Lieutenant General Tsadkan Gebretensae said that the committee established to establish the interim government of Tigray lacks legitimate representation. He criticized it as it has not tried even to pretend to include the very important stakeholders and actors like the opposition parties, academia, the diaspora, business community, civil society, etc,.
According to the L. General, “the process of establishing the IRA seems to be already flawed, hence may not be expected to deliver the desired result unless steps are taken to legitimize the existing members and include the missing stakeholders”.
As a quick fix, Tsadkan suggested the current committee continue working while the government must invite others to join the committee to review and approve the proposal it prepares. Below is the full text distributed by the author.
Towards the Formation of an Acceptable Interim Administration in Tigray: Comments and Suggestions
By Tsadkan Gebretensae (LTG)
As most of us already know, the Regional Government of Tigray has already designated a committee to study, propose and facilitate ways towards the formation of an Interim Regional Administration (IRA) as per the Pretoria Agreement signed in November last year and subsequent informal discussions conducted with the FDRE officials.
I had the opportunity to attend and participate in the recent meeting where the committee’s progress report was discussed. In their progress reports, the committee members have indicated that they intend to identify, select, and invite what they call stakeholders to a conference where the process of establishing the Interim Administration will be discussed and agreed upon. There is not a clearly defined path or task for the conference other than what has been mentioned above.
Although I still see substantial room for improvement in the committee’s formation, composition and mandate, I would like to commend the fact that the Government took the initiative to form an organ to study the process and propose options. I would also like to recognize and appreciate the effort made by the committee and the progress it has made so far.
To support and augment the process and reach a solution commensurate with the political challenges we face in Tigray, I felt the need to share my views and suggestions on some of the issues I raised during the discussions.
1. On the importance of the process and the significance of the outcome
Tigray and Tigrayans are in the process of exiting one of the bloodiest and most atrocious wars and entering into a transition towards peace, reconstruction, and democratic governance.
The maintenance and entrenchment of peace within a volatile neighbourhood; the reconstruction and rehabilitation of a heavily ravaged Tigray and massively damaged Tigrayan society; as well as the design of a democratic governance system, the beginning of a transformational change in the political culture of Tigray; culminating with the conduct of a genuinely fair and democratic election, would require the contribution and support of all Tigrayans and much more than what we Tigrayans can avail and afford.
Therefore, this process of forming the transitional administration should allow and enable the broadest participation of all Tigrayans (under the current circumstances) and deliver an acceptable and agreeable administration to work and coordinate with all our partners and allies in the effort to entrench peace and ensure reconstruction.
The key attributes that should define the formation process should therefore be transparent, all-inclusive, democratic, and effective, while acceptability, agility and competence should define the outcome. Every element of the process should be inclusive of the key stakeholders, and every representative should be democratically elected, while the whole process should remain transparent, optimal and effective.
2. The composition and mandate of the Committee
Although the committee members come from the institutions and sectors they claim to represent, it remains a fact that none of them was formally elected and mandated to represent the same. They were hand-picked and assigned by the government.
The lack of legitimate representation is, therefore, undeniable. Much worse, there are very important stakeholders and actors that the current committee does not even pretend to include. One can see members who came from the TPLF, the TDF and Tigray’s election commission represented in the committee. Still, key stakeholders like the opposition parties, academia, the diaspora, business community, civil society, etc, are totally missing. The process of establishing the IRA seems to be already flawed, hence may not be expected to deliver the desired result unless steps are taken to legitimize the existing members and include the missing stakeholders.
Process design vs execution:
Another concern I would like to raise is the mandate and task of this committee. Despite the absence of an inclusive and legitimate mandate and explicit terms of reference, the committee seems to want to run the whole show from process design to execution, including supervision and observation.
Given the clear deficit in their mandate and representation, allowing them to run the show on a turnkey and exclusive basis is potentially conflicted and dangerous. The best and the only thing they should be allowed is to prepare and submit their proposed process design to the body that appointed them, i.e., the Government.
Upon receipt and possibly on the basis of the proposal, the Government shall invite representatives of the key stakeholders to participate in the review and approval of the proposal. The current representatives of the TPLF and TDF may continue as members of the new committee. Still, the important thing here is that representatives of the now missing stakeholders, like the opposition parties, should be involved in the decision as to who should participate and the allocation of representation quotas in the conference and the Council.
The need for independent supervision and observation:
The formation of this interim administration is a key element of the Pretoria and subsequent agreements, to which there are direct signatories like;
(i) The AU-Panel member states of Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa,
(ii) The Federal Government of Ethiopia and (ii) Tigray.
There are also the observers and/or guarantors in the UN, US and IGAD, whom we expect to play a key role not only in the implementation of the peace agreement but also in the reconstruction and rebuilding of our devastated Tigray. Therefore, these observers should be informed and updated on the process in due time and allowed to have their fair judgement and consent of the process.
3. The composition and mandate of the Council
The Council is the general assembly of the representatives of the key stakeholders, as identified, invited, and registered by the Government and/or committee. Although the quota of representatives assigned to each party or stakeholder may vary depending on each party’s political significance, membership and influence, no single party should be allowed to have an absolute majority or dominate the Council.
Up on convention, the Council can and may review and endorse the membership and representation quota as proposed and/or tabled. It may also elect its own officers, a president and secretary, to take over and run the sessions and functions of the Council as per the agreed mandate.
Assuming that the parties have no interest in disbanding the parliament and may rather agree to maintain it, the Council’s mandate shall be limited to;
(i) Defining and determining the tasks and mandate of the IRA,
(ii) Electing and/or appointing the chief administrator (president for the interim period) from within or without the Council members,
(iii) Reviewing and approving the structure and key personnel of the IRA (cabinet members), as proposed by the chief administrator,
(iv) Reviewing and endorsing the plan and budget for final approval and ratification by the Federal Government and/or the Parliament,
(v) Reviewing and endorsing key appointments to the Judiciary and the like,
(vi) Overseeing and monitoring the performance of the IRA,
(vii) Supervise and oversee the conduct of fair and transparent elections and the handing over of office to elected officials, after which an elected parliament will replace them,
(viii) In the process of dismissing or changing the IRA if and when the need arises.
The Council of the representatives of the key stakeholders, whose membership shall not exceed one hundred, shall regularly meet to review the performance of the executive led by the chief administrator.
Although both the Council and the IRA shall have the powers to initiate and propose legislation, actual legislative powers shall remain with the Parliaments at the Federal and Regional levels, as stipulated and provided by the Constitutions.
4. The mandate and composition of the administration
As clearly stipulated in the Pretoria agreement, the formation of the IRA may and should involve the participation, consent, and agreement of so many parties but more specifically, of the Federal Democratic Government of Ethiopia, hence the need for going through an open, transparent, democratic, and all-inclusive election process and deliver an outcome that is acceptable to all.
But the Pretoria agreement also explicitly states that the key objectives include;
(i) Guaranteeing peace and security for all,
(ii) Providing for justice and accountability,
(iii) Addressing and resolving the underlying causes of the conflict in a manner consistent with the Constitution,
(iv) Fostering the rehabilitation of social bonds, and
(v) Facilitating political reform, economic recovery, and reconstruction.
One key step in the direction of reforming the political economy of Tigray is the formation of this all-inclusive IRA; its main focus and tasks shall evolve around delivering these objectives.
These tasks may require reforming and restructuring the existing political processes and structures and creating new ones to enhance the transformation of the political culture in Tigray. The underlying assumption is that the existing constitution provides enough latitude to accommodate these requirements, and what remains is the full restoration and implementation of it.
The Constitution clearly provides for the (a) de-politicization of the civil services, (b) clear balance and separation of power among the three branches, (c) the protection and promotion of group and individual rights, (d) free media, free market, and investor-friendly situations, and (e) free, fair, and competitive elections.
Most of the “underlying causes of this conflict” emanate from the failure of politicians and political forces to fully and honestly abide by and/or implement the constitution. Therefore, the full restoration and implementation of the constitution by the IRA is believed to address and redress these underlying causes and lay the foundations for sustainable peace and equitable development.
The calibre and composition
The mandate and tasks of the IRA are both complex and daunting, hence the need for a technically competent and politically motivated type of team and leadership. Much as the Council needs to be allowed to pick the most appropriate and best chief administrator, both from within and without the Council, the chief administrator should also be allowed to select and organize their executive team. Merit and competence, not political or personal affiliation, should guide the selection and constitution of the team.
Members and leaders of political parties can be team members or leaders. Still, their selection and placement should be based solely on their technical competence and merits, not their political affiliation or political status in their parties.
5. The role and functions of the existing regional parliament
The Pretoria agreement for “the establishment of an inclusive Interim Regional Administration” was primarily driven and informed by the fact that the incumbent Administration is “exclusive” to TPLF members. The democratically elected council of key stakeholders and its mandate will greatly contribute to making Tigray’s politics more inclusive. This will immensely contribute to peace within Tigray and the region in general.
In addition to being the legislative body for any region-specific laws and regulations, the regional parliament enacts many other treaties, project-related loans or grants, national emergency declarations and the like in harmony and coordination with other regional parliaments and the federal parliament. It is both the functional and symbolic representative of Tigray, in the whole federal architecture and constitutional order that we strive to restore.
6. A note on the implementation of the process
When it comes to the implementation of the proposed process, the key issue is the time factor. We have already lost a great deal of time so far. We can’t, as a society, afford to spend more time establishing the IRA.
As much as we need to make the process as democratic and as representative as possible. We can’t afford to have an elaborate election process at this point in time. But at the same time, we, as Tigrayans, shall not miss this opportunity to fundamentally transform Tigray’s political landscape.
We need to strike a balance and to this effect: I suggest that while the current committee is still working on the preparation of their proposal, the Government of Tigray should invite the key missing stakeholders like the opposition parties, academia, and business community to select and send their representatives in time to participate in the review and approval of the proposal for implementation. Besides saving time, this will create a more inclusive and legitimate committee to decide on key issues like the composition and mandate of the Council and participate in the execution of the plan.
The original PDF document that Lieutenant General Tsadkan Gebretensae distributed is also attached below.