Documents on Democracy

Issue Date Summer 1991
Volume 2
Issue 3
Page Numbers 118-22
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On 28 March 1991, the armies of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPDRF) entered the capital city of Addis Ababa and deposed the 16-year-old totalitarian regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam, who had earlier fled the country. The EPDRF, whose leader Meles Zenawi has become acting head of state, was formed from a military merger of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (EPDM). Although it had generally been regarded as a radical Marxist organization, the EPDRF has recently given signs of a more democratic outlook. This change in orientation became visible in the “Programme of the EPDRF for the Smooth and Peaceful Transition in Ethiopia,” issued on 10 March 1990, more than a year before its triumph. Excerpts from this program appear below:

The question of the resolution of the problems of Ethiopia in a peaceful manner and the restoration of peace to the country has now become an issue of the very survival of our country. A just and lasting peace, however, can only be attained through full and consistent democracy. Peace and democracy are inseparable in the context of the problems of our country.

If peace and democracy are to be restored, the present government must be replaced by a provisional government in which all political trends in the country are represented. Such a provisional government must restore all the democratic rights of the people, allow all political forces or groups in the country to operate legally and openly, and conduct a free and fair election for a constituent assembly under international supervision . . . . [The EPDRF proposes]:

4) To make sure that the provisional government has a definite lifespan and definite tasks . . . .

5) To democratically resolve the problems of the country on the basis of the freely expressed will of the people: [End Page 118]

  1. To form a democratically constituted constituent assembly after a period of peaceful and democratic work by all the political groups and free and fair elections of delegates to the constituent assembly.
  2. To guarantee the tight of all political groups to democratically compete for the election of their members to the constituent assembly and to present their proposals for the constitution of future Ethiopia to the constituent assembly. The constituent assembly shall draft a constitution after considering the views presented to it and the constitution shall be adopted in a democratic manner.
  3. To hand over political power to the political group/groups that wins the election that shall be conducted immediately after the adoption of the constitution on the basis of the constitution adopted by the constituent assembly.
  4. To help the democratically elected government form unified army and state organs.
  5. To conduct all the elections under international supervision to make sure that they are conducted in a free and fair way.

6) To try to get acceptance for the programme for smooth and peaceful transition in Ethiopia among all political groups and people of the country, to hold constructive discussions on the issue with all political groups, to create a forum through which all forces that support the program can coordinate their struggle for its actualization.

El Salvador

On 27 April 1991 the government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) reached a historic agreement in Mexico City that offers the first hope that the lengthy civil war in El Salvador may eventually come to an end. Under the mediation of the United Nations, the two sides agreed to constitutional reforms affecting the military, the judicial system, and the electoral system, and agreed to create an independent Commission on Truth to investigate political crimes. The government and the FMLN are currently attempting to negotiate a ceasefire agreement that will build upon the progress made in Mexico City. Excerpts from the “Mexico Declaration” follow:

The parties have reached the agreements summarized below that include constitutional amendments on matters requiting secondary legislation or other political agreements:

  1. Armed Forces
    1. Agreement on constitutional amendments with the following objectives: [End Page 119]
      1. Clearly defining the Armed Forces’ subordination to civilian power.
      2. Creation of a National Civil Police to maintain peace, tranquillity, order, .and public security both in urban and rural areas under the direction of civilian authorities . . . .
      3. Creation of a state intelligence agency independent from the Armed Forces and under the direct authority of the president of the Republic.
      4. Redefining military justice to ensure that it will only handle strictly military legal cases . . . .
  2. Judicial System and Human Rights
    1. Agreement on constitutional amendments aimed at improving significant aspects in the judicial system and establishing mechanisms to guarantee respect for human rights, such as:
      1. Reorganization of the Supreme Court of Justice and new ways to elect its magistrates . . . .
      2. The judicial branch will be assigned an annual percentage of the state budget that shall be no less than 6 percent of the current income.
      3. Creation of a national attorney for the defense of human fights, whose main mission will be promoting human rights and ensuring that they are respected.
      4. Election of the attorney general and the national attorney for the defense of human fights by two-thirds of the deputies elected to the Legislative Assembly . . . .
  3. The Electoral System
    1. Agreements on constitutional reforms aimed at:
      1. The creation of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) in replacement of the Central Electoral Council (CCE). The TSE will be the highest administrative and legal authority in electoral matters . . . . [T]he TSE will be composed of members with no political affiliation and who will be elected by a Legislative Assembly majority . . . .
      2. It has been agreed also that legally registered parties will have the fight to scrutinize the elaboration, organization, publication, and modification of the Electoral Registry.
  4. The Commission of TruthIt has been agreed to create the Commission of Truth. It will be composed of three persons to be appointed by the secretary general of the United Nations . . . . It will be in charge of investigating grave acts of violence that have occurred since 1980. The people urgently want the truth to be made public . . . .

Final Statement

. . . The parties have committed themselves to continue the negotiations

. . . to reach a political agreement on the priority Armed Forces issue and to secure the necessary agreements to produce a ceasefire under UN verification. . . . [End Page 120]


On 13 February 1991, the launching of a new political party in Kenya, the National Democratic Party (NDP), was announced by its interim chairman, veteran politician Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. The announcement stated that the new party would have as its principal objectives “the repeal of section 2tt of the Kenyan Constitution which made Kenya a one-party state in 1982” and “the restoration of democracy and justice in Kenya.” Excerpts from the “Manifesto of the National Democratic Party” appear below:

A crisis has engulfed Africa. It is a crisis of governance. Everywhere established governments are being challenged from below to listen to the voice of the people. Everywhere they are being challenged to deliver the fruits of independence and to ensure development. Where military dictatorships have held sway for decades, the masses have risen up to overthrow them and to demand representative government. Where one-party authoritarian regimes have survived on bankrupt ideologies, the multiparty movements have demanded democracy. The one-party regime has been thoroughly discredited, and only rearguard politicians with no new ideas to offer and only their ill-gotten wealth to protect can continue to defend the one-party system of misgovernment. The bell has been rung; democracy is on the march . . . .

. . . [D]emocratic governments are formed through rules and regulations that stipulate clearly that rulers shall be chosen by the people through competitive elections in which political parties, offering differing policies for governing, shall vie to form a government by winning a majority of votes.

. . . There is no such thing as one-party democracy. This is a contradiction in terms. Historically, so-called one-party democracies have failed to live up to democratic principles. If anything, they have bred tyrannies and differing versions of Stalinist dictatorships. Totalitarianism is just one form of a dictatorship based on the one-party system of government. The other forms have appeared as Third World authoritarianisms that the people have now totally rejected.

In constitutional democratic governments, a bill of rights is indispensable . . . African governments since independence have, however, interpreted human rights as something which hinders them from politically controlling their own citizens. They would rather have as little human rights as possible. This, unfortunately, has given most leaders the liberty to do as they wish with their own citizens . . . .

The people of Africa can no longer tolerate this state of affairs. Governments exist for the people, not the people for governments. . . .

Without democracy, no election will have any meaning in this country. And if we do not have leaders accountable to us, then we shall [End Page 121] not have policies that will develop this country in our interest. Corruption will continue, the abuse of human rights will be institutionalized, we shall never get rid of detention without trial, favoritism will continue in all sectors of society and economy, and in the end we may be faced with a society full of hatred and violence . . . .

With the restoration of democracy we shall be able to elect a truly democratic government, a government in which we shall have confidence and which will engage in the reconstruction of our economy.


On 17 April 1991, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama was presented with Freedom House’s Freedom Award “in honor of his outstanding contributions to the cause of human liberty and human dignity.” At an awards ceremony in the United States Senate cosponsored by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Freedom House’s president Max Kampelman spoke in praise of the Dalai Lama. Excerpts from his remarks follow:

The Dalai Lama is today in exile from his country and his people. His leadership has been a moral one and its power has been awesome. The recognition he has received in being awarded the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to nonviolence in resisting the evils experienced by his people is an illustration of that strength. His voice and message have brought that cruelty to the attention of the civilized world. The Dalai Lama has become a symbol of the power of moral force in international affairs.

Tibet is today a tragic land. Many of its people, including tens of thousands of its children, have been forcibly removed to China in an effort to homogenize them and bury their heritage. Millions of Chinese have been forcibly removed from their homes and brought to Tibet in order to dilute and further destroy Tibetan culture, religion, and influence. Indiscriminate torture and public executions have been the tools of that repression. Buddhist monks became a primary target for persecution as thousands of monasteries have been defaced, ransacked, and destroyed. Vital food and grains were confiscated from Tibet and sent to China, resulting in famine, killing tens of thousands. We cannot permit a deafening silence to acquiesce in that extermination process which continues even today.

That is why we gather today to express our support for the aspirations of the six million Tibetan people for freedom and dignity. That is why we honor the Dalai Lama in his effort to safeguard Tibetan culture and to champion the principles of democracy, peace, and the unity of mankind. . . . [End Page 122]