Q3. I would like to get your opinion of how the Fetha Negest may be used to make up a constitution of Ethiopia. Of course with synthesis of modern ideas into it but limited monarchy, is this workable?
My spontaneous view is that I would first consider the time in which Fetha Negest was introduced into Ethiopia, and the purpose for which it was used. The Fetha Negast (Law of the Kings ) was introduced in the legal system of Ethiopia at the beginning of the 17 th century. It is said that the Fetha Negast was a translation of a well known Coptic "nomocanon" originally written in Arabic. Some authors wrote that the original text was changed and adopted to Ethiopian conditions when translated into Ethiopic language Geez. According to the Ethiopian church tradition, the Fetha Negast was introduced around the middle of the 15th century. But this tradition was to refer the existence of the ecclesiastical part of the nomocanon in the Ethiopian church before the translation.
The Fetha Negast consists a part dealing with ecclesiastical law (chapter 1!22) and another part on secular subjects. For the benefit of the readers I have quoted the secular part as follows:
Chapter 23 -- Food, clothing, habitation, and trades proper for Christians.
Chapter 24 -- Betrothal, dowry, Marriage and dissolution of marriage.
Chapter 25 -- Prohibition of concubinage.
Chapter 26 -- Donation.
Chapter 27 -- Loan, pledge and guaranty
Chapter 28 -- Loan for use
Chapter 29 -- Deposit
Chapter 30 -- Mandate
Chapter 31 -- Slavery and manumission of slaves
Chapter 32 -- Guardianship
Chapter 33 -- Sale, purchase and related matters.
Chapter 34 -- Partnership
Chapter 35 -- Coercion and duress
Chapter 36 -- Lease and rent
Chapter 37 -- Buildings, waters and streets
Chapter 38 -- Commercial ventures
Chapter 39 -- Acknowledgment of debt
Chapter 40 -- Lost ownerless things
Chapter 41 -- Will
Chapter 42 -- Successions
Chapter 43 -- Judges and judicial procedure
Chapter 44 -- Rights and duties of the king
Chapter 45 -- Miscellaneous provision from the Old and New Testament
Chapter 46 -- Penal, Provisions for blasphemy, apostasy and sorcery
Chapter 47 -- Penal provision for theft
Chapter 50 -- Penal provision for drunkenness, usury, and miscellaneous offenses
Chapter 51 -- Regulations of the church regarding heir, circumcision, confession and rule making powers of the clergy.
Appendix: -- Succession.
(See, Tzadu, P.,ed. 1968. The Fetha Nagast. The Law of the Kings. Addis Ababa).
As the title itself proclaims, and judging from the contents mentioned above, the law was designed to regulate the relationship of the Mekwanent, Masafint, Liqawunt class and their subjects. Do you think that it is acceptable by the present middle class that have diverse social background, ideology, different economic base, and a class that demanded democracy for the last thirty years. I am not a student of law and neither I have studied constitutional history. My feeling is that, you have to consider the difference in time and the subject to whom you address.