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Re-examining Local Governance in Eritrea: The Redrawing of Administration Regions

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For more content, see Journal of Asian and African Studies.

AbstractThe post-independence government of Eritrea introduced Proclamation 86/1996 to redraw the administrative structure of the newly independent territory. The principle behind the redrawing was pronounced to be to serve decentralised governance system where considerable power is devolved to the regions. According to this principle the regions were provided with legislative, executive and judiciary bodies of local governance. Further the regions were also to be divided into sub-regions and village/area units with provisions of legislative, executive and judiciary organs that would enhance the local governing system where the local communities are provided both legally and practically the autonomy to run their political, economic, social and cultural life with less central interference. In practice however the governance system that was introduced following independence proved to be highly centralised. This became glaringly obvious following the outbreak of the second war (1998-2000) between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The paper critically re-examines local governance in Eritrea. It examines the various stages of redrawing of the regions over the historical trajectory of the making of Eritrea until the redrawing following independence. It examines the corresponding power structures and local governance systems. It also examines the modality of the redrawing and the political intentionality behind it. Through text interpretation and analysis the paper examines the connection between local governance and decentralisation. The paper draws the conclusion that the legal mechanism put in place and the discretionary power arrangement between the executive and legislative bodies could not provide ample space for local governance.

Affiliations: 1: The Nordic Africa Institute P O Box 1703, SE-751 47 Uppsala Sweden, Email: redie.bereketeab@nai.uu.se, URL: http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink

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