted to define democracy in
various ways. To this end, the following are some of the possible definitions of the term

The word democracy is a term that comes from Greek and it is made up with two words
demos, which means people and kratos, to mean to govern, to rule. “Democracy” can
then be literally translated by the following terms: Government of the People or
Government of the Majority. Convincingly it can be also said that Democracy is a people
centered system, where the people are the heart, the root and also the fruits. The fruits of
democracy are prosperity, good quality of life and well being, human security, human
dignity and participation of the people in all decisions affecting their lives.


Democracy is a people centered system where the people are the heart the root and also
the fruits.

The dictionary definition of the term entails that democracy is a state of government in
which people hold the ruling power either directly or indirectly through their elected
representatives. Accordingly, democracy embraces the principles of equality, individual
freedom and opportunity for the common people, as those who actually wield political

From the perspective of participation, democracy can be explained as, the mobilization of
constituent groups around the issues and problems of common concern, the organization
of forums for the expression of alternative views on the issues, and the implementation of
decision-making procedures based on majority rule. According to this definition, since
the practical establishment of democracy depends on individual citizens’ participation, in
the absence it is difficult to influence government decisions or policies for just and fair
public welfare.

To be brief, you may have already heard about the most common definition of
democracy: "…government of the people, by the people and for the people" (i.e. the
former US president, Abraham Lincoln). To put it another way we can say that a
government comes from the people; it is exercised by the people, and for the purpose of

the people’s own interests. This description is only a very broad one, to start with, but
the pages that follow will explain to you in a more concise way the different facets of

1. Some said that democracy is not a permanent building, like a stable and well
constructed house for instance, that will stay unchanged beyond the centuries.
Democracy is rather a process that must be maintained and consolidated
permanently. Explain why?

4.7. Ways of Exercising Democracy

There are two ways of exercising democracy i.e. direct and indirect (representative)
democracy. In fact both have advantage and disadvantages. In this section you will
look at each of them.
i. Direct democracy: The expression 'direct democracy' is subject to misconceptions.
The equal right of all citizens to participate in the processes of government did not
mean that every decision was taken at a kind of mass meeting. Rather it meant that all
citizens had equal right to membership of a number of governing bodies. But these
governing bodies had a manageable size. Direct democracy (pure democracy) is an
exercise of democracy, in which ‘all citizens’ without the intermediary of elected
officials can participate in decision-making process. This belief is based on the right
of every citizen over a certain age to attend political meetings, vote on the issue being
discussed at that meeting and accepting the majority decision should such a vote lead
to a law being passed which you as an individual did not support. Part of this belief, is
the right of every one to hold political office if they choose to do so.

Direct democracy gives all people the right to participate regardless of religious
beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, physical well being etc. Only those who have
specifically gone against society are excluded from direct democracy.
The difficulties of direct democracy are well known. When the people of a nation
cannot meet to take decisions, direct forms of democracy are incapable of replacing
representation. However, there are areas in which they can complement democracy.
Direct democracy can be put to local committees, schools and citizens' associations,
where they can be discussed and submitted for collective decision. However, this is
not possible with more complex and general matters.

Most constitutions envisage a procedure for the direct consultation of all citizens,
namely the referendum. The practice of holding referenda on precise points should be
used frequently and defined with precision. Referenda could be held at the local,
regional and national levels. Direct democracy is fine in theory but it does not always
match the theory when put into practice.

The origin of direct democracy can be traced back to ancient Athens. In the ancient
Athenian city-state, all adult male citizens met in assembly and made decisions.
Athenians were ruling themselves directly without intermediaries of representatives.
Political participation in Athens, however, was not all-inclusive and opens to all.
Women, slaves and aliens were not considered as citizens and hence were not allowed
to participate in the assembly. In strict words, the Athenian democracy was not an
ideal or pure model of democracy. Nevertheless, the Greek experiment of democracy
is generally considered to have provided important lesson for today's world. This is
partly because of the facts that:
♣ It was the first known example of democracy, and
♣ It was carried out in circumstances that can never be repeated, which makes it
possible to study a much simpler form of democratic government.
ii. Indirect/ Representative Democracy: This is the modern type of democracy that we
have today. A representative democracy is where citizens within a country elect
representatives to make decisions for them. In this regard, the meaning of representative
form of democracy is that the whole people cannot directly participate in their own affairs

but through their representatives, which are periodically elected by the people
themselves. For instance, every 5 years in Ethiopia, the people have the chance to vote
into power those they wish to represent us in the Parliament. The Parliamentarians meet
in the House of People representatives to discuss matters and pass acts which then
become Ethiopian law. Within the House of People representatives, each elected
Parliamentarians represents all citizens. The voters passed the responsibility of
participating in law making to the Parliamentarians. In this case, leaders must maintain
some contact with voters so as to stay in power. However, if they fail to perform (or if the
party has done badly during its time in office) they can be removed by the people. In this
way, the people exercise control over their representatives.

The difference between direct and indirect democracy is fairly simple. In a direct
democracy citizens make decisions directly by proposing laws or referendums. An indirect
democracy on the other hand uses a small group of officials to make decisions of
importance on behalf of their constituents. In both cases the input of the people is the
cornerstone of the government but the government is run in different ways.

Is representative government working well in our country? The answer to this question
depends on what we think the purpose of representative government is. Most research in
political science assumes that the purpose of representative government is to represent the
will of the people by translating popular sentiment or public interest into governmental
policy. It therefore assumes that a good measure of the performance of representative
democracy, at least in its representative capacity, involves comparing policy results with
public opinion as it is or as it should be.

4.8. Approaches of Understanding Democracy

There are two views of understanding democracy: substantive and procedural views. In
this section we will assess each of them in relation with some of the theories of
democracy, like liberal democracy, economic democracy, social democracy, and
developmental democracy.

4.8.1. Substantive Views of Democracy
The substantive view concentrates on what a government actually does, that is, the
policies it makes should fulfill democratic ideals. A substantive theorist would not
recognize a decision that violated those ideals as "democratic" even if it were made in
response to majority wishes. Substantive theorists, however, do not agree on the contents
and nature of these democratic ideals.

Substantive democracy is a form of democracy in which the outcome of elections is

representative of the people. In other words, substantive democracy is a form of
democracy that functions in the interest of the governed. Though a country may allow all
citizens of age to vote; this characteristic does not necessarily qualify it as a substantive
democracy. In a substantive democracy, the general population plays a real role in
carrying out its political affairs, i.e., the state is not merely set up as a democracy but it
functions as one as well. This type of democracy can also be referred to as a functional

4.8.2. Procedural Views of Democracy

The procedural view stresses the form and process of government, or how the people
govern. Procedural democracy emphasizes the principles of universal participation,
political equality, and majority rule. Modern nations are too large to employ direct (or
participatory) democracy, and they must rely on indirect democracy in the form of
representative government. The procedural view of democracy also insists on the
principle of responsiveness, that the government should follow the general thrust of
public opinion. In other words, the procedural view of democracy sets forth principles
that describe how government should make decisions and address three distinct

♣ Who should participate in decision-making?

♣ How much should each participant's vote count?
♣ How many votes are needed to reach decisions?

Of course, there is no simple answer to these questions and as such there are various
perspectives on those issues.
In brief, procedural democracy is a democracy in which the people or citizens of the state
have less influence than in traditional liberal democracies. This type of democracy is
characterized by voters choosing to elect representatives in free elections. Procedural
democracy assumes that the electoral process is at the core of the authority placed in
elected officials and ensures that all procedures of elections are duly complied with. It
could be described as a democracy in which only the basic structures and institutions are
in place. Commonly, the previously elected representatives use electoral procedures to
maintain they in power against the common wish of the people, thus awkward the
establishment of a full-fledged democracy. Procedural democracy is quite different from
substantive democracy, which is manifested by equal participation of all groups in
society in the political process.
4.9. Theories of Democracy
4.9.1. Liberal Concept of Democracy
Liberal democracy advocates the principle of private enterprise and the guarantee of basic
civil and political rights such as freedom of speech, religion, the right to elect and to be
elected, etc. The state intervenes in order to protect an individual and sections of society
from the evils of free private enterprise, and to promote greater social efficiency. Liberal
democrats, however, have emphasized individual freedom and demanded that the state
shall not lose sight of this in the search for social justice. Liberal democrats accept
inequality or privilege so as to safeguard individual freedom.

In nutshell, liberal democracy is a system of government in which the people govern

themselves, criticize leaders of their government and choose new ones in an election. A
basic belief of liberal democracy is that people of different interests and backgrounds
have different political opinions. Democratic government rests on public opinions since
in such a system there is a freedom of expression. Liberal democracy aims at the just and
rational organization of authority in human society under the guise of the system of

4.9.2. Economic Democracy /Socialist Democracy/
Economic democracy is the transfer of economic decision making power from the few to
the many. Capitalist democracy according to economic democracy advocates, does not
guarantee universal rights to decent food, housing, employment, child-care, education, or
health care. There are no rights guaranteeing control over the fruits of one's labor and
control over the work process itself. This is because of the fact that these rights contradict
the unequal distribution of wealth and power and the desire to get rich. Formal liberal
democracy helps to legitimize corporate capitalism. True democracy, however cannot
exist without economic democracy and economic democracy cannot exist under the
principles of capitalism. Here, to speak of economic democracy is to advocate democracy
for the 'poor' as well as the rich. As such, economic democracy is the transfer of
economic decision making from the few to the many. In this case, the assumption is that
when workers and the poor control production, democratic choices to work, employment,
income, technology, and the like can be extended.

4.9.3. Social Democracy

Social democracy is the result of two factors, these are: the changing nature of national
economies, and the changing nature of economic relations among society. Social
democracy is sometimes called social equality, which aims to give all citizens equal
rights under the law. All laws apply equally to all citizens regardless of their wealth, race,
and religion, ideological outlook, sex, and the like. The goal of social democracy is to
bring about equality and classless society through reform within the guise of capitalism.
In this case, it recognizes that individual background, abilities, efforts and so on
determine his/ her way of life. And hence this is to ensure everyone an opportunity to
make full use of his/her abilities. In other words, social democracy calls for social justice
and economic empowerment of the subaltern classes. To this effect, it concerned with the
provision, among others, provision of social security service, housing, free education,
health and medical cares, and the like.

4.9.4. Developmental Democracy
Another model, the developmental democracy, views human beings as capable of civic
virtue. Supporters say that through involvement in government and community affairs,
persons can gain an understanding of the public good and what it requires. Good citizens
aware of and participate in government and civic affairs through voting, expression of
their opinions to representatives, and sometimes even public service. Involvement in
democracy is both a way of educating people and increasing their ability to better
themselves. Through the exercise of judgment on political issues, citizens can better
exercise judgment in other areas of their lives. The Developmental model utilizes indirect
representation simply because of the impracticality of direct involvement such as that of
the participatory democracy. Political and social equality exist in a developmental
democracy which advocates that people can achieve civic virtue and become conscious
through active participation in democracy.

4.9.5. Fundamental Principles and Values of Democracy

Citizens should understand the most basic principles and values of democracy and be
familiar with the tools in their applications to specific situations. In this part, we shall
look at the fundamental principles and values of democracy, with particular reference to
1. Popular Sovereignty (Sovereignty of People): the idea that the only legitimate source
of government authority is the consent of the governed. The citizens as a whole are the
sovereign of the state and hold the ultimate authority over public officials. Consent is
given by the people through their regularly elected representatives and through approval
of all constitutional changes. Popular sovereignty also means that the people have the
right to withdraw their consent when the government fails to fulfill its obligations under
the constitution. Popular sovereignty in democracy assumes the principle of majority
rule, which means that within constitutional limits, majorities should have the right to
make political decisions. Such decisions are made within the framework of regular
elections and include the choice of who should be elected to public office and what laws
should be passed by legislative bodies (HPRs).

2. The Supremacy of the Constitution: This is a principle that puts the constitution at
the highest level in the hierarchy of laws. According to this principle, the constitution is
above all laws and organs of a state. This principle dictates all laws and governmental or
non-governmental acts to be under the constitution. It is, thus, important for officials or
any citizen to take extra care not to violate any provision of the constitution. It is also
important to keep in mind that if an act is found to be against the constitution, the act will
be with out of effect or void. In the Ethiopian case, you can refer Article 9 of the FDRE
For example, the FDRE constitution states that the highest power and authority is vested
in the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia (For more detail, please refer the
FDRE Constitution).

3. Constitutional Government: Central to the principle of constitutional government is

the idea that in order to protect the basic rights of the people, government should be
limited both in its scope and in its methods. By consenting to the constitution, the
sovereign people agree not only to limit the powers of their government but their own
powers as well.

4. The Rule of Law: The principle of the rule of law means that both government and the
governed are, and must be, subject to the laws of country. Government decisions and
actions shall be made according to the established laws of the country rather than by
arbitrary action.

5. Separation of Powers: Another essential part of democracy is the idea that legislative,
executive, and judicial powers should be separated and exercised by different institutions.
And, if government follows federalism, power and functions should be distributed
between the central government and the regional state.

Therefore, in a general state structure like Ethiopia, powers and functions are clearly
separated between: the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches both at federal level
and regional levels as well as between the federal and regional government (federating

6. Checks and Balance: The powers given to the different branches of government are
balanced so that no branch can completely dominate the others. Many of the powers of
one branch are shared and checked by those of the other braches as explained below.

A. Legislative Branch: The constitution gives the legislatives branch certain powers,
which make it possible to check the exercise of power by the executive and judicial
branches. Examples are ratification of treaties; the confirmation of executive and judicial
appointments; “vote of no confidence” up on the executives, and control and deterring of
the budget. You need to remember that you have looked at the powers and functions of
HPRs, to some extent. But for detail, look at article of the FDRE constitution.
B. Executive Branch: The constitution gives the executive branch certain powers, which
make it possible to check the exercise of power by the legislative and judicial branches.
Examples are the power to make judicial appointments; and the Prime Minister’s power
as commander–in–chief of the army in parliamentary system government. Despite you
have despite you have discussed this in the previous chapter (constitution part), look at
article-of the FDRE Constitution for detail.
C. Judicial Branch: The constitution gives the judicial branch certain powers given by
the FDRE constitution which makes it possible to check the exercise of power by the
legislative and executive branches. But, in case of Ethiopia for example, the house of
Federation is given with the highest power to interpreter the FDERE constitution and any
constitutional disputes (refer to article of the FDRE Constitution).
7. Majority Rule and Minority Rights: Majority rule should rule and make decisions
and law. The idea of minority rights means that decisions made by in accordance with the
principle of majority rule but should not unreasonably and unfairly infringe up on the
rights of minorities.

8. Secularism: Separation of Religion and State: Individuals and groups in a free

society should have freedom of conscience; the right to decide for them what to believe,
freedom of conscience would be threatened if government supported some religions but
not others. Government should do only what is necessary to keep the peace and prevent
one religious group from violating the rights of others. To achieve this goal government

should not interfere with religion in any way. The following are included in Article 11 of
FDRE Constitution:

♣ State and religion are separate

♣ There shall be no state religion
♣ The state shall not interfere in religious matters and religion shall not interfere in
the state affairs.
9. Accountability and Transparency: Public participation is an essential element of the
principle of accountability and transparency. It is in society with a culture of participation
and open-minded citizens that the government and the public officials will be forced to be
accountable and transparent. This is because the ultimate power holder is the people and
hence the officials are ultimately accountable and transparent for the people. A public
official might be directly accountable to the immediate public officials, who in turn will
be accountable for the higher officials. This ladder of accountability goes on to the extent
that the government at large will be accountable to the ultimate power holder - the
people. In this regard, you can look at the FDRE Constitution in its article.

10. Free, Fair and Periodic Elections: In democracy, the authority of the government
derives solely from the consent (will) of the governed (the people). The principal
mechanism for translating the consent of the people in to governmental authority is the
holding of periodic, free and fair elections.

♣ All inclusive-election: Means that the election will be held on the basis of
universal suffrage in which all adult citizens will have the right to age limit for
voting is set at 18 years age.
♣ By free and fair election, it is meant that neither law, nonviolence, nor yet
intimidation should prohibit candidates or voters from presenting their views. In
order for the election to be free and fair from any influence, the casting of votes
should be done in a secret ball of.
♣ Democratic Elections are not Merely Symbolic. They are competitive elections
in which the chief decision makers in a government are selected by citizens who
enjoy broad freedom to criticize government, to express their criticism and to
choose among different alternatives. Democratic elections must be competitive in

the sense that freedom of speech, assembly, and movement necessary to voice
their criticisms openly and to bring alternative policies and candidates to the
voters. However, in many political systems elections are held to give legitimacy
for the world community.
♣ Democratic elections must also be periodic. By a periodic election, it is meant
that regular elections occur within prescribed time limits. The FDRE Constitution
in its article 54 (1) set the term of election at 5 years. This is because since elected
officials must be accountable to the people, they must return to the voters at
prescribed intervals to seek their mandate to continue in office. Hence, officials in
democratic systems must accept the risk of being voted out of office.
♣ The Principle of Periodic election, for example enables the people to change
government they are not pleased with, and it also avoids the possibility for a once
elected government to stay in office for an indefinite period.
11. Peaceful Transition of Political Power: One of the most important elements of a
democratic system is the prevalence of peaceful transition of political power. Elections
ensure that key positions in government will be contested at periodic intervals and that
the transfer of governmental authority is accomplished in a peaceful and orderly manner.
This avoids the evil effects of taking political power by force.

12. Accepting the Results of Elections: In democratic elections, there would be winners
and losers of vote to seize political power. If democracy is to succeed, it is essential that
political parties and their members, even individuals be will - full to compete in elections
and accept their results. Often the losers of election may argue so strongly that they
refuse to accept the results of elections. Such conditions will be against democratic

13. Protecting and Sustaining of Human Rights: Human rights are those values that
reflect respect for human life, and dignity too. In other words, human rights have been
defined as “generally accepted principles of fairness and Justice” or “universal moral
rights that belong equally to all people simply because they are human rights”. People are
entitled to exercise their human right. However, human right can be restricted if they
interfere with the rights of other people.

14. Multi -Party System: Multiparty system refers to a political system that legally allows
and has more than one party politics to participate in elections. In multiparty democracy,
people of different views and various ethnic groups will co-exist in the same state to live
together, improve their development, and promote their prosperity and welfare.

4.10. Actors in Democratization Process

Modern democracy has procreated the system of political parties, organized interest
groups and an independent media as indispensable factor for its operation among others.
The fact behind is that the representative system arrange the mobilization of political
participation by enjoying upon the members of politically active people to take the mass,
as much as possible in confidence either for the sake of demonstrating their faith or to
justify the very legitimacy of their leadership and authority. Previously we have said that
democracy is a process. Building up of democracy is not an overnight program it needs
not only time but different actors must also build democracy and democratic culture.
Thus, in this lesson you will look at the roles of different actors in the democratization

4.10.1. Political Parties

In a political regime characterized by representative democracy, political parties are
vectors of democracy. They are essential to the functioning and durability of democracy
since they are not only the instruments through which power is attained by means of
free, fair and transparent elections but also the setting for working out practical ideas
and proposals which may constitute alternative programs to the government. They also
constitute the means through which individuals may influence public affairs, express
their discontent or support governmental action.

Open competition between political parties in the framework of elections is one of the
indispensable characteristics of representative democracies. Open competitions between
parties contend for the management of a country's affairs is a socially and politically
divisive factor and the stakes are generally high for those involved in this competition.
It is therefore important and this is one of the conditions for democracy's survival.

69 Party Systems
Party systems refer to the number of parties and pattern of relationships among the parties
with in a nation. Taking in to account the number of dominant or existing political parties
with in a state, party systems are classified in to three major categories.
1. One party system
2. Two party system
3. Multi party system
Considering the prominent political parties that are active with in the political system of a
given state makes this classification. The type of electoral system that is used in a
particular country can have an important influence on the number of dominant political
parties within the country. Proportional representation is said to foster a multiparty
system because it assures that even parties that poll a relatively small vote will win some
seats in the legislature. On the other hand, in the first-past-post system, which the winner
takes all, may encourage the development of two party systems since it penalizes parties
that may poll a substantial number of votes but do not get the plurality that is necessary to
elect a legislator with in a specific constituency.

1. One Party System: Is most of the time, ideological in its outlook and authoritarian in
its structure. In this system, it is usually not allowed other parties to function either de
jure or de facto. As such, the party and its ideology are the main determinants of
governmental policy, style, and the very existence of the media and interest groups and
the like. In is case, the party requires that important government officials are members
of the party or of satellite groups and expects their behavior to conform to the policies
and ideology.
2. Two Party Systems: Are characterized by a regular alternation in office between two
major dominant parties. In two party systems, although minor parties exist, two major
parties dominate government. It is argued that the system provides the people with a
choice of policies and leaders while at the same time guaranteeing governmental stability.
The devices of the electoral arrangement in such a system assure a majority for one party
or the other, thus enabling that one will have the power to carry out its election promises.

The origins of many one-party systems are obvious, but the question often arises as to
why some modern countries function as a two-party system when these societies are so
complex and that it should be impossible for two parties to aggregate all the prevailing
interests present and still stand for anything. Two party systems are common in the
political system of Britain, which is mostly dominated by the conservative and labor
party. United States of America as a country dominated by the Democratic and
Republican parties is also another good example of the two party systems.

3. Multi Party Systems: Are systems in which we have at least three or more major
parties. In multiparty system, one party rarely wins enough seats in the legislature to form
government. Consequently, several parties combine forces to obtain a majority and form
a coalition government to direct the nation’s affaires. As you might expect, when groups
with different ideologies attempt to share power with different ideologies, coalitions often
break down when disputes or disagreements a rise requiring new elections. In such
countries voters have a wide range of choices on election days. The parties in multiparty
system often represent widely different ideologies or basic believes about government.

4.10.2. Non-Governmental Organizations

Like political parties, Non-governmental associations and organizations are valuable
vectors of democracy. They differ from political parties only in their final goal, but they
all contribute to consciousness raising, defense of the legitimate interests of groups of
individuals and the protection of individual and collective rights and freedoms. The
efficacy of the work of civil society depends on the extent to which such associations
are autonomous or institutionalized. When they have relatively formal links to the State
or political parties, they lose some of their autonomy and thus their ability to intervene
in all freedom in the management and conduct of public affairs and in the working of
institutions according to arrangements deriving from their governing principle of
special interests. NGOs, while being associations, have more pronounced concerns in

the area of the protection of human rights and humanitarian law. Such concerns urge
them to intervene in the political field even if they claim to have nothing to do with
politics. It is nevertheless true that the growth of professional associations and national
NGOs is making a strong contribution to the consolidation of civil society in these

4.10.3. Interest Groups

Interest groups, as associations on the basis of the free will of individuals, play a
prominent role in the process of democratization. Here, we will deal with the nature of
interest groups, their difference with political parties, various types of interest groups and
methods they employ to influence government.

Consistent with the freedom of association granted to citizens in democracies, democratic

states are characterized by the emergence and operation of several kinds of interest
groups. Interest groups are organizations or groups of people, which are autonomous
from government or political parties with the objective of influencing government. In
democracies we find several interest groups who are attempting to promote and influence
the policies of government. In fact interest groups are regarded as essential transmission
belts between people and government. They play an important role in helping people
interact with government, which is often remote and difficult for the individual to
influence. Interest groups, bridge the gap between the citizen and government. Through
interest groups, citizens communicate their wants on policy goals to government leaders.

4.10.4. Public Opinion

Public opinion is of a crucial importance for democracy. Are you wondering why?
Public opinion is made up with citizens or specific groups that reflect on their
community and express their criticisms, their proposals or their agreement to
influence the construction of political will. It is not possible to talk about only one,
but of several public opinions because in a plural society, there are always several

Public opinion is then a tool to control the politicians that lead the country. On the
one hand, this is important for the opposition as the latter is only potentially active in

front of the government through this public opinion. Indeed, what important changes
would an opposition bring if it was only able to express criticisms in closed rooms? It
is when the opposition represents its stands and opinions, finds itself obliged to react,
otherwise it is running the risks of disaffection or destitution, from its citizens.
Moreover, public opinion serves the whole population in its effort to display criticisms
and its incitements to well defined actions.

1. How can public opinion serve as a tool to control their leaders? Share your ideas for
your classmates

Each citizen has the right to gather information and to contribute somehow to the
expression of public opinion when he/she organizes, for instance, a meeting in order to
exchange information. In this context, political and social human rights play an
important role: the freedom of opinion, as well as freedom to hold meetings and to set
up associations which allow citizens to participate in the expression of public opinion,
without having to put up with any pressure. Public opinion then constitutes a
controlling tool, which is very important in a democracy. Mass Media

Finally, we will discuss the roles of the mass media in the process of democratization.
Freedom of the media is essential in a democracy. The mass media refers institution and
to the methods of communication, which can reach large number of people at the same
time. It includes newspapers, television, radio, books, posters, magazines, and cinema
etc. Media plays a role in the political training of citizens and democratic culture by
informing them of the scope of public policies, the management and conduct of affairs
by those responsible at both the State and grass-roots level, by providing and offering
the members of the community the means of communicating with each other. But if the
media is to perform those functions, it must be free and independent; it must have suffi-
cient material and human resources to deal with all the important problems of society.
The importance of the mass media in a country is not dependent on the number of

newspapers or private radio and television stations but on the quality of the information
provided to the public.

1. You know that in our country there are different traditional democratic institutions
like: Gada system (of Oromo people); Abatoch (of Amhara people); Bayto (of Tigray
people); yejoka (of Gurage people) and etc. So, what do you think is there role for the
building up of modern democracy in our country? Discuss briefly

4.11 The Meanings and Nature of Human Rights

The definitional issues of human rights concerning what are they and how they should be
defined has attracted a number of thinkers who advance a diverse array of theories on the
nature of human rights. Despite the ideological variations in defining human rights
particularly among the universalist-relativist or legal/positivist-naturalist approaches,
human rights take the following definitional elements. At a very basic level, human rights
can be defined as entitlements that all human beings assert merely because they are
human. As such human rights are basic moral claims invoked for the purpose of enjoying
a decent human life rooted in dignity. Often linked to the nature of human kind, they are
also asserted as ‘natural’ rights. This is further articulated in the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights (UDHR), in its article 1 states that “All human beings are born free and
equal in dignity and rights”. Consensus among human rights scholars reflects that they
emanate from fundamental human dignity and worth.5 For instance; this consensus is
expressed among others by the works of Mariek Piechowiak, who defines human rights
as rights of all human beings acknowledged independently of law. Similarly, Amparo
Tomas, discussing human rights in the context of his argument for human rights based
approach to development, defines human rights as “universal legal guarantees that
belong to all human beings and that protect individuals and/or groups from actions and
omissions of the State and some non-State actors that affect fundamental human dignity.”
As mentioned above in the definition, it is understandable that the idea of human rights is
rooted in human dignity, understood as “an absolute inner worth” which is the standard

of distinctively human or moral value. Man, understood as a human being, is a creature
with a worth, a dignity that is priceless; outside of the domain of instrumental value.
Which means, “Man regarded as a person is exalted above any price; he is not to be
valued merely as a means, he possesses a dignity (absolute inner worth) by which he
demand respect for himself from all other rational beings in the world.” This in effect
restates, in the language of dignity and worth, Kant’s famous formulation of the
“categorical imperative,” the fundamental principle of morality: “Act in such a way that
you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the
same time as an end and never simply as a means.” This indicates that, the dignity of
humanity in each of us-in ourselves and in others alike- demands respect. Because of this
dignity, “every man has a legitimate claim to respect from his fellow men and is in turn
bound to respect every other.” Humanity in his person is the object of the respect which
he can demand from every other man. Hence, this duty with reference to the dignity of
humanity within us is connected to human rights as expressed in the definition of human
rights, that it gains its foundation in human dignity. Similarly, Humanity, which is
present in all human beings, gives each individual a dignity/status that must be respected
by all other individuals, society, and the state. And the details of that respect, especially
in its political elements, are specified through human rights. Thus, it is understandable
that Human dignity dictates a life of personal freedom and respect for human rights.

Equally important, it is undeniable that, human rights are legally guaranteed by human
rights law, protecting individuals and groups against actions which interfere with
fundamental freedoms and human dignity. They are expressed in treaties, customary
international law, bodies of principles and other sources of law. Human rights law places
an obligation on States to act in a particular way and prohibits States from engaging in
specified activities as shall be discussed below under states obligation of human rights.
However, it has to be clear that, the law does not establish human rights; because, human
rights are inherent entitlements which come to every person as a consequence of being
human. Thus, treaties and other sources of law generally serve to protect formally the
rights of individuals and groups against actions or abandonment of actions by
Governments which interfere with the enjoyment of their human rights.

Generally, human rights are understood as being those rights which are inherent to the
human being. The concept of human rights acknowledges that every single human being
is entitled to enjoy his or her human rights without distinction as to race, color, sex,
language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or
other status.

4.12 Features of Human Rights

Human rights which are the birth rights of human beings are manifested by unique
features. The most common but not the only attributes of human rights includes the
following; universality, inherence (in human dignity), inalienability, and equality.
Similarly, Tomas has identified certain features of human rights. These includes human
rights are; rooted in and exist for fundamental human dignity; universal (belonging to all
human beings); legal guarantees against state actions and omissions; and that they protect
both individuals and groups.
Universality of Human Rights: universality refers to the applicability of human rights to
all people everywhere at all times. This positioning of human rights as universal is often
questioned and debated upon among scholars of relativist convictions who argue that
human rights are relative. But, as Piechowiak says, often, the debate between
Universalists and relativists is in the abstract. So while “universality and inherence are
contested in theory”, they are “acceptable in practice”. As evidence, she cites state
practices and the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action of 1993 which states, in
explicit terms, that human rights are “the birth right of all human beings” and that “The
universal nature of these rights and freedoms is beyond question.” Universalism rejects
their particularity in essence. It also underscores the fact that human rights are trans-
temporal and, as such, pre-exist laws and states.

The Universalist approach of human rights is attributed to the fact that one can use
nature, God or reason to identify basic rights inherent to every human and also these
rights pre-exist society. So, the phrase inherent to every human and pre-exist society
implies that the right is emerged with the creation of an individual person and should not
be subordinate to arbitrary institutions. Hence, human rights are a universal entitlement
which is possessed by all individuals across the globe by virtue of being human.

Human Rights are Inherent (in human dignity): Inherence refers to the existence of rights
independently of the will of either an individual human being or a group of people. Thus,
“they are neither obtained nor granted through any human action” They exist in spite of
the fact that one has the will or capacity to exercise them. It is rooted in human dignity.

Human rights are Inalienable: Inalienability implies that nobody can deprive anyone of
these rights and nobody can renounce these rights by himself. This is because the
uniqueness of being human- the substance in which the whole idea of human rights is
rooted-being, the ground for assigning dignity to each and every human being, cannot
allow an infringement or outright violation. Inalienability is partly grounded in taking
every human being as an end rather than as a means to further other ends.

Equality: equality as an attribute of human rights reminds us that everyone is entitled to

rights “not as a consequence of, for example, being able to exercise free choices or to
think logically” but rather because “there are no human beings which are more human
than others”. It is perhaps because of the salience of the above mentioned features of
human rights that the 1993 Vienna Declaration has had to stipulate that all human rights
are universal, indivisible, interrelated and interdependent.

Apart from this, one does well to stress the fact that human rights tend to be emancipator
in their rhetoric. It is common place to hear any resistance movement to invoke human
rights as the ‘utopia’ they aspire to enjoy subsequent to the success of their struggle while
also considering their violations as the motivating and mobilizing cause behind their

As moral claims, human rights pose a challenge to states both internally (from within) an
externally (from without). As a result, neglect or abuse of rights often provokes a
pressure on a state both politically and legally. Moreover, human rights impose limits on
the exercise of power by governments; in effect, they discipline power. Furthermore, in
history, it tended to be biased towards the individual right to freedom from undue state

4.13 The Developments of Human Rights Norms and Instruments

The development of Human rights laws was linked to reaction to massive state abuse of
human beings. The modern concept of human rights has also drawn impetus from the
experiences of World War II. As such it is rooted in the experiences of ‘legal
lawlessness’ that characterized the activities of some oppressive regimes. The occurrence
of holocaust in pre-war Germany and the apartheid regime in South Africa has taken as
an example of legal lawlessness. In response to such lawlessness, the international human
rights regime developed since WWII. The milestone in the history of the development of
the international human rights system is the adoption at the United Nations General
Assembly (UNGA) in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The
UDHR, meant to serve as “a common standard of achievement for all nations”, is the
single most important instrument that shaped the post-war human rights movement.
Today, it forms the core of the International Bill of Rights (IBR). Although it is a
declaration of mere 30 articles, it embodies the list of all rights that can be viewed as
first, second, and third generation of rights. The UDHR is viewed by scholars as one of
the most magnificent achievement of the modern human civilization. The UDHR “gave
expression to diffuse, deep-seated longings and lent wings to movements that would soon
bring down colonial empires. Its thirty concise articles inspired or influenced scores of
post war and postcolonial constitutions of many countries and various treaties throughout
the world. It became the polestar of an army of international human rights activists, who
pressure governments to live up to their pledges and train the searchlight of publicity on
abuses that would have remained hidden in former times. It is the parent document, the
primary inspiration, for most rights instruments in the world today. The adoption of the
subsequent covenants on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and on Economic, Social,
and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1966 (to come into force in 1976) was a gradual but
immense stride toward completing what later came to be the regime of the International
Bill of Rights (IBR). Through these and other important instruments, the UN has
discharged its responsibilities to set normative standards on human rights while also
working with specialized UN bodies (e.g. the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights [UNHCHR] and the Committees) to develop mechanisms of monitoring
and better implementation of rights.

4.14 Classification and Obligations of Human Rights
Obviously, there is a diverse array of rights that human beings claim, be it by virtue of
the strength of laws or of morals. The classification of these diverse rights has generated
a degree of controversy among human rights law scholars. Karel Vasak, drawing from
the motto of the French Revolution of 1789-which propagated the principles of liberte,
egalite, and fraternite— developed the generational division of rights. Thus, he came up
with the idea of “First Generation” rights of civil and political type, “Second Generation”
rights of economic, social, and cultural type, and “Third Generation” rights of
development, peace, environment, and others. His generational division of rights has led
to the emergence of the idea of what are called liberty rights (i.e., civil and political
rights), equality rights (i.e., economic and social rights), and solidarity rights (i.e., rights
to development, environment, and peace).
Rights are also classified based on the kind of duties that they impose upon the duty-
bearers (which, often, is the state). Thus, scholars identify rights that impose negative
duties on the state, (i.e., the duty to keep away from the free exercise of rights by citizens
unhindered) and those that impose positive duties (i.e., the duty to act to protect or
promote or/and fulfill some rights). It is important to note that civil and political rights
often impose duties of the former kind while economic, social and cultural rights tend to
impose duties of the latter kind. From this division come the difference between
obligations to respect on the one hand and obligations to protect, promote, and fulfill on
the other. Obligations to respect are obligations to refrain from doing violative acts.
Obligations to protect, promote, and fulfill impose obligations to act in certain ways so
that states can create conditions for a decent human living within which to exercise even
civil and political rights. Rights are also categorized into “individual” and “collective”
depending on their active subjects (or beneficiaries), the latter being associative or
organic groups as the case may be.

In the process of the development of the International Bill of Rights, although the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948 had a comprehensive catalogue
of rights with no hierarchy among them, the division between civil and political rights on
the one hand, and the economic, social, and cultural rights on the other, came out to be

pronounced in the international covenants that emerged subsequently bearing the names
that echo the division we stated above. Hence, the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and
Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

To conclude this section, it is important to stress that human rights do matter because
human dignity and worth matter. Human beings as an end, rather than a means, do
matter. Violation of human rights thus amounts to defiance of the inherent human
dignity. To violate them is in a sense to punch human dignity in the face.

4.15 Human Rights in Ethiopia: Past and Present

There is no disagreement that human rights are generously recognized in the
contemporary constitutional system of Ethiopia. In this, the FDRE Constitution of 1995
marks a departure from the past. Ethiopia’s constitutional past suggests that the concept
of human rights was not developed and that the practice of human rights was not one that
is a cause of legitimate pride. In the era of unwritten constitutions, i.e., in the time
preceding 1931, citizens were mere subjects of the Emperors having privileges and
benefits emanating from the Omni-benevolent Emperors merely on their goodwill.
Citizens are not assumed to have rights in the sense of entitlement although they do
assume duties towards the emperors (personally) and the government (officially).

4.15.1. Human Rights under the 1931 and 1955 Constitution

In the era of written constitutions since 1931, this trend continued unmitigated. The 1931
Constitution being an Imperial grant (to the beloved subjects), it did not recognize human
rights as such. Rather, it stressed duties while the notion of their being “entitled” to
special privileges and benefits depending on the whims and conjectures of the Emperors
from whom all benefits and privileges, and all justice and power, flows was maintained.
The state is considered to owe no duty to the people. There was hardly any constitutional
limit to state power save that which is tacitly imposed by religion and tradition (the
principal sources of legitimacy in Ethiopia for centuries). As a consequence, even after
Ethiopia was ushered into the era of written constitutions, the Monarchy was, at least
theoretically, absolute.

In the Revised Constitution of 1955, continuity (rather than change) was dominant. The
monarchy continued to be absolute. The state (and the bureaucracy) tended to be
aristocratic. In spite of the fact that there was a stride made to embrace the ideals of
rudimentary democracy and human rights, there was much to be desired in practice in
this regard. There was recognition of a number of human rights in the constitution
(including the right to assembly, association, and election, etc) but often constrained by
the claw back clauses marked by the phrase such as “in accordance with the law”, or “as
shall be determined by law”. One of the pressing problems of the time was the lack of
access, on the part of the peasants, to economic “facilities” (such as land) that
undermined the economic freedoms of large proportion of the population.

4.15.2. Human Rights under the 1987 PDRE Constitution

In 1974, the cumulative effect of long held popular discontents, the increasing
radicalization of the intelligentsia, and the progressive activism on the part of the (often
underpaid) military, led to a socialist revolution that dethroned the Emperor, suspended
the constitution, dismissed the parliament, and established, eventually, a Provisional
Military Administrative Council (PMAC) of a committee (Derg in Amharic) of junior
military officials who ruled the country for about 13 years without a formal body of law
one can conventionally call a constitution. During the time from 1974 to 1987, the state
of human rights deteriorated both conceptually and practically. One should note however
that there was an emphasis, in rhetoric at least, on the importance of respect for socio-
economic and cultural rights although they are not couched in words that reflect the
notion of human rights. The redistribution of land and urban houses emboldened some
aspects of socio-economic rights. The secularization of the state led to the declaration of
equality and non-discrimination on the basis of religion albeit much less to freedom of
religion. Recognition of linguistic and cultural equality led to the denunciation of
discrimination on linguistic and cultural grounds.
This trend to emphasize socio-economic and cultural rights was continued in the 1987
Constitution of the Peoples’ Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (PDRE). Nevertheless, the
constitution was overtaken by the growing liberationist struggles that started in the wake
of the 1974 Revolution and mounted a pressure on the government until it fell in 1991.
While there was a protectionist state that put a high premium on the importance and
primacy of economic, social, and cultural rights, there hardly was the concept of human
rights as entitlement, especially among the populace. As a result, there was hardly a
vibrant human rights culture that specially fostered the assertion of civil and political

4.15.3. An Overview of Fundamental Rights and Freedom under the FDRE

As mentioned above, the FDRE Constitution offers a long list of rights and categorizes
these rights and freedoms into two; namely human rights and democratic rights. In the
following section we are going to discuss about these rights as enshrined in chapter three
of the FDRE Constitution.

A. Right to life
It is part of personal right which includes of right of privacy. It is the most basic right
upon which all other rights are premised for the purpose of protection. Human rights can
only attach to living human beings. All other human rights articles would be of no use
without the right to life. In this sense the right to life is primary. It is a trump right. It is
protected under all international and regional treaties and in almost all state constitutions.
The right to life, as important as it is for the enjoyment of all other rights, is not absolute,
however. There is a limitation on this right.
The type of punishment intentionally inflicted on a person by a state for a serious
criminal offense is called capital punishment or the death penalty. The government can
only impose the death penalty in situations where a person has been charged, tried,
convicted, and sentenced in accordance with the law. There are arguments for and against
inflicting the death penalty. One main argument for death sentence is this that death
penalty is a punishment that will deter other people from committing serious criminal
offenses. Argument against death penalty argues that it did not give a chance for
correction or redemption. Art. 15 of Ethiopian Constitution say, “Every person has the
right to life. No person may be deprived of his life except as a punishment for a serious
criminal offense determined by law”.

B. Right to liberty/Freedom of person

Liberty is essentially understood to be “a persons’ going about his/her life freely.” This
right is covered under the Ethiopia Constitution and international instruments. In Ethiopia
Constitution, the right is treated in three articles in various wordings (Arts. 14, 16 and
17). Again the commentary of the Human Rights Committee is helpful in understanding
the scope of this right.
C. Security of person
Scholars argue that it is difficult to tell the exact scope of this right both in international
law and Ethiopian Constitution (see Art.16 of the FDRE Constitution and Art.9 of the
ICCPR). The Constitution specifically talks about bodily harm. It refers harm on ones
physical existence (body) both from private actors and government agents. Do you think
that this is the only element that it protected? The South African Constitution (section 12
gives certain details). It mentions: right to make decision concerning reproduction,
consent incase of subjection to medical and scientific experimentation. Do you think it is
possible to extend understanding of Article 16 of the Ethiopia Constitution to the above
issues under the South African Constitution by jurisprudence?
D. Right of persons accused and arrested
The rights of accused and arrested persons set out in the Constitution and other laws of
the country are fundamental aspects of the criminal justice system. The provision on the
rights of persons arrested deals with various aspects of the right. A crucial aspect of this
right is the fact that he has the right to appear before a court law within 48 hours of his
arrest. The responsibility lies on the arresting institution or officer. The arrested person is
not simply at the mercy of the arresting institution. A violation of these rights is an abuse
of power by the government or its agents for which they should be accountable. Article
12(2) states that ‘any public official or an elected representative is accountable for any
failure in official duties.’ An example of public officials includes police and other
enforcement officers. An independent court will ensure such abuses are not committed.
The arrested person has also right to receive a full explanation of the reason of his arrest.
E. Non-retroactivity of Criminal laws
The principle of non-retroactivity of criminal laws is provided in the Constitution. Hence
no one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission
which did not constitute a criminal offence at the time when it was committed. A heavier

penalty cannot be imposed on any person other than the one that was applicable at the
time when the criminal offence was committed. However, if a law promulgated
subsequent to the commission of the offence is advantageous to the accused or convicted
person then it will be applied.
Article 22 says that, “No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offense on account of
any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offense at the time it was
committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed on any person than the one that was
applicable at the time when the criminal offense was committed” and a law promulgated
subsequent to the commission of the offense shall apply if it is advantageous to the
accused or the convicted person.

The principle of non retroactivity of criminal laws is directly invoked in the Criminal
Code. Courts cannot treat as a crime and punish any act or omission which is not
prohibited by law. They cannot also impose penalties or measures other than those
prescribed by law. They cannot also create crimes by analogy.

F. Right against privacy

Article 26 stated that everyone has the right to privacy. This includes the right not be
subjected to searches of his home, person or property, or the seizure of any property
under his personal possession. Everyone has the right to inviolability of his notes and
correspondence including postal letters, and communications made by means of
telephone, telecommunications and electronic devices. Public officials shall respect and
protect these rights. No restrictions may be placed on the enjoyment of such rights except
in compelling circumstances and in accordance with specific laws whose purpose shall be
the safeguarding of national security or public peace, the prevention of crimes or the
protection of health, public morality or the rights and freedoms of others.
G. Right to Equality and Equal protection
This right is entrenched in the Ethiopian Constitution and international instruments (see
Art.25 of FDRE Constitution, Art.26 of ICCPR and Art. 3 of the Banjul Charter). But
there are differences regarding its scope. Right against non-discrimination is enshrined in
almost all international instruments. Right against discrimination is one of the core
human rights.

The kind of discrimination which is prohibited is negative discrimination, for the purpose
of impairing or nullifying the equal enjoyment of rights. When is discrimination unfair?
What did the FDRE Constitution say in this issue? What are the provisions for positive
discrimination? The South African Constitution says that discrimination is unfair unless it
can be shown that it is fair; the presumption is unfair unless proved otherwise. The
burden of proof is one the person or state or entity that exercises discrimination. The
South African Constitution also has provision for affirmative action to promote
achievement of equality, but prohibits private discrimination in private spheres (in
America, private sphere is not regulated). It has also a list of grounds prohibited as for
discrimination, such as pregnancy, age and disability. Can we apply those lists under the
South African Constitution in Ethiopia, by invoking the last phrase, “other status”, under
Article 25 of the FDRE Constitution? In Ethiopia, Article 35 talks about affirmative
action. There is also affirmative action in policy areas (Art.98).

H. Freedom of Religion, Belief, and Opinion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion. Thus, everyone has the right to
freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to hold or to
adopt a religion or belief of one’s choice and the freedom to manifest his religion or
belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching either individually or commonly
with others and in public or private. Any restriction to this effect is against the law unless
it is prescribed by the law and is necessary to protect public safety, peace, health,
education, public morality or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others and to ensure
the independence of state from religion. State and religion are separate and there shall be
no state religion; besides, the state does not interfere in religious matters and vice versa.
Religious influence in education is prohibited.
In Ethiopia there is a strong tolerance among various religions; and peoples from
different religions lived in harmony for a very long time. In order to show religious
tolerance and recognition, government media transmits celebrations of religious holidays
giving due focus on how they exercise it with its cultural significance. Traditional
religious practices are also respected. For instance, the Oromo practice of "Erecha",
neglected in the past, is now recognized and practiced every year with wide publicity.

The rights incorporated under this Article are:
♣ Freedom of thought, belief and religion
♣ Freedom to practice religion in private or public and either individually or
♣ Freedom to teach one's religion
♣ Protection from coercion or any other means that restricts or prevents the enjoyment
of this freedom
♣ The rights of parents and legal guardians to bring up children in accordance with the
religion and moral education of their own convictions.
I. Freedom of thought, opinion and expression
Part II of the constitution, which deals with democratic rights, starts with the freedom of
thought and expression. It guaranteed every principle of the right. Everyone is entitled to
hold opinion without interference.
Freedom of expression means that everyone has the right to say what they want to in any
language, manner, and in any form. It protects an individual’s rights to receive and
communicate ideas, information etc. The following important considerations flow from
the freedoms of expression, thought and opinion:

♣ Freedom of opinion and expression form the cornerstone in building a democratic

society; and governments are called upon to refrain from interfering in the exercise of
these freedoms;
♣ Governments assume an obligation to respect these freedoms which are necessary for
the building of a democratic society;
♣ In a democracy it is essential that people have the right to get information and,
particularly, information of public interest;
♣ People's participation in a democracy depends on their rights to seek and obtain
information through the media;
♣ Independence of the press is ensured and the press is required to be non- partisan in
entertaining diverse views and opinions. The Press is free from any form of
♣ Limitation on the freedom of expression is through laws and not by the whims and
desires of government authorities. Limitations will be imposed as follows: to protect

the well being of the youth; to protect the honor and reputation of individuals; and to
prohibit any propaganda for war as well as the public expression of opinion intended
to insult human dignity.
J. Freedom of association, assembly, and demonstration
The right to freedom of association is laid down in the Constitution. The Constitution
provides that every person has the right to freedom of association for any cause or
purpose. However organizations formed in violation of appropriate laws or to illegally
subvert the constitutional order or which promote such activities are prohibited.

Freedom of association allows a voluntary grouping of people to come together to

achieve a common goal. The freedom of association also includes the right not to
associate. Here the Constitution deals with the “freedom of association" and not with the
types of associations. Persons can associate for any reason as long as the common goal
does not violate appropriate laws of the country, does not illegally subvert the
constitutional order, does not to engage in subversive activities. Subject to these
restrictions and limitations, persons can associate to establish business enterprises,
workers can establish trade unions, citizens can form advocacy groups or non-
governmental organizations (NGOs), etc.

K. Freedom of movement
This right is guaranteed under the Ethiopian Constitution and international instruments
(see Art. 32 of FDRE Constitution and Art.12 of ICCPR). The Constitution considers it a
democratic right. Here also, there are differences, in scope of the right among the
different instruments. The right has two important components: 1) right to liberty of
movement within a country, 2) right to choose one’s residence within a country.
Additional component is the right to leave any country, including one’s own country.
Governments have obligation to facilitate ones’ ability to leave. Note that foreigners are
not equally entitled to claim this right, and each of the components is subject to different
levels of restriction. For example, under ICCPR the two important components may be
restricted on groups of public order, national security, publish health, rights and freedom
of others, and public morality. Regarding right to enter to one’s own country, ICCPR
subjects the limitation to only test of arbitrariness (right to entry cannot be denied

arbitrarily). Article 32 (2) of the Ethiopian Constitution puts no limitation the right to
return to one’s own country. It says that any Ethiopian and foreigner nationals lawfully in
Ethiopia have right of movement, to choose residence, and leave the country at any time.
L. Right to elect and be elected (Art.38)
Under Art.38 the constitution recognizes the right to elect and be elected. The following
sets of rights are recognized under this article:
♣ The right to take part in government.
♣ The right to democratic government.
♣ The right to vote and to stand for election.
♣ The right to be a member of his/her own will in a political party or association.
An election provides citizens the opportunity to vote and decide on the future of their
country as expressed through elected representatives. In Ethiopia, elections for
government representatives are held at the various levels: At the federal level, all citizens
elect members of the House of Representatives who serve in the National Parliament for
five years. The House also elects the Prime Minister from the majority party winning the
elections; at the regional level, citizens within a region elect members of the Regional
Council who serve for five years. The Regional Council then elects the President of the
Region; at local level, citizens elect the Woreda Council which serves for five years. The
Woreda Council elects the Woreda Administrator and other officials. At the kebele level,
residents of the kebele elect the Kebele Administrators and other officials every two

M. The right to property

The right to property is guaranteed in the Constitution and other enabling laws. Every
Ethiopian citizen has the right to the ownership of private property. Unless prescribed
otherwise by law on account of public interest, this right shall include the right to acquire,
to use and, in a manner compatible with the rights of other citizens, to dispose of such
property by sale or bequest or transfer.
The right to ownership of rural and urban land, as well as of all natural resources, is
exclusively vested in the State and in the peoples of Ethiopia. Land is a common property
of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia and is not subject to sale or to other
means of exchange.

N. Economic, social, and cultural rights (Article 41)
Rights incorporated under this Article are: The right of every Ethiopian to engage freely
in economic activity and to pursue a livelihood of his choice anywhere within the
national territory, the right of every Ethiopian to choose his or her means of livelihood,
occupation and profession, the right of every Ethiopian to have equal access to publicly
funded social services, the right of farmers and pastoralists to receive fair prices for their
products, and the right to obtain an equitable share of the national wealth commensurate
with their contributions.
With respect to this Article, the obligations of the government are:

♣ To allocate ever increasing resources to public health, education and other social
♣ Within available means, to allocate resources to assist physically and mentally
disabled, the aged and children who are left without parents or guardian.
♣ To pursue policies to expand opportunities for the unemployed and the poor.
♣ To undertake all measures necessary to increase opportunities for citizens to find
gainful employment.
♣ Responsibility to protect and preserve historical and cultural legacies, and to
contribute to the promotion of arts and sports.
♣ Social benefits and opportunities for which the government has assumed
obligation/responsibility by their nature will be realized progressively through
programs which the government initiates.
Every individual has the right to culture. Under the Constitution, equality of languages
and preservation of historical and cultural legacies are guaranteed. Each individual has
the right to speak his language and practice his culture. This is enshrined in the
Constitution through the right of regional and local governments to freely determine their
respective educational and work languages. In an article providing for the rights of
nationalities, the Constitution states that “Every nation, nationality, and people in
Ethiopia has the right to speak, to write and to develop its own language.” They have also
the right to express, to develop and to promote their culture and preserve their history.

O. The Right to Work under Equitable and Satisfactory Conditions
The right to work is constitutionally guaranteed right of every Ethiopian. The
Constitution provides that any Ethiopian can freely choose in which economic activity,
livelihood, occupation or profession to be engaged. There can be no compulsion in the
choice of employment. Any attempt to impose this would be regarded as inhuman and
degrading treatment under the Constitution.
Equal protection of the law without any discrimination based on grounds of race, nation,
nationality, or other social origin, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion,
property, birth or other status is a cross-sectional notion applicable to effective
implementation of all rights incorporated in the Constitution. According to the economic
objectives provided under the FDRE Constitution, assurance for any Ethiopian to get
equal opportunities for improving economic conditions is one of the fundamental
considerations in framing economic policies. Opportunities of employment cannot be
denied to an individual on prohibited discriminatory grounds.

P. Environmental rights
The Constitution provides that: “All persons have the right to a clean and healthy
environment. Everyone is entitled to live in a safe and healthy environment regardless of
whether they come from the city or from rural areas. It also states that all persons who
have been displaced or whose livelihoods have been adversely affected as a result of state
programs have the right to commensurate monetary or alternative means of
compensation, including relocation with adequate state assistance. The Government is
also required to try and ensure that all Ethiopians live in a clean and healthy environment.
It has to make sure that the design and implementation of programmes and projects for
development do not damage or destroy the environment. In short, the Government and
citizens have the duty to protect the environment. In addition to the Constitutional
provisions, the Government has entered into various international agreements assuming
the obligation of protecting the environment.
Environmental pollution control proclamation 300/2002, the most comprehensive of the
environmental legislation, provides detailed rules for the protection of the environment. It
prohibits the violation of environmental standards by any person. Anyone engaged in any
field of activity is required to “install a sound technology that avoids or reduces, to the
required minimum, the generation of waste and, when feasible, apply methods for the
recycling of waste.” They may also be required to clean up or pay the cost of cleaning up
the polluted environment. Where there is possible risk to human health or to the
environment, a plant may be closed or relocated.

Contending Theories of Ethics
Ethicists often disagree about the nature of those standards and desirable qualities and
follow different path in establishing standards and discovering which qualities are
desirable. However, their heroically views about ethics can be discussed, for the sake of
convenience by categorizing in to two broad fields of ethics. These are:
1. Normative theory of Ethics
2. Non- normative theory of Ethics

1. Normative Theory of Ethics

It involves an attempt to determine precisely, what moral standards to follow so that
our actions may be morally right or good. It concerned with developing rational rules,
guidelines or standards according to which we should lead our lives. In addition, it deals
with presenting and justifying the guide to the right conduct or behavior. There are two
areas of normative ethics:

a. Applied normative ethics

b. General normative ethics
A. Applied Normative Ethics: is the branch of ethics which attempt to explain and

justify positions on specific moral problems, such as

 Sex outside marriage  Environmental problems

 Euthanasia  Abortion
 Nuclear armament  Homosexual relation
 Capital punishment  Child labor
 Genetic research
 Business ethics,
 Sex without love

It is termed as applied because the ethicist applies or uses the general ethical principles in an attempt to
resolve specific moral problems. Furthermore, it concentrates on pressing vital issues and these issues
are difficult to solve or they are controversial in nature.

B. General Normative Ethics: is the reasoned search for principles of human conduct, including
critical study of major theories about which things are good, which acts are right and which acts are
blameworthy. For most of us ethical actions spring from some standards: “Do unto others as you would
have them do unto you”, “Act in such a way that you bring about greatest good for the greater number”,
“Always act in your own best interest”. Which principle should we adopt? General normative ethics, in
part tries to answer this question by attempting to formulate and defend a system of basic ethical
principles, which presumably is valid for everyone. General normative ethics can be categorized into two
broad normative theories. These are:

i. Teleological (consequentialist) theory of ethics; and

ii. Deontological (non- consequentialist) theory of ethics

i. Teleological (Consequentialist) Theory of Ethics: It is referred as “the end justifies the

means”. It believes in purpose, ends or goals of an action, it stress that the consequences of an action
determines the morality or immorality of a given action. Which means an action is judged as right or
wrong, moral or immoral depending on what happens because of it. One may have the best intention or
follow the highest moral principles but if the result, moral act is harmful, or bad it must be judged as
morally or ethically wrong act.

Ethical Egoism

It is called ethical egoism simply because it is an ethical theory, normative theory about “how we ought
to behave”. You should look after yourself; it implies that “we ought to be self interested”.

If you do not take advantage of a situation, you are foolish. They claim that it makes a good sense to
look after your self, and morality is a result of that self-interest.

If I mistreat others, they mistreat me, so I resolve to behave my self. These reflect that, we do it for our
selves, and not for others. So do unto others so that you will be done unto in similar way.

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If you might advance your own interest by helping others, then by all means help others but only if you
are the main beneficiary. For instance, help your children get school, because you love them and this
love is rational for you.

It is the general ethical theory, which views pleasure as the good. According to the hedonistic pleasure
principle, pleasures are thus the criterion or standard or “pay off” a right action. Which means an action
is to be valued or not in light of the amount or kind of pleasure that results from it. In short it is the
pleasure, happiness or Satisfaction Principle.

Hedonism: The ethical doctrine that pleasure is the highest good, and the production of
pleasure is the criterion of right action.

Egoistic Hedonism

Egoistic hedonism is the doctrine that the pursuit and production of ones own pleasure is good and is
the criterion of right action. If a person accepts the claim of ethical egoism (I-ism, makes the self the
central concern for the beginning and end of all considerations) and is a hedonist, the result is egoistic
hedonism, which means the doctrine that each individual should pursue primarily his/ her own pleasure.

Egoistic hedonism is very old and the most widely practiced moral philosophy. The two best example of
Greek philosophy, which supports egoistic hedonism are:

1. Cyrenacism
2. Epicureanism

A. Cyrenacism: is school of thought which was established/ founded by Aristppus about 400 BC.
According to him, our subjective sensations are the basis of our conduct, which means we should act in
such a way as to maximize our own pleasurable sensations.

It was most interested in the lower pleasures. The point is to enjoy as much bodily pleasure as possible,
and as immediate as possible. Double your pleasure, double your fun and eat, drink and be merry/happy
for tomorrow we may die.

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B. Epicureanism: is another important form of egoistic hedonism and named after its founder,

Epicurus 300 BC. The pleasant life for the Epicureanism meant some thing quite different from what it
meant for the Cyrenacism. As far as pleasure is concerned, they advocate the absence of pain especially
mental pain in the form of anguish and fear, not the pleasure of body but the pleasure of mind.
Moreover, not the accumulation of immediate pleasure so much as a life time of pleasures. Pleasure by
achievement, effort, moderate and long lasting.

Focuses on health of body and peace of mind, freedom from bodily and mental pain and an attention to
the elevated and refined pleasures, especially those of mind.

It is not a drunken orgy but a Bach cantata that, in the long run contribute most to the
pleasant life.

Similarity: both are hedonist, egoistic and believe in the calculation of pleasure and pain.

Difference: the cyrenaics emphasized positive pleasures, bodily pleasures and immediate pleasures
while, Epicureans emphasized negative pleasure (or absence of pain), mental pleasure and sustained
pleasure over a long period of time.

Psychological Egoism

The theory of psychological egoism states that what ever it may look like and what ever we may think it
is, no human action is done for any reason other than for the sake of the agent. In short, we are all
selfish, or at least we are all self-interested.

The term psychological egoism is applied to the theory because it is a psychological theory, a theory
about how humans behave. A psychological egoist believes that humans are always looking out for
themselves in some way or other, and it is impossible for them to behave any other way. As such,
psychological egoism is a descriptive theory; it does not make any statements about whether this is
good way to behave.

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Utilitarianism (Social Hedonism)

The doctrine that states we ought to act so as to promote the greatest balance of good over evil. We
ought to act so as to promote the greatest balance of pleasure over pain for the greater number of
people. It is teleological that it judges the rightness of an action by its consequences. Moreover it is
hedonistic in its conception of right action and also it judges the rightness of an action by its production
of pleasurable consequences. It is referred as social hedonism, in that happiness is to be distributed as
widely and as equally possible among all people/benevolence principle/. The doctrine that we ought to
act so as to promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

Utilitarianism (Social Hedonism) is an ethical doctrine that states an action is right if and
only if, it promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

Types of Utilitarianism

Act-Utilitarianism (AU): Maintains that for each particular act we are about to perform, we need to
appeal directly to the principle of utility. In each instance we must ask our selves whether this specific
act in this circumstance will produce the greatest amount of good over evil. But what about moral rules
that are commonly accepted, such as “don’t lie”, can’t rules like this be used as a guide for one’s
actions? For act-utilitarians commonly accepted moral rules can’t be taken as grantee to justify the end
of an action but the end of an action justifies the means by which we achieve the common good. An act
is right if and only if, it results in as much good as any available alternative.

According to act- utilitarianism, such rules, while in general appropriate to follow, can’t be used as an
absolutes guide in moral decision making. There are many instances when lying; in fact may be perfectly
acceptable. For example, telling the truth, sometimes, will expose an innocent to a greater harm. The
individual who lies to save the life of the innocent victim is behaving properly even though he is forced
to resort to deception. In this point of view, relying on moral rules may be helpful at times however, if
the application of those rules causes more harm than good, we should not hesitate to discard them.

Rule-Utilitarianism (RU):The central principle in this theory is that one should follow the moral rule that
would produce the most happiness (good) if very one followed it. Proponents of this theory insist that
certain moral rules, if followed, will always produce the greatest amount of good over evil. An act is right

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if and only if it is required by the rule and the acceptance of which would lead to greater good for
society than any available alternative. The question in this theory is not which action has the greatest
utility, but which rule has. The principle of utility comes in not determining what particular action to
perform, but in determining what the rules shall be. The principle of utility is still the ultimate standard,
but it is to be appeared the level of rules rather than at the level of particular acts.

The moral rules are not taken as grantee rather must be selected, maintained and replaced on the basis
of their utility and not on any other bases. It is the greatest general good to have everyone acting all in
all or at least largely on rules of the always acting type, instead of always making decisions on all
particular bases.

Sometimes, in specific situation telling the truth may produce undesirable consequences. For example,
telling one’s already depressed grandfather that he has only two months to live may cause harm for
him. But in general, the rule utilitarian would argue that it is in the best interests of society if every one
tells the truth. Thus, a rule utilitarian would maintain that instead of each individual to acting to bring
about the greatest amount of good over evil, every one should follow those rules which will tend to
bring about the greatest amount of good. For example, instead of wondering in each and every moral
situation whether one ought to tell the truth or not, one should establish a rule like the following: ‘one
should always tell the truth’ because doing so will produce the greatest good. Therefore, one of the
biggest differences between the act and the rule versions is that act-utilitarianism is more situational
than rule. With act-utilitarianism, all decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. In some situations lying
might be the best option. In other cases, honesty would produce more happiness. It just depends on the
specific situation. In contrast, a person following rule-utilitarianism would look for the rule that would
produce more happiness in all situations. Simply, follow the rule no matter what consequences it


The word ‘altruism’ derives from the French ‘autres’ which means ‘others.’ A person who is
altruistic cares about and is motivated by the needs of other people. Altruistic actions are
selfless, they are done for the sake of other people and not for any personal gain, perhaps even
sacrificing your own needs and desires for the sake of others. Many people argue that actions
can only be moral if they are done for the sake of helping others rather than yourself.

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Altruism (or Ethical Altruism) is an ethical doctrine that holds that individuals have a moral
obligation to help, serve or benefit others, if necessary at the sacrifice of self interest. More
precisely, an action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favourable than
unfavourable to everyone except the agent.

Ethical altruism is the philosophical doctrine of living for others rather than for oneself. In its
most extreme form, altruism calls for self-destruction for the sake of others.

What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to
exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that
self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.

ii. Deontological (Non- Consequentialist) Theory of Ethics

It is referred as “the means justifies the end”. It is coined as “deontics”. This is a theory that the
rightness or wrongness of moral action is determined, at least partly with reference to formal rules of
conduct rather than consequences or result of an action.

It is an emphasis on the intentions, motives, moral principles or performance of duty rather than results,
as the sign of right action/ morality and immorality. It is a duty based and according to this theory, the
consequences or results of our action have nothing to do with their rightness or wrongness. The
common forms of theory, which advocate the deontological ethical position, are:

A. Immanuel Kant categorical Imperative and

B. Divine command theory

A. Immanuel Kant Categorical Imperative: Categorical imperative requires that we should

respect for the humanity and dignity of all person and that, we treat each other in accordance we think
should be universally practiced. “Act as if the maxim you choose to follow always become a universal
law of nature”, “Always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other never
simply as a means, but always also as an end”

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 Only Good will is good with out qualification- it refers that “nothing in the world is good, with
out qualification except a good will”. Will, is part of person that reasons about and decides
what he will do. When persons will is morally good, it is good under all conditions, which
means its goodness does not depend upon any thing out side of itself. For instance,
intellectual talents, such as intelligence, cleverness and good judgment and character traits
such as courage, determination and perseverance have value to the extent that they aid us in
doing what is right but they become evil when they are used for evil ends.
 Good will and external action- we do not say a person has a good will merely because the
person performs certain external action. A person can have a good will and may try to do what
is right, but may be prevented from doing it by physical circumstances such as paralysis. In
stead, we determine whether a person has a good will by looking only at the persons “willing”
which means by looking at the reason on which the person bases his decisions concerning
what he will do.
 Good will and the three types of motivation- A person may do his duty “out of self interest”,
by “direct inclination”, which means by the immediate satisfaction or pleasure it gives
him/her. Doing some thing simply because he believes it is the morally correct thing to do, or
acting from duty. It is doing some thing absolutely, directly and objectively.

B. Divine Command Theory: Is a single rule non- consequentialist normative theory that says,
“We should always do the will of God”. In other words, whatever the situations, if we do what God wills,
then we do the right thing, if we do not do what God wills, then no matter what the consequences, we
do wrong. It was proposed by Thomas Aquinas and it states, “Moral rules are established by God” for
example, the Ten Commandments of God which are universally applicable, which means apply to every
body, every where and their values does not depends up on what produces human satisfaction, either
individually or collectively.

2. Non- Normative Theory of Ethics

Is either a factual investigation of moral behaviors or analysis of the meaning of terms used in moral
discourse and an examination of the moral reasoning by which moral beliefs can be shown to be true or

Non- normative ethics has two aspects (fields). These are:

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A. Scientific/ Descriptive study
B. Meta-ethics study

A. Scientific/ Descriptive study: this study of morality involves factual investigation of moral
behavior. It is concerned with how people do in fact behave, that means how people actually
behave/acting some thing. A descriptive one describes actual human conduct. Again scientific or
descriptive study can be subdivided into two doctrines. These are:

i. Ethical Absolutism

ii. Ethical Relativism

i. Ethical Absolutism: is the doctrine that states there exist one and only one moral code.

Absolutists maintain that this code applies to every one, at all times and everywhere. They advocates,
what is a moral duty for me must also be a duty for you. For example, if euthanasia is wrong, it is wrong
for every one, at all times, everywhere…

They do not necessarily claim that their interpretation of the absolute standard is true and valid one but
they do insist that there is a true moral code and that this code is the same for all people in all ages.

ii. Ethical Relativism: is a doctrine that denies there is a single moral standard that is universally
applicable to all people, at all times. They insist that there are many moral codes, which take root in
diverse social, soil and environment. Which means morality is relative to time, place and circumstances
in which it occurs.

They do not merely saying that what is thought right in one part of the world is frequently thought
wrong in another. Rather, they assert that precisely the same action that is right in one society at one
time can be wrong in another.

For example, putting to death 80 years old can be right in the jungles of New Guinea and wrong in US.

B. Meta-ethics study: Investigates the meaning of ethical terms and a critical study of how ethical

statements can be verified. Terms like, good, bad, right, wrong, obligation and responsibility. For
example, if you said, an act of euthanasia is right, the Meta ethicist just ask, what do you mean by right?
When we say some one is bad what is the justification used? Is the justification acceptable or not?
Sound or based on emotion or impression?

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The Virtue Approach

A very ancient approach to ethics is that ethical actions ought to be consistent with certain ideal
virtues that provide for the full development of our humanity. These virtues are dispositions and
habits that enable us to act according to the highest potential of our character and on behalf of
values like truth and beauty. Honesty, courage, compassion, generosity, tolerance, love, fidelity,
integrity, fairness, self-control, and prudence are all examples of virtues. Virtue ethics asks of
any action, "What kind of person will I become if I do this?" or "Is this action consistent with my
acting at my best?"

The virtue approach to ethics assumes that there are certain ideals toward which we should
strive, which provide for the development of our humanity. These ideals are discovered through
thoughtful reflection on what kind of people we have potential to become.

Virtues are attitudes or character traits that enable us to be and to act in ways that develop our
highest potential. They enable us to pursue the ideals we have adopted. Honesty, courage,
compassion, generosity, fidelity, integrity, fairness, self- control, and prudence are all examples
of virtues.

Virtues are like habits that once acquired they become the characteristic of a person. Moreover, a
person who has developed virtues will be naturally disposed to act in ways consistent with moral
principles. The virtuous person is the ethical person. In dealing with an ethical problem using the
virtue approach, we must ask, what kind of person should I be? What will promote the
development of character within my community and me?

This approach focuses on attitudes, dispositions, or character traits that enable us to be and to act
in ways that develop our human potential. It asks whether any given action demonstrates human
behavior at its best. The principle states: “What is ethical is what develops moral virtues in us
and our communities.” These five approaches suggest that once we have ascertained the facts,
we should ask ourselves five questions when trying to resolve a moral issue:

♣ What benefits and what harms will each course of action produce, and which alternative
will lead to the best overall consequences?

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♣ What moral rights do the affected parties have, and which course of action best respects
those rights?
♣ Which course of action treats everyone the same, except where there is a morally
justifiable reason not to, and does not show favoritism or discrimination?
♣ Which course of action advances the common good?
♣ Which course of action develops moral virtues?

This method, of course, does not provide an automatic solution to moral problems. It is not
meant to. The method is merely meant to help identify most of the important ethical
considerations. In the end, we must deliberate on moral issues for ourselves, keeping a careful
eye on both the facts and on the ethical considerations involved.

Virtue Ethics

Virtue ethics is a broad term for theories that emphasize the role of character and virtue in moral
philosophy rather than either doing one’s duty or acting in order to bring about good
consequences. A virtue ethicist is likely to give you this kind of moral advice: “Act as a virtuous
person would act in your situation.”

Most virtue ethics theories take their inspiration from Aristotle who declared that a virtuous
person is someone who has ideal character traits. These traits derive from natural internal
tendencies, but need to be nurtured; however, once established, they will become stable. For
example, a virtuous person is someone who is kind across many situations over a lifetime
because that is her /his character and not because s/he wants to maximize utility or gain favors or
simply do her/his duty.

Unlike deontological and consequentialist theories, theories of virtue ethics do not aim primarily
to identify universal principles that can be applied in any moral situation. And virtue ethics
theories deal with wider questions “How should I live?” and “What is the good life?” and “What
are proper family and social values?” Since its revival in the twentieth century, virtue ethics has
been developed in three main directions: Eudemonism, agent-based theories, and the ethics of

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♣ Eudemonism: Bases virtues in human flourishing, where flourishing is equated with
performing one’s distinctive function well. In the case of humans, Aristotle argued that
our distinctive function is reasoning, and so the life “worth living” is one which we
reason well.
♣ An agent based theory: Emphasizes that virtues are determined by common-sense
intuitions that we as observers judge to be admirable traits in other people.
♣ The third branch of virtue ethics, the ethics of care, was proposed predominately by
feminist thinkers. It challenges the idea that ethics should focus solely on justice and
autonomy; it argues that more feminine traits, such as caring and nurturing, should also
be considered.
Here are some common objections to virtue ethics. Its theories provide a self-centered
conception of ethics because human flourishing is seen as an end in itself and does not
sufficiently consider the extent to which our actions affect other people. Virtue ethics also does
not provide guidance on how we should act, as there are no clear principles for guiding action
other than “act as a virtuous person would act given the situation.” Lastly, the ability to cultivate
the right virtues will be affected by a number of different factors beyond a person’s control due
to education, society, friends and family. If moral character is so reliant on luck, what role does
this leave for appropriate praise and blame of the person?

Selected Issues in Applied Ethics

1. Developmental Ethics
The concept of development is one of the most slippery concepts to define. Despite theoretical
controversies the notion of development refers the measure of the economic development which
can in turn be understood in terms over all increment of the production of goods and services.
Material progress, measured in terms of GNP /GDP has been seen as outcome of development.
As a matter of policy the notion of development has been widely used in the second half of
twentieth century. It has come to refer to mainly to process of change occurring in the newly
independent countries of the third world.

Modernization theorist, that emerged since 1950 and 60’s argue that a wholesale change must
take place in underdeveloped countries in order to break the vicious circle of poverty, ignorance,
and low productivity. Not only the economy had to be transformed, but also the education

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system, the way of thinking, acting and living. Economic development policy in the developing
world was patterned after developed countries policies, or development experience. It happens
therefore, that development thinking has its cultural home in the European enlightenment and got
expanded to the rest of the world.

Development cannot be conceived of without a notion of its opposite, whether it be

underdevelopment or non-development many development theories have strong view that the
opposite of development is non-development or underdevelopment which is represented as
backwardness, stagnation and, above all, tradition. Tradition-culture in general had not been
considered as something valuable manifestation of human civilization, rather it had been
portrayed as an obstacle or hindrance to human progress or economic development.

♣ Development as Fulfilling Basic Needs

The idea of basic need was originated in response to the failures of development policy and
discourse that had been put forward by modernization theories. Mere economic growth was not
able to achieve human progress. It had benefited the few and the already privileged once.
Particularly the gap between developed west and the rest became glaring. It is in response to the
failure in the growth approach of development that basic need approach was adopted by
international organizations.


The basic needs approach to development call attention to the fulfillment of the basic needs
of the poorest of the poor in developing countries. It assumes that basic needs of the poor
are water, food, health and thereafter education, work, and political participation.

♣ Development as Human Development

This approach has strong assertion that the goal of development is to create an enabling
environment for people to enjoy long, healthy, creative lives. We cannot talk about development
without the conditions and lives of people.
The preoccupation of development with economic growth has pushed people to the periphery of
development discussion. The basic need theory does not address the basic development concern
of human beings. It allows only the poor to have their minimum requirement get fulfilled.

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People constantly make choices-economic, social, political, and cultural. The ultimate aim
of development is not to create more wealth or to achieve higher growth. It is to expand the
Thus, human development is concerned with enlarging choices and enhancing their outcomes-
range of choice for every human being.
and with advancing basic human freedoms and rights. Defined in this way, human development
is a simple notion with far reaching implications. People’s choice is enlarged if they acquire
more capabilities and have more opportunities to use them. Choices are important for current as
well as future generations. For human development to be sustainable, today’s generation must
enlarge their choice without reducing those of future generations. Though, important economic
growth is a means of development-not the ultimate goal. Higher income makes an important
contribution if it improves people’s lives. But economic growth is not an end itself. Development
must be focused on people and economic growth must be equitable if its benefits are to be felt in
people’s lives.

Gender equality is at the core of human development. a development process that bypasses half
of humanity or discriminates against it limits women’s choices. By focusing on choices, the
human development concept implies that people must participate in the processes that shape their
lives. They must help make and implement decisions and monitors their outcomes. Human
security is distinct from but contributes to human development. Security means safety from
chronic hunger, disease and repression. It also means protection from sudden harmful disruptions
in the patterns of daily life. In an economic context, protects people from threats to their
incomes, food security and livelihood.

Human development treats peoples as the subject of development, not as object. It is in light of
this, the UN adopted MDGs. The goals set numerical, time-bound targets for advancing human
development in developing countries, including having extreme income poverty and hunger,
achieving universal primary education and gender equality in primary education, reducing under-
5 mortality by two –third and maternal mortality, reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other
major diseases, and halving the portion of people without access to safe water. These targets are
to be achieved by 2015, with reductions based on levels in 1990.

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2. Environmental Ethics
Definition and Debates on Environmental Ethics
Environmental ethics is the discipline in philosophy that studies the moral relationship of human
beings, and also the value and moral status of the environment and its non-human contents.
There are two contending views on environment. These are the anthropocentric view, and bio-
centric views.

The anthropocentric view: Focuses on the utility and function of the environment to human
well-being. Scholars in this category advised us to use natural resources properly to fulfill the
existing and future needs and demands of human generation. In this respect Aristotle maintains
that “nature has made all things specifically for the sake of ma”. The statement clearly indicates
the instrumental value of environment to human beings. The contemporary environmental
Ethicists believe that current environmental crisis related to climate change and its disastrous
consequences are happening due to the mismanagement of natural resources.

The other contending view is said to be Biocentrism. This perspective endorses a view that all
living things are alike in having value in their own right independently of their usefulness to
others. Scholars in this tradition reject anthropocentrism in that the latter do not value all living
creatures. In short, anthropocentrism cares for the environment as an instrument for the well-
being of human beings; while biocentrism cares for every living creature and assigned intrinsic
values to them. The first view believed to have reflected the tradition of west philosophy where
as the second reflects East religious and philosophical foundation.

Principles of Environmental Ethics

Now a day the issue of environment is not the issues of a particular community only as the
saying goes on “When U.S America Sneezes, the world catches cough”.
The problem of climate change is the problem of the world. The ethical principles need to be
seen in light of addressing the global environmental problems, the basic ones are the following:
♣ Duty for future generation: every economic activity that is being taken in this generation
should not adversely affect the future generation. It is a plain fact that, renewable and
non-renewable resources are getting depleted due to the irresponsible acts of human

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beings. It is the duty of human beings to save resources for the future generation. It is the
moral compulsion of the existing generation to care for the forth coming generation.
♣ The duty to limit over consumption: As the earth’s resources are finite, there should be a
limit in the production and consumption pattern of resources. The consumption style of
lives in industrialized countries and developing countries is not comparable. Data
indicates that the industrialized societies that constituted ¼ of the global population
consume ¾ of the natural resources of the planet earth.
♣ The right to livable environment: Every human being has inherent right to live in an
environment which is free from pollution, subjugation, exploitation. In this regard, article
25 and 26 of the universal Declaration of Human Rights/UDHRs/ proclaims that
everyone has the right to standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of
himself and his family. In the similar vein Article 44 of our constitution grants that all
persons have the right to clean and healthy environment.
♣ The polluter pays principles: This principle hold that those actors who affects the
environment need to pay the cost and value in proportion to the damage. With regard to
climate change regimes, The UN Framework Convention on climate change accepted the
principle of common and differentiated responsibilities. It has been recognized that the
largest share of historical and current global emissions of green house gases has
originated in developed countries. The Framework convention also accepted that the
share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their
social and development needs.

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