The Genesis of Decentralization in Ethiopia: An Overview

Alene Agegnehu Worku Dibu


Ethiopia in the hitherto periods was characterized as highly decentralized state where the regional or local governments possess much power even some times more than the central government. The central government especially during the Zemen Mesafint or the era of lord was very weak that it was incapable to maintain strong and unified state. Consequently, Ethiopia in that critical period was fragmented and ruled by various local rulers. However, as time goes in the second half of the 19th century, attempts were done to centralized and unified Ethiopia and it was successfully accomplished in the last decade of 19th century and such intense centralization policy was continued until the third quarter of the 20th century.

In spite of this historical fact, currently, Ethiopia undergo a process of far-reaching decentralization, immediately after the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) come in to power in 1991. The nature of decentralization registered in this period was differed from the hitherto one in that it gives for regional governments constitutional guarantee and give unconditional rights to self-determination including the right to secession under Article-39 of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) constitution in order to accommodating ethnic diversity and to avert a century old nationality problems. Besides to this, in the second phase of decentralization the lower tiers of government (districts) are established and constitutionally granted at least at state level. The most imperative objectives of such decentralization are developing grassroots democracy through increasing local participation, enhancing development and, rendering efficient and prompt social services to local people.

Keywords: Decentralization, Regional Government, District Level Government

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