Ethiopia: Proper Execution of Federalism – a Guarantee for Stability

by Zelalem

Ethiopia has been exercising federal system over the past two and half decades. Through implementing this system which is suitable for the reality on the ground, the nation has been recording double digit economic growth.

Indicating that there is no perfect political system in the world, intellectuals advise the need for proper execution of the system for longstanding stability.

Abas Lukman is pursuing his education with a masters program at Civil Service University in Federalism and Environmental Administration. According to him, he is from the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples State (SNNPS_). He said, for countries like Ethiopia where various nation and nationalities are living in harmony, entertaining multi-national federalism is the only option.

Gebere Selassie Mulaw, 30, and studying Federalism at this same University, shared Abas’s view. For him, federalism is a means to develop culture of intimacy. By implementing federal system, nations and nationalities can decide their own fate and develop common vision. In short, it is a means to constitute harmony in Ethiopia.

Abas stressed that with the absence of federalism, Ethiopia could not stand as a nation implementing unitary government system which humiliates identities of nations and nationalities.

While the country had been in unitary government system in the previous regimes, people were obliged to hide their identities. Contrarily, the federal system has given them freedom to learn and work by their own languages and administer themselves.

Ambassador Dr. Teketel Forsidoas who had been served long as a diplomat and politician has his say on federalism.

He said federalism is a shared system in which authority, responsibility, resources will be shared to a certain extent. This share is based on a certain principle of understanding and procedural qualification among all members of that federal system. By and large, federalism for countries like Ethiopia is not only the best option, rather it is mandatory.

Mentioning that he is from Tigray State, Gebere Selassie said the State has passed through various leadership systems. Since Solomonic dynasty where civilization of Axum had began, the people were oppressed by various landlords. By then, self governance, question of identity as well as other rights were not entertained accordingly. Hence, the people had compelled to sacrifice their lives to ensure private and group rights.

As to Abas, working on the concept of Ethiopianism is a fundamental issue. However, in the absence of this, people may become unwilling to accept other ideas where it leads them to conflict. Thus, while federalism is exercised, concurrently building the general public’s awareness in the issue of Ethiopianism is fundamental.

An effectively exercised federal system would enable a country to end up cultural domination, economic exploitation, political exclusion, and sustain economic progress. These changes, in turn, create a strong sense of Ethiopianism.

Dr. Teketel strongly supported Abas’s idea saying that one has to do research to utter confidently weather federalism is properly implemented or not. “We have already traveled 26 years. As a young federal system, there could be mistakes here and there. Those mistakes do not simply indicate what federalism meant in the Constitution. No matter how many people accept federalism or have strong determination to implement it properly, they can make mistakes unless they do not know the spirit of the document. The reason for the failure to translating the document into practice, obviously, is misunderstanding,” he underscored.

Indicating that federalism by itself has its own drawbacks, Abas said, if the federal system has implemented in a way of demolishing unity, it could be a source of conflict. As it is stipulated in the Constitution, when the federal system has applied, self and shared rules are identified. If there is no balance between the two, there comes isolation among nations and nationalities. In this regard, both state and federal governments should work properly to address issues leads to isolation.

Geberesilassie said, indeed, enforcement of federal system has been facing various troubles. Federalism has no guarantee for a given state. It would have a guarantee, if and only if the nation has applying various implementation techniques.

“Determining your destiny by your own, self governance, being able to exercise all of the necessary functions of power, establishing special Zones and woredas are mandates of states. But, still question of identity of some groups (minority right) were not yet responded properly.”

Unless the nation respond such inquires, it would bring trouble over the forthcoming fate of the country. On the other hand, establishing holistic political parties is the solution for this.

People have the right to object or support any system and they can oppose it if they do not see its rewards. In the earlier systems, some of the regions had been neglected and marginalized from any of social, economic and political advantages. Thus, they were duty-bound to live behind their levels of social and economic development. It is clear that there is no perfect system. Like any of the other systems in the world, it can have its own limitations. “Probably as we are at the beginning of testing, quarter of the century may not be enough to change the system,” Dr. Teketel said.

Federalism exists for long if many political parties involve in the political system and share power interchangeably. Ethnic based political parities (partners of EPRDF) have to form a unitary inclusive national political party. And the federal government has to encourage more political parties to germinate.

These parties have to be strengthened and should come up with competitive options. They have to strive until they become strong and competitive enough to transform votes into seats and represent the ‘voice of the voiceless’ in parliament, Geberesilassie said.

Presently, governance problem, corruption, imbalance wealth distribution are some among the many hindrances of federal system. To end these, leaders should sustain accountability, transparency and make themselves free from such evil doings. Because, in course of time, they create danger on the sustainability of the system, he further said.

“Indeed, our country has been growing steadily. This is also the result of federalism. However, the youth should benefit out of the ongoing growth. As clearly stipulated in the preamble of the Constitution, we have to implement a unitary economic society. If this is so, equal wealth distribution would be practical among citizens,” Geberesilassie remarked.

Expressing that federalism needs peace badly, Geberesilassie underlined that addressing border demarcation issues with neighboring countries and among states is critical. He underlined that external damage could be a case for internal conflicts. Besides, raising awareness of the society towards federalism, involving the public hugely in the process is paramount importance.

“If a given country handling federalism properly, the system could be an instrument for unity rather than disparity, Geberesilassie said.

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