Speech by President Girma Wolde-Giorgis of Ethiopia

at the Opening of the House of Federation and the House of People's Representatives

Monday 9th October 2006

 

 

Honourable Members of the House of Federation,

Honourable Members of the House of Peoples’ Representatives,

Esteemed Compatriots and Guests,

Allow me on behalf of the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, and my own behalf, to congratulate you for the successful opening of the second annual session of the third Houses of Peoples’ Representatives and the Federation.

As Members of both Houses are fully aware, the first annual session of the third term convened successfully last year and has been exercising its functions, through the enactment of laws and over seeing the activities of the executive branch of government, thus greatly contributing to our country’s multifaceted developmental endeavours.

During last year’s annual session, both Houses carried out numerous activities aimed at consolidating the multi-party system in our country. In this regard, parties of different political persuasions, which were voted into the Parliament, conducted negotiations enabling the adoption of the Rules of Procedure and Code of Conduct of the House as well as the enactment of other legislation.

It is my strong conviction that during the current annual session, both Houses will pursue their pivotal mandate, as set forth in the Constitution, in consolidation the foundations of a multi-party system, the prevalence of good governance, the entrenchment of democracy and the realisation of rapid economic development, which benefits all segments of our society.

With this objective in view, both Houses in conformity with the functions and powers bestowed upon them by the Constitution concomitantly and separately, are expected to elaborate and implement their work plans. More specifically, the House of Peoples’ Representatives is expected to enact laws, the most important being those which strengthen the democratisation process in the country and consolidate good governance.

The Government has set as its priority area of focus, and commitment on the building of a democratic system where good governance prevails. A system where good governance prevails not only allows the people’s rights and interests to be protected but also provides the opportunity for stability and the acceleration of economic development. As the people remain the main force of development in the country, the prevalence of good governance is of paramount importance in mobilising them to ensure and safeguard their own interests.

Thus, the process of reforming the organisational structure, the inner-workings as well as the mind-set and attitude prevailing in government institutions based on the civil service reform programme, and with the purpose of making these institutions play their full role in bringing about rapid economic development and good governance shall be pursued with strengthened vigor and determination.

Over the last years, thanks to the implementation of this reform programme there is a clear understanding of what should be the mission and organisational structure of government institutions. There is a realisation of the deficiencies in these institutions in terms of organisational structure and mission and the need to address these shortcomings so as to enable them to provide efficient and quality service to their clients. For this purpose, these institutions’ objectives and organisational structure must be made to fit their current mission and thus, will have to be amended.

Therefore, numerous amendments on the organisational structures and missions of these institutions will be tabled to the House of Peoples’ Representatives for consideration and adoption.

I am strongly convinced that the House will examine, in great depth, and adopt these amendments, which will enhance the capacity of government institutions and facilitate the prevalence of good governance in our country.

In connection with our efforts to build a democratic system in the country, the Constitutional provisions pertaining to freedom of expression and the free flow of ideas have to be scrupulously adhered to. It is with this strong conviction that the Government has ensured freedom of expression in the country.

In view of the fact that our democratic culture, is rather at a nascent stage we have witnessed various challenges related to freedom of expression. If these problems remain unchecked, they are bound to create obstacles to our democratisation. Therefore, while applying democratic and legal means to correct mistakes, we have to pursue unrelenting efforts to fully implement the constitutional right of freedom of expression.

To this effect, the press law will be tabled for consideration and adoption by the House. As the press law deals, on the one hand with political parties and sections of the society represented by them and on the other hand even more so with those working in the media, there is the need for dialogue, negotiations and consultations among the political parties before its adoption by the House. Furthermore prior to its adoption a forum where those working in the media are able to offer their opinion and input shall be organised. All useful ideas that emanate from these platforms shall be incorporated into the draft law before being tabled for consideration and adoption by the House.

In this connection, amendments to the broadcast law and to the law establishing the Ministry of Information meant to enhance its mission and organisational structure are expected to be adopted.

Building a democratic system in our country can only be possible when the people are empowered through the exercise of free elections directly and through their representatives. In this regard, the National Electoral Board bears the main responsibility in running such elections.

Taking into consideration our experience of the last three elections and following the necessary consultations and negotiations among political parties, the House is expected to consider and adopt a law amending the Proclamation that established the National Electoral Board. In line with the amended Proclamation, the nominated members of the Board will be appointed by the House in accordance with the Constitution.

A Proclamation pertaining to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is among the draft laws to be submitted to the House for consideration and adoption. Two types of non-governmental organisations exist in our country. The first type reflects the expressions of citizens’ freedom of association and work for the benefit of their members. The second type obtains funding from abroad and expatriates are their main driving force. So far, the effort to differentiate between the two and make them both work in a way that would benefit our country has faced numerous challenges. Owing to the fact that the rights and responsibilities of these two types of non-governmental organisations are not clearly delineated, it was not possible to achieve the required level of participation. At times, their rights and roles have been muddled and blurred.

Thus, it is necessary to adopt a comprehensive legal framework that governs non-governmental organisations. Accordingly, it is expected that after adequate consultations among concerned parties a draft law will be submitted to the House for adoption.

Peace and stability play a pivotal role in establishing good governance and achieving people-centred rapid development. Building a system where the rule of law prevails is one of the guarantees of good governance. In this regard, different Proclamations that will ensure efficient delivery of justice will be tabled to the House for adoption. These draft Proclamations include legislations regarding Federal Court lawyers’ license and registration as well as the establishment of law firms.

Fighting and controlling terrorism, which is now a menace to our region, through lawful means is critical to ensuring the rule of law. Since terrorism is becoming transnational in its nature, the struggle against it has a global character too.

Hence, fighting international terrorism and those that have tried repeatedly to commit terrorist crimes in our country is vital to rapid development and good governance in our country.

To this effect, two draft anti-terrorism Bills will be tabled to the House for consideration and adoption. The first deals with the prevention and control of direct terrorist acts, whereas the second seeks to combat the crime of money laundering and the provision of financial support to terrorists. The two Proclamations will be submitted to the House for consideration and adoption this year.

In addition to the above mentioned legislation that will play a decisive role in the consolidation of good governance, other proclamations of will also be presented to the House.

It is my earnest belief that the House will adopt these proclamations and amendments through the full participation of its members including those from minority parties after holding consultations and making the necessary changes.

Honourable Members of both Houses,

Esteemed Compatriots and Guests,

As the Government has given great attention to economic development, it is expected that our country will currently achieve a high level of economic growth for the fourth consecutive year. It is a fact that the agricultural sector has played a major role in achieving this growth. In turn, the growth in this sector in accordance with our plan has brought substantial increase in our country’s export to international markets which led to a high increase in foreign currency flow. The income generated from our exports exceeded US $1 billion for the first time in our country’s’ history. The agricultural sector was instrumental in this great achievement. However, our marketing system for agricultural products has faced numerous challenges. Our agricultural products are yet to attain the standard that will make them competitive both in domestic and international markets. In order to solve this problem and develop a modem marketing system for our agricultural goods, it is imperative to set-up agricultural product exchange centres and a commodity exchange system. As such the system should cover goods that are in demand in the international market and the enactment of all-embracing legislation for managing such a system involving actors from the village level to that of international market centres, is deemed necessary. The law in addition to substantially facilitating the marketing of our agricultural products, will also enable us to create a commodity exchange system that will undoubtedly benefit both the principal producing farmers and consumers. A draft Proclamation to establish a commodity exchange system will be presented to the House for consideration and adoption this year.

A system of effective quarantine regime significantly enhances the quality of the country’s market of agricultural products. As Ethiopia exports agricultural products, it also imports hybrid seeds and plant species that can make a tremendous contribution to the improvement in its agricultural inputs. Our export products can be competitive in the international market only if they meet the required quality standard. In order to ensure such quality, it is necessary to set-up quarantine centres close to production areas and other sites as deemed necessary, starting from the federal to the local council levels. In order to create a system of quality assurance, it is expected that the House will be presented with a draft legislation establishing quarantine centres for consideration and adoption in the current session.

Enhancing the capacity of rural financial facilities is vital for strengthening our rural markets. Since the changes in our country, the established micro-finance and saving institutions have covered a larger part of the rural areas. Cooperatives are also undertaking numerous activities in this sector. Both micro-finance and saving institutions and cooperatives are making a significant contribution towards the full realisation of rapid economic development.

In the face of the rapid economic development in the country, new demands have started to emerge. Farmers are requesting increased and comprehensive loan services. Citizens who are engaged and about to engage in small and micro-business enterprises in the sector have expressed their desire to benefit from similar services. With the view of supporting small and micro enterprises in both rural and urban areas, as well as those engaged in agricultural extension services, there is a need to review the existing proclamation dealing with small scale and micro-business undertakings. A draft Proclamation to this effect is to be presented for consideration and adoption by the House.

The urban and rural development programme in our country is closely linked to water resource development. Developing water resources is an all-important requisite for rapid agricultural development. Although Ethiopia is endowed with numerous rivers and water bodies, it is only recently that it has been able to embark on a concerted effort to enhance the utilisation of this important resource. It is therefore necessary to establish river basin authorities that will manage and develop our water resource taking advantage of the experience gained so far nationally as well as from international best practices. A draft legal framework establishing river basin authorities, such as the Nile Water Authority will be tabled to the House for consideration and adoption.

With regard to our cities that are growing rapidly, it is important to cope with the expansion and improvement of facilities that ensure access to safe drinking water. With the growth of urban centres and concomitant population pressure, the demand for water both for industrial use and safe drinking also increases substantially. To meet this demand, increased allocation of resources, and an equitable distribution and utilisation strategy is required. To address the increased demand for water in urban areas, a draft legislation amending the Proclamation for the establishment of water development fund and administration shall be submitted to the House for adoption.

Our cities should be developed in a way that makes them conducive for work and residing. As can be easily witnessed these days, there is a remarkable boom in the construction of residential, non-residential and office buildings. It is hoped that the shortage of cement currently experienced in the rapidly growing construction industry will soon find a solution.

Nevertheless, it is important, now more than ever before, to make sure that these new buildings are of acceptable standard and quality. In this regard, there is a need to upgrade the capacity of all those engaged in the construction sector to improve their skills to reach the required standard. A law determining construction standards for residence and the work place will be presented to the House for adoption soon.

In line with the growing market economy in our country, it is extremely important to note that enforcing the right of property and ensuring transparency on issues related to its ownership are of critical importance in advancing and strengthening our ongoing development goals. Proper handling of land related disputes and controlling other illegal practices create a conducive environment for those engaged in developmental undertakings. In this regard, the need to organise and implement a registration system for land and related issues is now of paramount importance. In the course of the year a draft Proclamation on land and land related issues will be presented to the House for adoption.

In the social sector, among the Proclamations that deal with social issues, priority is accorded to the legislations that aim to complete the education reform programme. It is to be noted that special emphasis is given to the expansion of education in order to speed up the socio-economic development of our country. Concerted action will be taken to maintain the pace of the substantial increase in primary education while at the same time expanding our higher education system to interface with the needs generated by our economic growth.

The Government, besides opening new universities has designed and started to implement higher education reform programme addressing management and administration challenges in the sector, with the aim of strengthening those in existence and ensuring the quality of education they offer.

Based on the implementation of the reform program in higher education and the experience gained in this regard, the need to amend the higher education Proclamation is deemed necessary. Hence, this honourable House is expected to examine and adopt the draft Proclamation.

The other legislation to be considered by the House in the social sector is the Proclamation to amend the establishment of the women’s development fund. Ethiopian women should benefit equally from the rapid economic development-taking place in the country. However, it is a fact that Ethiopian women have thus far not taken full benefit of the current development upsurge.

Although there is no denying that women are benefiting more from the socio-economic development than in any other period in our history, deeply rooted socio-economic impediments, such as negative perceptions as well as management and organisational challenges persist to prevent them from realising those benefits. As a result, numerous measures need to be taken to address these problems so that women become equal beneficiaries of the development gains in the country.

The establishment of a development fund is one of the measures that need to be taken to address the financial constraints that prevent women from becoming beneficiaries and active participants in the development process. As a result, a draft legislation amending the establishment of the women’s development fund will be presented to the House for adoption.

Honourable Members of the House of Federation,

Honourable Members of the House of Peoples’ Representatives

Esteemed Compatriots and Guests,

The active participation of the Ethiopian people is pivotal to the on-going development and good governance endeavours as well as ensuring sustainable peace. The Government will continue the efforts to ensure the active participation of both the urban and rural populations in order to effectively implement its multifaceted programmes.

In this regard, we believe that the process of democratisation and fostering development and peace must be supported by government budget. Hence the Government will submit for consideration and adoption such a budget for the subsequent year.

The draft budget Proclamation will be, as is done regularly, submitted to the House, where it is to be adopted after thorough discussions and debate. The aforementioned draft Proclamations are some of the major law reform measures, which focus on critical matters affecting the country. Other draft legislations will also be submitted to the House for adoption as deemed necessary.

Honourable Members of the House of Federation,

Honourable Members of the House of Peoples’ Representatives

Esteemed Compatriots and Guests,

Although the draft laws that will be submitted to the House for adoption this year will undoubtedly foster development and good governance, the expected results will not be achieved without the active participation of government institutions in particular and the public in general.

 

Therefore, in realising the significance of our law enacting endeavours and our efforts in creating a society where the law reigns supreme and instituting a democratic order which fosters growth and accelerated economic development for the benefit of our peoples, I call upon all those members of the executive branch of the Government and the public at large to play their respective roles in the effective realisation of these proclamations.

I thank you.

 

ENDS