It has been two decades now since Ethiopia formally adopted a decentralized/federal form of governance. Ethiopia’s federalist project was a radical departure from the hitherto highly centralized state structure and it represented the culmination of a century old nation-building project. The remaking of the state was unique not only for it adopted a federal system of governance but also because of the prominence it gave to ‘ethnicity’ and the notion of ‘self-determination’ in the affairs of the state.
After a struggle for two decades, in August 2010 Kenyans passed a new constitution which, provides for transfer of authority, administrative responsibility and resources from the central government to 47 subnational governance units—or counties. This constitutional provision under Chapter 11 represents a fundamental shift in the state structure and mode of governance in Kenya from centralized governance to a devolved government.
“What can be done to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again?” asked Said S Samatar in an Africa Report paper in 1993 after the fragmentation of the state of Somalia into regional, clan-based entities. The latest formula prescribed for Somalia is the 2012 constitution—which is still a work in progress—and which lays down federalism as the future form of governance for a fractured society that has not been governed by a central state since 1991. However, unlike other Horn of Africa countries, state-building in Somalia is happening along a diagonally divergent trajectory.