Ethiopia

The Social Order

Chapter 1 of the constitution defined Ethiopia’s social order. The People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (PDRE) was declared to be “a state of working peasants in which the intelligentsia, the revolutionary army, artisans, and other democratic sections of society participate.” The commitment to socialist construction was reaffirmed, as was the idea of egalitarianism within the context of a unitary state. The official language remained Amharic. The functioning and organization of the country was proclaimed to be based on the principles of democratic centralism, under which representative party and state organs are elected by lower bodies. The vanguard character of the WPE was asserted, and its roles as well as those of mass organizations were spelled out.

Chapter 2 dealt with the country’s economic system. The state was dedicated to the creation of a “highly interdependent and integrated national economy” and to the establishment of conditions favorable to development. In addition, the constitution committed the state to central planning; state ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange; and expansion of cooperative ownership among the general population.

Chapter 3 addressed social issues, ranging from education and the family to historical preservation and cultural heritage. The family was described as the basis of society and therefore deserving of special attention by means of the joint efforts of state and society. In addition, the constitution pledged that health insurance and other social services would be expanded through state leadership.

National defense was the subject of Chapter 4. The first article asserted the nation’s need to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity and to safeguard the accomplishments of the revolution. It was declared that the Ethiopian people had a historical responsibility to defend the country. The defense force was to be the army of the country’s working people. The army’s fundamental role would be to secure peace and socialism.

Foreign policy objectives were spelled out in four brief articles in Chapter 5 and were based on the principles of proletarian internationalism, peaceful coexistence, and nonalignment. In many respects, the language of this section resembled that of a constitution of a Warsaw Pact country in the days before glasnost.

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