Local Level Decentralization in Ethiopia: Case Study of Tigray Regional State
Based on the literature on decentralization, this article investigates the institutional arrangement and autonomy of local governments in Tigray Regional state. It is based on two rounds of field work covering nine districts.
At a formal level, local governments are autonomous units with some defined mandates including power to decide on policy issues. In reality however, local governments in the study area act more as deconcentrated than as autonomous units since their autonomy is curtailed by higher level governments and party structures. Local governments are thus extension arms of the regional state with little autonomy of their own. Institutions such as elected councils, mayors and the executive exist at the local level but there is more vertical than horizontal accountability.
As a result, local Councils have not been able to ensure accountability. Thus decentralization has not resulted in popular control of local governance and local-level development as interests of the party and the local political elite prevail over popular interests. The article calls for rethinking the design of local government that would constitute a local government deal that shifts decision-making away from higher level institutions to the local level, constituting multi-stake holders having control over the affairs of local government.