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Conspicuous Absence of Independent Judiciary and ‘Apolitical’ Courts in Modern Ethiopia


Ethiopia had revolutions in 1974 and 1991, after which the Provisional Military Administration Council (‘PMAC’) and Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (‘EPRDF’) governments came to power, respectively. Each incoming government re-established and re-structured the courts. Likewise, criminal jurisdictions of the courts and the rules of appointment of judges and court personnel were changed. Yet, the governments presented the courts as independent, insulated from political interference. After examining the respective legislation and the decisions of two sets of courts, I argue that Ethiopia never had an independent judiciary; there were courts established for dispute settlement for the ordinary citizen. The courts were not as apolitical as claimed by the respective governments. They have been, often, compliant with the interests of the regime of the day by giving effect to the executive’s excesses of power or by creating enabling conditions, as though they were extension of the executive.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2309-902X
print ISSN: 1998-9881