The Federal-state Intergovernmental Relationship in Ethiopia: Institutional Framework and its Implication on State Autonomy

Author:Nigussie Afesha
Position:Nigussie Afesha, Lecturer at Hawassa University, College of Law and Governance, School of Law.
Pages:341-368
SUMMARY

Intergovernmental forums facilitate negotiation, non-hierarchical exchange of information and cooperation between the institutions of the two levels of government. This article explores the experience of the House of Federation, the Ministry of Federal Affairs and sector by sector harmonization in two federal Ministries and their respective regional bureaus. There is lack of an independent... (see full summary)

 
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341
The Federal-state Intergovernmental
Relationship in Ethiopia:
Institutional Framework and its Implication on State Autonomy
Nigussie Afesha
Abstract
Intergovernmental forums facilitate negotiation, non-hierarchical exchange of
information and cooperation between the institutions of the two levels of
government. This article explores the experience of the House of Federation,
the Ministry of Federal Affairs and sector by sector harmonization in two
federal Ministries and their respective regional bureaus. There is lack of an
independent institution in charge of consolidating inter-governmental relation
(IGR) and this in turn has led to gaps in the regularity, continuity and
effectiveness of the interactions. Save for some provisions of the Constitution
dictating non-hierarchal relationship between the federal and regional states,
the Ethiopian federation is generally characterized by a top-down relationship
which can erode the spirit of partnership. Establishing an appropriate legal
framework is thus essential to optimize the role of IGR in the Ethiopian federal
system. The House of Federation seems the appropriate institution to organize
IGR, and if the current dependence on the executive line remains unchanged,
the focal point for IGR should be the Prime Minister’s Office owing to its
enhanced opportunity to give binding decisions and its ability to control the
execution of decisions. Excessive reliance on political party lines evokes the
question as to what will happen if opposing parties manage to win elections at
federal and regional levels, and whether under such settings the collapse of the
Soviet Union could be a prophesy to the Ethiopian federalism as well. Such
risks call for stable and formal legal and institutional frameworks of IGR
toward harnessing centrifugal forces and nurturing unity within diversity.
Key terms
Intergovernmental relations, IGR, federalism, state autonomy, Ethiopia.
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mlr.v9i2.4
___________
Introduction
IGR focuses on how different orders of government in federal political systems
communicate and collaborate with each other. It encompasses the entire
Nigussie Afesha, Lecturer at Hawassa University, College of Law and Governance, School
of Law. I thank Beza Dessalegn, Bisrat Mulugeta and Anbesie Fura for their comments
and suggestions. I am also grateful to Elias N. Stebek and the anonymous reviewers for
their contributions toward the improvement of the article.
342 MIZAN LAW REVIEW, Vol. 9, No.2 December 2015
complex and interdependent relations among various spheres of government in
legal, financial and administrative matters and policy coordination. There are
various types of political arrangements or structural political organizations with
varying degrees of relevance and utility.1 An effective structure in a political
organization is conceived as the bedrock on which the state is erected.2 It is also
described as an indispensable determinant of administrative efficiency in any
state. One of such structural political organizations which have weathered the
test of time is federalism.3 The idea of federalism presupposes the existence of
tiers of government with defined competence and dominion of jurisdiction on
the same land.4 Powers and functions of each government are outlined as part of
the division of power and their sovereignty is also maintained. However, it does
not necessarily mean that the division of powers and functions between the
central government and constituent units remains fixed on permanent basis. It
rather involves a continuous process of political bargaining between the centre
and the federation units.5 To this end, the synergy among the different levels of
government needs to be backed by well-designed and institutionalized
intergovernmental relations.6 IGR is a vital norm and continues as a widely
shared and one of the most common characteristic of any federation.7 It
regulates and enhances communication between the institutions of the two levels
of government that have defined jurisdictions and are supreme within their
respective powers.
IGR focuses on how different orders of government in federal political
systems communicate and collaborate with each other. It encompasses the entire
complex and interdependent relations among various spheres of government
with respect to co-ordination of public policies.8 IGR as a concept is commonly
1 S.T. Akindele & O. R. Opaopa (2003). ‘The Theory and Practice of Federalism as a
Structural Mechanism of Governance: How Ad equate for Gender Struggle and
Representation in Nigeria?’, Kamla-Raj, Anthropologist Journal, Volume 5, No. 3: 169-
178, p 170.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Solomon Negussie (2008). Fiscal Federalism in the Ethiopian Ethnic-based Federal
System, Revised Edition, Wolf Legal Publishers, Oisterwijk, p.32.
5 Berhanu Gutema (2007). Restructuring State and Society: Ethnic Federalism in Ethiopia,
SPIRIT PhD Series, Thesis no. 8 published by SPIRIT & Department of Culture and
Global Studies p.29.
6 Mitullah Winnie V. (2012). ‘Intergovernmental Relations Act 2012: Reflection and
Proposals on Principles, Opportunities and Gaps’, FES Kenya Occasional Paper, No. 6, p.
4.
7 Meekison J. Peter (2000). Introduction, in the Meekison J. Peter, ed., on
“Intergovernmental relations in Federal countries: A series of Essays on the practice of
Federal Governance”, p1.
8 Mitullah Winnie V., supra note 6, p 5.

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