The news these past days is focused on a remarkable intervention of the PM at the Parliament. Let’s begin with a brief account from overseas: News about foreign gifts.Do you know gifts that U.S. presidents (or senior government officials) receive – from paintings to ceremonial daggers – are sent to the National Archives? There is a rule – The Foreign Gifts and Declarations Act of 1966 – that limits gifts US presidents (or senior officials) can accept from foreign leaders.Why? Simply, to ensure there is no impression of impropriety. In political culture, perception becomes reality, and extravagant gifts do not look good. Gifts to the President or his family may be accepted based on protocol or etiquette required by the position, so long as it is not in return for the performance of an official act, it was not solicited or coerced, and it does not constitute a bribe. Indeed in the US, foreign official gifts over the “minimal value” (the limit is currently set at $375) are considered gifts to the people of the United States, which the recipient may accept but not retain.In India gifts valued at over Rs 5,000 (ETB 2,500) received by government officials representing India abroad are deposited in the treasury of the ministry.The plain purpose of such laws is to ensure that the country’s leaders would not be improperly influenced, even unconsciously, through gift giving.This week PM Abye Ahmed claimed unapolegeticly that Parliament has no jurisdiction over gifts, including money, he received from foreign leaders.No kidding:How delightful it is to receive a gift! How special it makes you feel, right? Everyone likes to receive a gift, right? But the Head of Government of Ethiopia accepting gift money from a foreign country is a dangerous departure from the norms of good governance? It could easily look like a bribe, even when the money is supposedly used for some ‘Good’ causes?No judge would accept PM Aby’s claim that he has a “right” to spend gift money as he wishes without any oversight from any government office. Leaders say sometime outlandish things, but this was another level, it definitely can be categorized as a flagrant abuse of executive discretion. Many would agree that it is not within the discretion of the Executive to dismiss any oversight on how gifts deemed to be accepted on behalf of Ethiopia, are used or spent and accounted.For the record PM Abye was not chosen to be king of Ethiopia, but only a Prime Minister of Ethiopia, an office whose powers are limited not only in extent but in the purposes for which they can be used. When a man is elected as Prime minister violates the conditions under which he holds office, he has no further right to the office. PM Abye, as Head of Government, can’t brush away the ethical requirements such high office demands.Yes, people today are still willing to close their eyes, and give the PM the benefit of the doubt and accept what he says. But the band gets tired.The belief of the PM in its own virtue, compounded by its conviction that the republic needs him, can easily produce an unprecedented concentration of power in one man, and an unprecedented attempt to transform the government into a one man show. The moral of this story is that it’s important to resist the becoming of a benevolent dictator. Although many start out benign and want to decide and get things done quickly, in most cases, their decisions end up often bad for the masses.

By Kebour Ghenna,


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