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Decentralization bolstering unity in diversity

Decentralization bolstering unity in diversity


Fekadu W. 08-22-17

Muhammed Kursi and Zemzem Mustefa , both residents of Semera in Afar Regional State on August 18, 2017, said that the current federal system of administration has enabled to ensure their equitable benefit from the fruits of development of the country. They commended on the very fact that federal system has endowed them the right to self-administration. Presently, they are enjoying the fruits of self-administration from keble up to regional level.

They said the system enabled them to voluntarily participate in the development activities being undertaken in the region. Particularly, the decentralized way of administration has helped them to benefit from social services like water, electricity and health service, among others. Now they are being administered by their sons and daughters who have won their consent and they stressed that it enabled them to develop their own culture and nurture their language equally with other nations and nationalities. Currently, they are using their language for communication and obtain state services.

Their children are also being educated with their native language. And the use of native language has enabled them to ease the way of teaching and help them understand better while being educated in primary schools. Currently, school age children are being educated in their locality without going any further in search of schools like their fathers and mothers did in the previous.

In addition, the last two decades in the federal administration system have enabled to educate many sons and daughters of Afar up to MA and PHD level. And currently, the region is being administered by its own sons and daughters educated at various levels. This in turn has enabled to speed up development and enhance cove rage of health and education services of the region.

Similarly, Woizero Chaltu Kumsa living in Gimbi town of Oromiya State said that the application of federal system of administration has enabled to put in place the spirit of equality with other nations and nationalities of the country. Currently, the system has enabled to enjoy freedom of expression and enjoy various programs being published and broadcast using oromifa.

She said the system has enabled villagers in her town to enjoy various local services in their own languages. Today, Oromifa is one of the languages being used to provide services and people are enjoying the opportunity of being judged and administered using their own languages.

Merchandizing activity is booming in the town and it is booming by the participation of various individuals who make their way to Gimbi from all corners of the country, she said. It also enabled to prevail peaceful co- existence with various nations and nationalities living in the town. According to her, the focus being given to diversity of language, belief and culture has boosted the sense of tolerance among different nations and nationalities.

Most scholars state that the sense of federalism and its fruit of tolerance, self-administration decentralization and mutual respect is taking root with time. They unanimously agree that federalism is serving as a devise for organizing two levels of government that assume different sets of responsibilities and manage the affairs of a country. A case in point, they argue that federalism, far from being a creed or ideology, is being understood by citizens as a ‘normative term’ that refers to a political system designed to attain ‘both union and non-centralization at the same time.


Since 1991, the Ethiopian Government, lead by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has been trying to put in place and operate federal system of government where efforts are being made to democratize a very poor, multi-national and traditional country.


Moreover, the democratically endorsed Constitution that came into force since 1995 has inaugurated the existing federal arrangement which is an absolute U-turn for the country from its age-old shackle of tyranny and dictatorship: since then the country is recognized as Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE).


Implementation of federalism has conferred different sets of responsibilities and powers relating to important political, economic and social matters up on regions. It has enabled to formulate farther-reaching system of power-sharing that coalesced nine regional states known as “Killil” (Plural “Killiloch”); regions including Oromia, Amhara, Tigray. Southern Nations,  Nationalities and Peoples Region, Afar, Somali, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella and Harari plus Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa city administrations. These federal unions and their component units are supposed to enjoy considerable degree of shared rule and self rule within the framework of constitutionally defined powers and responsibilities


The nascent sense of democracy and its brain child of federalism have entertained decentralization and self-rule characterized by considerable internal diversity and need for integrated national efforts towards social and economic advancement. It can rightly be asserted that current federalism has enshrined the idea of having a workable political arrangement that necessarily calls for the perpetual existence of different levels of authorities sanctioned by supreme Constitution (which has to serve the  broader national framework  aimed at strengthening consensus and accepting the principle of unity-in-diversity as a basis for nation building).


As a result of consensus and fairness, the Constitution declares that the House of Peoples’ Representatives and its members should be representatives of all localities of the country and people living in them. It also dictates that parliamentarians should be composed of members elected through a democratic process. Similarly, the possibility that different political parties compete for seats in a democratic process has ushered in the ever flourishing sentiment of political pluralism; significant for the development of the federal system.


Since then, various political parties have started to secure varying number of seats in the election processes. In such a circumstance, in particular the government is striving to widen level playing field for all parties and strengthen the culture of democracy (by creating favorable conditions for enrichment of multi-party democratic culture).



Similarly, the Constitution is providing sufficient mechanisms used for addressing domestic social conflicts, including constitutional disputes. In this regard, as a means to solve problems flaring up between regions and various nations and nationalities, the House of the Federation and the Council for Constitutional Inquiry are assigned with the responsibility to settle disputes and ensure peaceful resolution of conflicts in accordance with the Constitution.


Constitutional Inquiry is a newly hatched institution that came in to being following the endorsement of the Constitution and decentralization (by the consent of people). Currently, it is playing pivotal role to help prevail lasting peace and stability. The Council is largely composed of legal experts that present recommendations to the House of the Federation when there are Constitutional issues that should be debated by the House of Federation. Hence, the Council enables the House to settle disputes with the necessary advice it may offer (in effect, is considerably different from the systems of other countries and jurisdictions that permit the supreme Courts or the constitutional courts to play the leading role in settling constitutional disputes).

So far, beyond cultivating cultural pluralism, federalism has lent support to political pluralism as well as to the cause of greater political and social equality. Currently, decentralization has enabled the wider political community to manifest political cohesion and solidarity stemming from the freedom, equality and diversity of the constituent parts; political cohesion and solidarity resting on the autonomy and integrity of the diverse parts has, in turn, galvanized all nations, nationalities and peoples of the country into concerted national engagement and action, resulting in unprecedented advance in the quest to find freedom from hunger and poverty.

Thanks to federalism and its decentralization, many who felt they had been renounced by their birthplace earlier are now persuaded not to renounce Ethiopia, but instead to join helping hands to form a legitimate political order for peaceful mutual cooperation. Since its commencement, federalism is serving wider public aims. For one thing, it is bolstering democratic values and practices to take root with time (otherwise, these issues are difficult to secure under the burden of poverty and  lack of a background democratic culture such as a culture of peace, the rule of law, secularism, a free press, competitive political parties, and free associations).

It has been over two decades since nation has come to understand the crucial matter that sustainable development requires equality and unity in diversity. In this regard, Ethiopia's federal system has given full recognition to decentralization and autonomy of regions, while maintaining the unity of the country. Hence, it has resulted in previously marginalized communities now enjoying self-governance, controlling their own resources and accessing better public services. Overall, federalism being pursued by the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has been serving as a firm ground for the unity of the peoples of Ethiopia through diversity and has created conducive environment, where all nations, nationalities and peoples can participate in and benefit from the rapid economic growth of the country.

In addition, whatever the case, yet one can confidently say that the prospection of federalism is good and Ethiopia is resolute enough to remain federal and united (and majority of the people have liked it). To strengthen true sense of love of country of citizens, unlike the previous regimes, nation is striving to enhance economic and social development coupled with equitable distribution of resources. First and foremost, the constitution has paved the way for the country to be responsive to the interests of citizens and address their dissatisfactions in a peaceful manner.

Rome was not built in a day. Nation has embarked on the endless journey of building democratic state since long; However, it is still open to draw valuable lessons on federalism and modus operandi of decentralization from other countries with deeper experiences (though it has also a successful and practically proven federal system, which could be emulated by other countries aspiring to establish and pursue multi-national federalism as a system of state administration).




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