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