The World Justice Project (WJP) has published its fourth report – the 2014 Rule of Law Index. This year, WJP’s indices have paid attention to the state of rule of law in 99 countries in all regions.
The project’s founder and CEO William H. Neukom says, “The rule of law is the foundation for communities of opportunity and equity — it is the predicate for the eradication of poverty, violence, corruption, pandemics, and other threats to civil society.”
WJP researchers claim that the project uses a working definition of the rule of law, based on four universal principles. These are derived from internationally accepted standards, the principles of which uphold:
1. The government and its officials are agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law.
2. The laws are clear, publicized, stable, and just; are applied evenly; and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property.
3. The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, fair, and efficient
4. Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number and have adequate resources, and reflect the make-up of the communities they serve.”
Viewed through the prism of these four, nine aggregate indicators (factors) (listed below) and 47 specific standards, Ethiopia’s performance has come out to be very bad, ranking globally 88th out of 99 states.
This overall ranking in the rule of law is calculated by taking average of the eight factors listed below, with amplifications for each of them.
Surely, for Ethiopians and their friends around the world this would not come as a surprise or news something since it is something they have known in their daily lives. Above all, there is no better witness than national and individual experiences.
Similarly, among the 18 Sub-Saharan African states that are assessed in the current report, Ethiopia is ranked 17th of 18 Sub-Saharan states. While Botswana is graded top, Zimbabwe is placed at the bottom.
List of the eight factors and their explanations is presented hereunder.
The following few paragraphs discuss Ethiopia’s performance along these eight indicators (factors).
How has Ethiopia survived assessment of government accountability?
What this indicator assesses is the effectiveness of the institutional checks and balances on government power. A simple confirmation that this assessment of Ethiopia is valid is the fact that throughout the years, government in Ethiopia has been above the law.
For instance, if we simply take the financial and budgetary planning, implementation and management, the country’s audit reports have clearly shown – including in 2014 – that the performance of those tasked with oversight, inspection and review of the functioning of state agencies worryingly is going from bad to worse.
Parliaments and courts have no power over the miscreants in power and their agents. Therefore, Ethiopia under the TPLF has become no man’s land – open for plunder.
Moreover, in a country where non-governmental organizations are out of existence – save those the TPLF has established as its fronts, the country’s media – better call it TPLF propaganda machine – not only is muzzled. But also good journalists with every passing year are being sent to prison under long-term sentences, accused as terrorists.
The TPLF calculus has made sure that, with its abuses, civil society is terrorized with fear of prisons and the state’s practices of tortures and thus is kept mum.
In the light of this, it is reasonable to conclude that government accountability is non-existent in Ethiopia.
Consequently, the TPLF regime – masquerading in the name of Ethiopia – on the metrics of constraints on government powers has been ranked 91st.
Incidentally, this factor is one of the two areas in which states from Sub-Saharan Africa have shown improved performance in recent years, except Ethiopia.
Absence of corruption
In the past several years, Ethiopia’s image has been soiled – largely thanks to corrupt TPLF officials – civil and military. For them, Ethiopia has become a cow they should illegally milk and fill their coffers, plundering the nation’s resources and siphoning off its scarce financial resources to foreign banks. Therefore, in the eyes of the rest of the world, Ethiopia has increasingly moved from one of the most prudent to one of the most corrupt countries.
Accordingly, on the scale of corruption it has been ranked 56 out of 99 states.
To put it mildly, I must state here that there was inadequate energy exerted by WJP experts in examining the data, the records and the practices of the Ethiopian regime in this regard. At the same time, I note that the experts have tried to justify their conclusions, with claim that they have only considered corruption as bribery, improper influence by public or private interests, and misappropriation of public funds or other resources (embezzlement).
Nonetheless, considering that the regime in power is capable of selling the nation’s sovereignty and its long-term interests, a more thorough assessment would have been in order, lest the current ranking be misconstrued as an over-estimation, for some possibly as distant sign of ‘innocence’ in the regime.
While extremely secretive in national administration, which has made Ethiopia a nation where rules change in mid-stream to facilitate the personal and group interests of those in power, the Ethiopian regime has been sized up reasonably on this scale as 94th out of 99 states.
The open government factor assesses “the extent to which the society has clear, publicized, accessible, and stable laws” – be it in administrative proceedings, are open to public participation and also that official information, including drafts of laws and regulations are available to the general public.
Interestingly, the WJP experts intimate that during the past few years, governments around the world have taken new steps to become more open, transparent and responsive and participatory.
Sadly, that not being the case in Ethiopia, only last Sunday (May 5) Addis Abebans were in mass out in the streets in a protest rally, declaring the day “???? ??” – literally a day of wailing to the gods and the world – to protest the prevailing bad governance in the country and nepotism.
Not surprisingly, Ethiopia stands as the 94th country, lacking commitment to or respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the world in 1948 and ever since has been one of the guides and fundamental basis and outlook of modern society. Through this assessment, WJP Rule of Law Index has tried to look into how states uphold and protect the rights and freedoms of human beings, as universal instruments that are firmly established under international law.
“These [rights and freedoms] include the right to equal treatment and the absence of discrimination; the right to life and security of the person; due process of law and rights of the accused; freedom of opinion and expression; freedom of belief and religion; the absence of arbitrary interference with privacy; freedom of assembly and association; and the protection of fundamental labor rights.”
Only yesterday, three of the nine bloggers – two young men and one young woman – that have been thrown to prison and remained incommunicado since April 25, told the court in their first appearance that they have been tortured the soles of their feet badly beaten. The young woman could not get words to tell the court her ordeals. She stood there before the court literally tearing herself to death.
Moreover, the world has also been witnessing since last April that a band of people in power in Ethiopia – with the coming election on their mind – gave security forces order to shoot on masses of university students in five different parts of the country and many lives have been lost and ares still being lost. As a state, during peaceful student protests, the security forces ought to overpower these unarmed kids and bring them to courts of law for possible offences committed, if any.
What parallel could better come to mind, define or describe the actions of these people in power in Ethiopia at this moment than the actions and standards of behaviour of the Third Reich or Mussolini’s Fascist Party?
As a matter of fact, some of their parents had even been known to have betrayed Ethiopia and allied with the latter during Mussolini’s attempts to colonize Ethiopia – including the father of Meles Zenawi, architect of Ethiopia’s descent into the era of tribalism and naked nepotism.
Order and security
When it comes to the metrics of ensuring law and order, the brutal Ethiopian regime is now made to look reasonable, ranking it as 73rd.
Unfortunately, this assessment of order and security is troubling, raising repression and authoritarian cruelty giving it justification to continue its repression of society. This is justifying shoot to kill or cut limbs for minor crimes. Perhaps this metrics looks things from outside inside, I hate to say it, but its purpose attached to finality.
What is the difference between North Korea and Ethiopia today? Does any tourist or nation get troubled by the lack of order and security in Pyongyang? I don’t think so! The Kim Il Sung dynasty has ensured that no North Korean would look up. It is no different in Ethiopia.
The WJP Rule of Law Index assessment, they say, only “measures the absence of three forms of violence: crime — particularly conventional crimes such as homicide, kidnapping, burglary, armed robbery, extortion, and fraud — political violence, including terrorism, armed conflict, and political unrest; and violence as a mean to redress personal grievances, which results from the loss of confidence in the police the criminal justice system.”
Nevertheless, the security system of authoritarian leaders create is temporary based on the use and threat of use of force; therefore it only lasts as long as the regime is there, making real what psychologists call the law of effect.
In other words, a better mechanism to protect order and security is in making the people having stake in society and are real participants protecting their own – not by making them forced observers that live with fear and insecurity like endangered animals.
Ethiopia’s regulatory environment and the nation’s enforcement capacity is ranked 89th. The purpose of this factor is to assess effectiveness of regulatory enforcement practices of institutions and implementation of laws.
Clearly, regulatory enforcement does not work well in Ethiopia. It is a country where 12,000 tons of coffee recently disappeared, not for the first time. In the nation’s central bank bars of gold were replaced into false metals, for which society in hushed tone has been pointing fingers at members of the ruling TPLF, who had come with many such backgrounds in their previous life as members of liberation movement.
This could also be seen in election stealing, imports of goods and services and capital flight from which Ethiopia has been badly suffering, etc.
Ethiopia’s civil justice system is ranked 85th. WJP offers an explanation, which is also true for Ethiopia. Here it goes:
“All around the world, people’s ability to use legal channels to resolve their disputes is often impeded by obstacles such as financial barriers, complexity of procedures, corruption of court personnel, influences of powerful parties in judicial decision making, or simply lack of knowledge, disempowerment, and exclusion. These problems, which are not restricted to developing countries, call for more work to ensure that all people have the opportunity to resolve their grievances effectively, impartially, and efficiently through the civil justice system.”
Interestingly, Ethiopia is ranked 46th in criminal justice system. However, this is inconsistent with the objectives WJP highlighted about ensuring the administration of justice to all parties. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system in Ethiopia is solely intended to intimidate and be vindictive, as means of protecting those in power and ensuring their continuity.
At the same time, they and their own relatives commit crimes as a matter of rights and walk away free, as we have seen repeatedly.
What WJP tried to do is try to comparatively assess how systems around the world fulfill the goals of criminal justice. This is to stay how the different systems are adequately “investigating, prosecuting, adjudicating and punishing criminal offenses successfully, reliably and in a timely manner through a system that is impartial and non-discriminatory, as well as free of corruption and improper government influence, all while ensuring that the rights of both the victims and the accused are effectively protected.”
This point is well taken, but the criminal justice system in Ethiopia is rotten, corrupt, subject to the influences of politics and ethnicity!
Therefore, the ranking given is not doing justice to the reputation of the Index!
Ethiopia’s performance regarding the rule of law was best described The Ethiopian Observatory