The poem satirically portrays the reality we live in. The regions have for long relinquished their constitutional right of administering their land in the name of allocation efficiency particularly in respect to investment. The central government in many situations stretches its long arms to undermine the federal units’ mandates of using land as a means to implement socio-economic policy objectives. If a particular investment requires a land area exceeding a certain amount, contractual dealings are handled by the central government. Land being a highly valued natural resource and a lever for political, social and economic policy making and effectiveness, there will not be a meaningful decentralized governance in the absence of some control on decision making powers relating to land.
Matters of huge national significance fall in the hands of the federal government that makes decisions having direct implications on members of the federation and the Ethiopian people collectively. Economic directions like developmental state policy or otherwise, the establishment and expansion of large state-owned enterprises, provision of generous tax incentives for multinationals etc are exclusively decided at the center. One may be tempted to say that representation is achieved through the parliamentarians who must bring to the floors of the House the voices of their constituencies. However, the stature and practices of our Lower House (House of Peoples’ Representatives) does suggest everything but being critical on the central power politics. Voter turnout has for long been extremely low in the country, particularly pre and post 2005 elections, due to the narrow democratic space. Under these circumstances, parties (in our case members of the ruling coalition) get voted-in by presenting candidates who are not necessarily ‘meant something in society’, rather because they happen to be members of the political party that rallies them forward. Accordingly, in the words of David Van Reybrouk ‘they are going to mean something because they are elected.’ A genuine representation in parliament and mechanism of consultations with regional councils including lower level administrative units is required to accommodate the interests and aspirations of the regions on matters that help ‘establish and sustain one economic community.’
In today’s digital world where awareness levels on what happens around the world is at its peak, more localized governance and direct citizens’ engagement is critical. Our federal arrangement as a structure is useful if we are ready to look at it as a means to devolve power down to the regions. Recalling my earlier note on I believe that we have what it takes to bring government closer to the governed, instead of laboring on the impossible task of bringing the governed closer to government through rationing of positions that should rather go to those with merits. It is desirous therefore to endeavor for more decentralization of government on subjects of, among others, taxation, governance and land administration. What we have seen for a long time is political decentralization which unfortunately is again nominal due to an internal party system that is highly influenced by the old Bolshevik’s legacy of democratic centralism.