Documents on Democracy

Issue Date July 1992
Volume 3
Issue 3
Page Numbers 158-62
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On 22 July 1991 in Addis Ababa, representatives from the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) reached agreement on the Transitional Period Charter of Ethiopia. (See J. Stephen Morrison’s essay on pp. 125-37 above.) Excerpts from the Charter appear below:

WHEREAS the overthrow of the military dictatorship that has ruled Ethiopia for 17 years presents a historical moment, providing the peoples of Ethiopia with the opportunity to rebuild the country and restructure the state democratically;

WHEREAS the military dictatorship was, in essence, a continuation of the previous regimes and its demise marks the end of an era of subjugation and oppression, thus starting a new chapter in Ethiopian history in which freedom, equal rights, and self-determination of all the peoples shall be the governing principles of political, economic, and social life, and thereby contributing to the welfare of the Ethiopian peoples and rescuing them from centuries of subjugation and backwardness;

WHEREAS peace and stability as essential conditions of development require the end of hostilities, the healing of wounds caused by conflicts, and the establishment and maintenance of good neighborliness and cooperation;

WHEREAS to this end, all institutions of repression installed by the previous regimes shall be dismantled, regional prejudices redressed and the rights and interests of the deprived citizens safeguarded by a democratic government elected by and accountable to the people;

WHEREAS . . . the peace-loving and democratic forces present in the Ethiopian society and having varied views, having met in a conference convened from July 1-5 in Addis Ababa, have discussed and approved the Charter laying down the rules governing the Transitional [End Page 158] Government as well as setting down the principles for the transitional period. Now, therefore, it is hereby proclaimed as follows:

Part I. Democratic Rights.

Article 1. Based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly by resolution 217 A(III) of 10 December 1948, individual human rights shall be respected fully, and without any limitation whatsoever. Particularly every individual shall have:

  1. The freedom of conscience, expression, association, and peaceable assembly;
  2. The right to engage in unrestricted political activity and to organize political parties, provided the exercise of such right does not infringe upon the rights of others.

Article 2. The right of nations, nationalities, and peoples to self-determination is affirmed. To this end, each nation, nationality, and people is guaranteed the right to:

  1. Preserve its identity and have it respected, promote its culture and history, and use and develop its language;
  2. Administer its own affairs within its own defined territory and effectively participate in the central government on the basis of freedom and fair and proper representation;
  3. Exercise its right to self-determination of independence, when the concerned nation/nationality and people [are] convinced that the above rights are denied, abridged, or abrogated . . . .

Part III. Structure and Composition of the Transitional Government.

Article 6. There shall be established a Transitional Government consisting of a Council of Representatives and a Council of Ministers.

Article 7. The Council of Representatives shall be composed of representatives of national liberation movements, other political organizations, and prominent individuals to make up a total of no more than 87 members.

Article 8. The Transitional Government shall exercise all legal and political responsibility for the governance of Ethiopia until it hands over power to a government popularly elected on the basis of a new Constitution.

Article 9. The Council of Representatives shall exercise legislative functions as follows and oversee the work of the Council of Ministers:

  1. Draw up its rules of procedures;
  2. Election of its chairperson, who shall also be the head of state, and a vice-chairperson and secretary. The head of state shall appoint the prime minister, whose appointment shall be approved by the Council of Representatives. The head of state, the prime minister, the vice-chairperson, and secretary of the Council of Representatives shall be from different nations/nationalities; [End Page 159]
  3. Approve the prime minister’s nomination of the members of the Council of Ministers drawn up on consideration of ascertaining a broad national representation, technical competence, and unswerving adherence to the Charter;
  4. Initiation and promulgation of proclamations and decrees pursuant to the Charter;
  5. Adoption of a national budget;
  6. Provide for the administration of justice on the basis of the Charter; the Courts shall, in their work, be free from any governmental interference with respect to items provided for in Part I, Article 1 of the Charter;
  7. Establish the Constitutional Commission;
  8. Ratify international agreements;
  9. Create committees for defense and security policy during the transitional period;
  10. Provide the mechanism to ascertain the fair and impartial application of the mass media;
  11. Issue a just labor law that protects the rights and interests of the workers.

Part IV. Transitional Program.

A. POLITICAL. Article 10. The Council of Representatives shall constitute the Constitutional Commission to draw up a draft Constitution.

The Constitutional Commission shall submit to the Council of Representatives the draft Constitution.

Article 11. Upon adoption of the draft Constitution by the Council of Representatives, the Constitution shall be presented to the people for discussion.

The final draft shall be presented for adoption to the Constituent Assembly to be elected pursuant to the final draft of the Constitution.

Article 12. Elections to a National Assembly shall be held on the basis of the provisions of the new Constitution.

The Transitional Government shall hand over power to the party or parties that gain a majority in the National Assembly.

The said national elections shall be held no later than two years after the establishment of the Transitional Government, provided, however, that the period can be extended by the Council of Representatives for no more than six months.

Article 13. There shall be a law establishing local and regional councils for local administrative purposes defined on the basis of nationality. Elections for such local and regional councils shall be held within three months of the establishment of the Transitional Government, wherever local conditions allow.

B. RELIEF AND REHABILITATION. The Transitional Government is unequivocally determined to ensure the delivery of relief assistance to areas ravaged by war and drought. In connection with this: . . . [End Page 160]

Article 17. It shall make special efforts to dispel the ethnic mistrust and eradicate the ethnic hatred that have been fostered by the previous regime.

Part V. Legality of the Charter.

Article 18. This Charter shall serve as the supreme law of the land for the duration of the transitional period. Any law or decision that is contrary to the Charter shall be null and void . . . .


On 2 June 1992 the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) published a report confirming the establishment of the Free Trade Union of China, a new underground movement formally launched in May 1992. A pamphlet dated 16 January 1992 and circulated in China by the Preparatory Committee of the Beijing Free Trade Union has been translated into English by the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions. Excerpts appear below:

  1. Workers Are Entitled to Organize Free Trade Unions.As a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO), China has the obligation to observe . . . ILO Convention No. 87 concerning the freedom of union organizing. Chinese should recognize and protect the independent free trade unions from the control of the Party and enterprise owners . . . .During its 40 years of rule, the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] had deprived workers of the right to organize free trade unions. This is a violation of the international conventions and also of the Chinese constitution . . . .

    The present CCP regime would only restore its credibility within and beyond the national boundaries through adopting a cooperative and accommodating attitude toward the free trade unions.

  2. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) Is Not a Workers’ Organization.The officially condoned ACFTU is only a tool of the CCP and the ruling regime. It is a feudalistic body of a small minority of scabs who betrayed the interests of the workers. It has long been scorned by the majority of workers . . . .We believe that most workers will withdraw their membership from the ACFTU and join the ranks of the free trade union . . . very soon.
  3. We Are Now Organizing Free Trade Unions.Ten years ago, the Solidarity union was set up in Poland. They have now won their critical victory. Now, a free trade union is also being set up in China. Ten years later, we will also win our victory.What does it matter if the authorities refuse to recognize and authorize [End Page 161] our own union? The establishment and development of a free trade union does not depend on the recognition and authorization of the government, but on the courage and strength of our own workers. Didn’t Polish Solidarity get banned and suppressed ten years ago? What were the results? Solidarity won, and its oppressor fell. The Chinese free trade union will definitely succeed, and those who suppress the free union are also destined to fall.
  4. How Can We Organize and Join the Free Trade Union?It is very easy for anyone among our workers to join the free trade union. They can . . . link up with friends who share similar goals and principles. They can first organize within their own units or locality, then gradually expand their network. [With] the establishment of free union groups, workers can independently organize their own discussion or enlightening activities according to their abilities. Under the nonrecognition by the authorities, the free trade unions should carry out safe and effective activities in the form of underground organization. We should make use of every possible legal way to carry out our activities, and organically combine all tangible and intangible, above-ground and underground activities. The purpose of organizing an association is for the sake of the activities. We have to develop our organization through activities.Do not try to look for a free trade union to join. Do not be discovered by the CCP secret police in the course of expanding our network. Do not treat the free trade union as an organization for idle talk.

    Now free trade unions are emerging everywhere from the land of China like bamboo shoots after a spring rain. This is where the hope of Chinese labor lies!


On 22 May 1992, during a trip to Russia by Polish president Lech Walesa, Russia and Poland signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation. President Walesa and President Boris Yeltsin of Russia also issued a separate special declaration, excerpts from which appear below:

. . . the Stalinist regime caused enormous suffering and brought irreversible moral harm to Polish and Russian people . . . . Poland and Russia, condemning the antihumanitarian essence of totalitarianism in all its forms, declare their determination to overcome the negative effects of the past and to give new quality to bilateral relations in the future on the basis of positive values from the history of both nations and states, as well as on international law, democracy, and observance of human fights. [End Page 162]