The Role and Relevance of Subnational Constitutions in the Ethiopian Federal System in Promoting Effective Self-rule and Regional Autonomy: The Case of Oromia Regional State‟s Constitution

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Addis Ababa University


The Oromia regional state has had its own state constitution since the Transition Period. The state constitution has, since then, served as instrument of self-rule for the Oromo People with the 2001 revised version currently in effect. In practice, however, the document has, by and large, been awfully obscure and inadequately applied to insure effect self-rule entrenched in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) constitution. Extremely significant number of citizens of the regional state are not aware that the regional state has its own constitution let alone to observe it as supreme law of the state and rely on it as a safeguard of their rights and freedoms. As a result, the document has, for long, been an abandoned and inefficiently practiced contract. This study hence seeks to explore the role and practical relevance of the regional state‟s constitution toward promoting effective self-rule thereby fostering the federal system. It also aims to identify what major factors affect the relevance of the state constitution. In so doing, qualitative method of data collection and analysis was basically employed. Findings of the research pointed out that, though the FDRE constitution grants wider subnational constitutional space to constituent units, the Oromia regional state was not able to exhaustively utilize available space to adopt one that is legitimate and relevant. The state constitution fails to represent the state and its people, nor does it provide alternative public policy that meet the polity and interest of the Oromo People. The same document not only lacks legitimacy and public consent, but also was hardly known and applied. This paper argues that the state constitution has played an indispensable role in organizing the state as autonomous polity, and yet, the practical relevance of the document toward ensuring effective self-rule, rule of law and prevalence of subnational constitutionalism was extremely poor. This, by and large, attributes to the fact that the document was barely used in manner it can regulate the state politics and safeguard subnational citizens‟ rights. Lack of attention, underutilization, extreme similarity with the national constitution and exclusive reliance on the later, inaccessibility, its refusal to recognize minority nationalities have also been identified to be critical deficiencies attributing for poor competence of the constitution. Finally, this research work recommends that the Oromia state constitution needs to be revised on the base of meaningful public consultation so that these identified drawbacks be alleviated and it becomes legitimate document.



Role and Relevance