Addis Abeba Mayor Elections: The Need for Transparency

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19-7-2018

Addis Abeba has a new de facto mayor, but his unusual appointment merits public debate. The Addis Abeba City Council is said to have appointed Takele Umma (previously head of the Oromia Transport Bureau) who is not an elected council member as a deputy mayor. However, the constitutional legitimacy of the process by which the Council appointed this new deputy mayor is unclear.

Until a recent amendment (end of June 2018), Article 13 sub-section 2(f) of the Addis Abeba City Government Revised Charter – Proclamation No. 361/2003 (thereafter “Charter”), empowered the City Council to “elect, from among its members, the City Mayor and Deputy Mayor”. The same article also requires that the Spokesperson, Deputy Spokesperson and Secretary of the Council be elected from among members of the Council. This ensures that the people who act as top executives of the City – including the mayor and deputy mayor – would be council members, representatives of the people, elected in accordance with the country’s election laws and procedures.

The Charter’s provision that only representatives of the people can be chief executives is a reflection of Addis Abeba residents’ constitutional right to self-governance. Because Article 49(2) of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE), provides that “[t]he residents of Addis Abeba shall have a full measure of self-government”.

In June 2018, the Reporter published that the House of People’s Representatives endorsed an amendment to the Addis Abeba City Charter providing for the Deputy Mayor to be elected from non-members of the Council. This recent amendment appears to be the mechanism which was used to elect the new deputy Mayor.

In addition, the Council chose not to elect a mayor, paving the way for the newly elected deputy mayor to act as a de facto Mayor. As a result, contrary to the provisions of the Charter, this allows for an unelected person to act as a Chief Executive of the city.

Several questions need to be answered.

First, what was the basis for amending the Council’s Charter which had explicitly stated that both the city’s mayor and deputy mayor would be selected from members of the council, and therefore would be elected representatives?

Such an amendment that fundamentally alters the composition of the city government’s executive needs to be backed up by strong justification. It contradicts the spirit of the constitution which gives residents of Addis Abeba a right to be governed by someone they elected. It is imperative for residents of the city to be given the chance to weigh in on such a fundamental change to the city government’s constitution.

There is also the issue of procedural irregularities. In regard to amendments, article 65 of the City Charter, provides the following: “Amendment proposals on this Charter may be initiated by the City Council or by the appropriate organ of the Federal Government. The Prime Minister shall, subject to bringing such proposals before the Council of Ministers and approval thereof, forward the matter to the House of Peoples’ Representatives for its decision thereon.”

Short of brief reports that an amendment to the Charter has been endorsed by the House of People’s Representatives, the authors could not find publicly available details on who – City Council or the federal government – proposed this amendment.

Nor is there information online on the role of the Prime Minister who, per the Council’s Charter, is responsible for presenting any proposals for amendment to his Cabinet and having gotten the Cabinet’s approval, to the House of People’s Representatives (HPR). Since it is reported that the amendment was endorsed by the HPR, we can assume that the Prime Minister has facilitated this process. But there are no easily available reports of this process online. In addition, the public needs to understand the deliberations on this amendment – both at the Addis Abeba Council and the HPR levels.

Second, why the outgoing mayor, Deriba Kuma did not finish his term with the Council begs a question.  Granted, his official term of 5 years as Mayor has expired as did the terms of all members of the Council who were elected for 5-year terms. But when the HPR voted to postpone the Addis Abeba periodic elections “by one year” due to security concerns, the Council and its members were made to remain in active service until the next elections are held. One would expect that the Mayor too would remain in his executive position until the next local election takes place, at which time a new mayor would be elected from among elected members of the Council. According to article 21(3) of the Charter, “the term of office of the Mayor shall be that of the Council provided that he may be removed from his post, prior to the end of such term, upon resignation, suspension from office or termination of his membership in the Council…”.

And even if the Mayor voluntarily resigned, why did the Council decide not to replace him with a new mayor for the remainder of the Council’s term, instead of opting to amend the City’s Charter so as to appoint a non-member of the Council as de facto mayor?

These questions need to be addressed by all responsible bodies, including those who took part in the amendment procedures. Especially at this juncture in Ethiopia’s history where there is hope of establishing a lasting democracy, citizens need to demand maximum transparency from politicians, at all levels of government. Because the potential for a democratic Ethiopia rests, not on strong individuals, but in many strong institutions.

Moreover, for those in Addis Abeba who are asking for more direct representation in their city’s political affairs, a procedure that explicitly allows for the city to be governed by chief executives that have neither directly nor indirectly been elected by the people is unacceptable and should be resisted.

Source: Gobena Street