Federalism Debate: Are Somali Ethiopians Less Ethiopian? – M. Qardojeex

March 12th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

Debate rages over the future and well-being of Ethiopia as election fever grips this nation. (more…)

Debate rages over the future and well-being of Ethiopia as election fever grips this nation. While some of the debates are public and political parties face off on issues of national importance, others are just private conversations between ordinary citizens. One debate that caught my attention though is the recently televised acrimonious debate between the ruling party, EPRDF, and some opposition parties over the Federal system.

A small group of us watched this debate together and we had an after-thought conversation about the current Federal system. The small band agreed on some issues and disagreed over other key pillars of the unique Federal arrangement in Ethiopia, but we finally plunged into a specific discussion on whether the current ethnic-based Federalism has provided a better representation for the historically marginalised Somali Ethiopians- we were all from the Somali region (Ogaden). It is obvious that election related discussions are going on all over the place and need not be publicised, but a very significant constitutional question was raised in our exchange and it begs for an answer- the question of the representation formula in the House of People’s Representatives (HPR).

According to the supreme law of the land, i.e. the constitution, every 100,000 citizens have the right to elect one Member of Parliament (MP) who represents them in the House of People’s Representatives. The website of the Ethiopian Federal Parliament points to this fact and says “Each member of the HPR represent 100,000 constituency”. Since representation is based on population estimates, let us take Tigray which has a population size similar to the Somali region. Based on the 1994 Census by the Central Statistical Agency, both regions had a little less than 3.8 million populations. In accordance, Tigray has currently 38 MPs in the House of People’s Representatives and that is 1MP per 100,000 citizens (view the Ethiopian parliament website to see the list of MPs). On the other hand, Somali region has 23 MPs in the House of People’s Representatives which corresponds to 1MP per 160,000 citizens. This discrepancy was raised during our discussion and none of us could find an answer. Can you?

Tigray is not the only well represented state in the HPR. Oromia, Amhara, Sothern Nations, Afar, and all other Federal states except the Somali Regional State are represented based on their population size.

The fact that the House of People’s Representatives is the highest authority of the Federal government one may assume that it mirrors the rest of the Federal institutions in Ethiopia. I therefore urge the Federal Government to look into this constitutional issue before the upcoming election takes place.

M. Qardojeex

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