Chapter VI
Legal & Constitutional
UCI ~ I See You
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Convening The Codification Commission
Mar. 26, 1954
The world is today passing through a period of such rapid and profound change that it is difficult to
point to another era in recorded history when so many movements and events have so rapidly and
profoundly shaped the lives of a single generation.  Such an observation applies no less to Ethiopia
than to other countries.  The progress achieved since Our Coronation has been the cause of humble
and profound gratification.  From a nation that depended on its isolation for its very existence, we
have been transformed into a rapidly progressive, now unified state, no longer excluded from the
sea and from its neighbours, but participating in the broad movements of a post-war world in full
flux and development.

It is from this deep consciousness of the needs of the hour as well as of the future that we have
produced a revised Constitution for the Empire of Ethiopia, reflecting the achievements of the past,
the requirements of the present and the ideals for the future.  Progress must be our key to life and

It is to that same end that We have conceived a broad and thorough programme of legislative as
well as constitutional reform in the codification of the civil, commercial, criminal and procedural
laws of Our Empire, and that We today convene the Commission of Codification.

The constitutional advance, on the one hand, and the necessity of resolutely pursuing Our
Programme of social advancement and integration in the larger world community, as well as the
needs of maritime and commercial communitication made inevitable the closer integration of the
legal system of Ethiopia with those of other countries with whom we have cultural, commerical
and maritime connections.

We must stabilize and strengthen these relations by establishing them on a firm legal basis.  
Furthermore, although Ethiopia claims what is perhaps the longest standing system of law in the
world today.  We have never hesitated to adopt the best that other system of law can offer to the
extent that they respond and can be adapted to the genius of Our particular institutions.  This has
been true not only of the labours of Our Constitutional Commission but should also be true of the
work upon which the Codification Commission is now about to enter.
Talent Available
To that end, We have personally directed the search for the outstanding jurists of the continent of
Europe to bring to Us the best that centuries of development in allied and compatible systems of
law have to offer.  From this extensive search We have been pleased, and indeed fortunate to
obtain the services and collaboration of those incontestable leaders of European legal thought
whom We greet here and welcome as Members of the Codification Commission meeting under the
Presidency of Our Minister of Justice.

The great distinction of the continental experts whom We welcome on this occasion should not
cause us to lose sight of the principle which We have just stated, namely, that Ethiopia should
endeavour to adopt, and adapt the best that other legal traditions have to offer.  The great common
law traditions of the Anglo-American systems of law are here represented not only in the person of
the President of the High Court, but also by several other members of the Commission.

However, as We have remarked,  the point of departure must remain the genius of Ethiopian legal
traditions and institutions which have origins of unparalled antiquity and continuity.  Through Our
orders the jurisprudence has been collected and is now placed at the disposal of the Commission
to guide it in its labours.  At Our insistence a Codification of Criminal Law reflecting the traditions
of the Fetha Negest and of more recent developments was undertaken and finally, under Our
guidance, completed and placed into force, now more than a quarter of a century ago.  It, together
with the Fetha Negest, and the collection of jurisprudence now completed under Our direction are
all at hand to serve as points of departure for your work.

We shall follow your discussions and labours with the keenest attention and interest and you shall
enjoy Our full support in your high mission.

We pray to the Almighty that He may spare Us to complete this crowning achievement of Our life as
a monument for those generations that are waiting impatiently on the threshold of existence.
Haile Selassie the First - March 26, 1954