Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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ASSEFA Fiseha, Centre for Federal Studies, Ethiopia
ZEMELAK Ayitenew, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Paper presenters:

ZEMELAK Ayitenew Ayele; Costanza NICOLOSI; Giancarlo A. FERRO; KETEMA Wakjira; ASNAKE Kefale;
ASSEFA Fiseha; SOLOMON Negussie; MEBRATU Alemu; ABRHAM Meareg; TANO Geter

Ethiopia, once an extremely centralised state, began a process of decentralisation in 1991, when the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) ousted the Derg and assumed power. The decentralisation process took place in two phases. The first phase of the decentraliation process focused on addressing what is often referred to as the 'nationality question'. This phase of the decentralisation process culminated with the establishment of the current federal system, with nine regional states and the two autonomous cities (Dire Dawa and Addis Ababa). Local government was an issue at this stage of the decentralisation process within the context of managing ethnic diversity, specially accommodating ethnic regional minorities. The second phase began in the early 2000s when the federal government adopted of several policies of poverty reduction which sought to use decentralisation as one the principal strategies for reducing poverty. In 2001, half of the regional states began amending their constitutions, followed by the rest, among other things, to decentralise power to local governments and introduce political, administrative, and financial reforms at local level, which aimed at empowering local communities to 'participate, negotiate and influence', decision-making processes concerning local matters. It has now been over 20 years since the Ethiopian federal system was established and 15 years since the district level decentralisation programme, which sought to make local government an institution of democratic participation and development, was launched. This calls for an investigation of whether, as per the policy, local government is serving as institution of democratic participation and development.

In this panel, we invite papers dealing with local government as institutions of democratic participation and centre of development and accommodating regional ethnic minorities. Region specific papers are welcome. The papers may deal with one or more of the following issues



ZEMELAK Ayitenew Ayele, Centre for Federal Studies: Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

The 1995 Constitution of Ethiopia, which formally established the Ethiopian federal system, puts local government under the exclusive competence of the states. The states are hence empowered to legislatively determine the number of tiers and units of local government, define its powers and functions, and define its internal and external sources of revenue and the like. The legislative and executive powers of the states on local government is not however without constraints since they are required to create autonomous, democratically constituted, and adequately empowered and resourced local level of government. Hence state constitutions and pieces of legislation regulating local government can be constitutionally challenged if they fail to meet the aforementioned and other constitutional requirements. The paper argues that some provisions in state constitutions and other pieces of legislation that regulate local governments are constitutionally suspect since they undermine local democracy and seek to excessively intrude into the political autonomy of local government.



Costanza NICOLOSI, University of Catania School of Law
Giancarlo A. FERRO, University of Catania School of Law

Given the recent escape of thousands of Ethiopians (mostly Oromo) towards Harar, the issue of Ethiopian so-called “ethnic” federalism has once again gained the headlines of major international newspapers and magazines. The purpose of the paper is to investigate the role (if any) the Ethiopian Federal Supreme Court (FSC) in shaping a national identity, which would eventually constitute an aggregating force of the several distinct Ethiopian nationalities into a sense of belonging to a common state. Indeed, it has been noted that the Ethiopian federal process has (at least so far) resembled more the agreement of several distinct nation states to an international treaty, rather than a constitutional process leading to the creation of a functioning and efficient federal state (see e.g., J.M. Cohen). It is the authors’ opinion that peculiar challenges in this regard has been the presence and interplay of several different layers of courts in the Ethiopian legal system (i.e., social, customary, religious, etc.) as well as the lack of a comprehensive bill of rights.In this context, the paper discusses the introduction and implementation of the doctrine of binding precedents delivered by the Cassation Division of the FSC (Proclamation No. 454/2005) and to discuss the opportunities and challenges ahead. References will be made, where relevant, to the examples of both the United States and the European Union to highlight some lessons that Ethiopia might draw upon in its path ahead.



KETEMA Wakjira, Center for Federal Studies, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
ASNAKE Kefale, Department of Political Science and International Relations

In both developed and developing countries, decentralisation is primarily motivated by the need to improve governance and public service delivery. The key argument is that decentralisation improves service provision by empowering local governments and matching the local capacity with the functional responsibilities. Besides, in as much as the multiple levels of governments share the same goal of delivering services to the citizens, the institutional coordination and partnership between the levels of governments determine the capacity to meet the dynamic demands in service provisions. The objective of this paper is to examine the effect of decentralisation on the local service delivery through devolving financial resources, administrative functions and instituting electoral accountability. Using empirical data collected by a series of fieldworks in selected 6 urban and rural woredas from the regions of Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples, and Benishangul-Gumuz. The paper examines the following questions: to what extent decentralisation and local institutional arrangements have improved provision of local services in general and water and health care in particular? The paper also examines other related issues such as the extent to which local governments have adequate autonomy and capacity to address problems relating to the provision of water and health care services. Corollary to this, the paper examines how multiple and at times competing jurisdictions affect provision services.The paper also examines the impact of decentralisation on service delivery by looking at its fiscal, administrative and political aspects. Also, the focus on two policy domains, water and health care services will make it possible to analyze the governance institutions in action, and sort through what makes a difference for the distribution as well as the overall provision of public goods in the local governments.



ASSEFA Fiseha, Addis Ababa University, Federal Studies, Ethiopia

Ethiopia has undertaken massive political and social transformation since the fall of the military regime in 1991. Significance of this was the shift from a very centralised unitary system to a federation comprising of initially (1991-1994) 14 and later nine states and two autonomous cities (the Federal Capital Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa) proclaimed in the 1995 constitution. This is referred as the first phase of decentralisation that essentially focused on building the political and administrative institutions of the nine regional states. Motivated by intra-party crisis, district level decentralisation program (DLDP) and the desire to tackle poverty at the local level through empowerment and enhancing participation at the local level another milestone development was the reform at regional state level in 2001 to amend the regional state constitutions to further devolve power from the states to local governments. The aim of such second step decentralisation is to address local demands and preferences, enhance local level development efforts, to bring government closer to the people, enhance local level public participation and allow such units some measure of autonomy to decide things for themselves.This study aims to investigate the state of local level decentralisation in Tigray. There is a growing literature that covers the post 2001 decentralisation efforts in the country. Yet, such studies have rarely covered Tigray. Given that, the regional state has been the major actor in the struggle against the military regime and in the post-1991 state reforms, it makes one curious to examine whether the decentralisation efforts in the regional state have achieved the above stated goals? The study is therefore an empirical one: do local governments in Tigray regional state enjoy some level of political autonomy? Are local governments serving as institutions for empowering the people at the local level or are they agents of the regional state? Are they centres of development in terms of addressing local priorities? The study is based on field work conducted from February to June 2017 covering some six weredas (districts) and three urban local governments from four zones.



SOLOMON Negussie, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Local governments are increasingly considered as important institutions to play key roles in local development in general and in the delivery of basic public services and in the provision of public infrastructure in particular. Nonetheless, the roles of local governments in Ethiopia are often challenged by the limitations of financial capacity.Theoretically, local governments play significant role when decentralization is put into practice in the form of devolving administrative as well as fiscal powers. In order to fulfil their mandate in a fiscally responsible manner, local governments must have significant sources of own tax and non-tax revenues. Adequacy of own revenues for local governments is the key to both the ability to deliver necessary goods and services, as well as to better accountability of local officials to their constituents. Own local revenues are often complemented by inter-governmental transfers to address differences in expenditure needs and fiscal capacity. In order to effectively address the challenge of mobilizing adequate financial resources, local governments require financing instruments for increasing local revenue capacity. Regional governments of Tigray and SNNPRS claim to have introduced various approaches to address the shortage of adequate revenue capacity at wereda level ranging from improving tax administration to introducing various instruments. The main objective of this paper is therefore to provide a synthetic review of new sources of local government financing in selected weredas of Tigray and SNNPR regions. The focal point of this exploratory study carried out in two weredas from Tigray and two weredas from SNNPRS. The study primarily focuses on descriptive and analytical types of research. It assess the tax and non-tax sources of the weredas, the percentage of local revenue to wereda development projects, the respective roles of local and regional governments in the distribution of grants, and the institutional arrangements for promoting transparency and accountability. It also attempts to analyze the impact of regional and federal grants on local development efforts and identify major challenges in the opportunities. To do so, primary and secondary data is collected for the research from the weredas covered in the research. By addressing the above issues,the rationale and importance of developing own revenue sources is reviewed, as well as investigate different mechanisms and sources of revenues available for weredas to enhance their capacity.



MEBRATU Alemu, Development Study, Arba Minch University, Ethiopia

This research is concerned with the assessment of the implementation of decentralization policy in Benishangul Gumuz Region with particular emphasis on Assosa and Menge woredas. The study explores the extent to which decentralization efforts have been under taken in the region and it explores the condition of local governance by examining the status of the facets that underpin local governance namely: participation, transparency, accountability and women’s empowerment. In addition, it examines how far the presence of different ethnic groups has affected the implementation of decentralization efforts in the region.The research employed more of qualitative case study approach. Structured and semi-structured interviews at regional, woreda and kebele levels, focus group discussions with the community,observation, and study of national and regional documents were among the tools that were employed to collect the data for this research. The qualitative method was deemed appropriate to collect the data for this kind of research in view of its flexibility.Absence of political will and commitment to devolve power, ethnic strife, local elite capture, weak budgeting and expenditure administration, poor revenue generating capacity are revealed as some of the major problems associated with the implementation of decentralization process. The study also explain the problem of transferring responsibility to woreda and kebeles without corresponding financial and skilled manpower resources to support them. The study showed that decentralization albeit with many problems has to some extent promoted service delivery in the region. Despite the fact that it has brought insignificant improvement in good local governance in the region; visibly, decentralization has some virtues, which could justify its continued implementation, if many adjustments have to be made for optimal results. To this effect the study proposes various suggestions.



ABRHAM Meareg, Assosa University, Ethiopia
TANO Geter, Welkite University, Ethiopia

Resettlement involves the relocation of people into a new environment. In Ethiopia, resettled occurred under different periods of government as a major developmental agenda. The aim of this research was to assess the status of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in resettlement spots of the BenishangulGumuz Regional State, western Ethiopia. The target areas of the study were the three main state-sponsored resettlement corners--namely Bambasi, Pawi, and Assosa area districts--in the period of the military Derg regime in the 1970s. A purposive sampling method through snowball sampling technique was employed for the collection and compilation of balanced and detailed data. For primary data collection, researchers conducted in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, checklists, group interviews, and informant interviews with settlers, host community members, and government officials. For the purpose of this study, 58 knowledgeable individuals were interviewed in-depth. Secondary data analysis from various stakeholders and archive documents were also used. The objective of this study is to add information about the areas of study, which has often been marginalized, to the existing knowledge from other papers and publications about the region, which has been very diverse. The researchers focus on the livelihood of the 1970s state-sponsored resettles in BenshangulGumiz Regional State, and not on the livelihood of the host community. The study finds that resettles experienced frequent violations of civil and political rights like losing life, segregation, blackmailing, underrepresentation in regional council, humiliation, conflict vulnerability, denial of life with dignity, aggressive and ignorant political responses, systematic discrimination, and psychological instability. In regard to social, economic and cultural rights, resettles experienced an unmitigated disaster on property, unlawful job discrimination, unjust unemployment, cultural dishonor, discrimination based on sexuality, eroded sense of ownership over their environment, social injustice, dispirited feeling towards the future, identity crises, untreated mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, deep-rooted mistrust, self-condemnation, transitional anxiety, forgotten socio-economic programs evaluation, and with psychological, social, and legal poverty.