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Decentralization and political opposition in contemporary Africa: evidence from Sudan and Ethiopia

By Elliott D. Green


A growing literature in political science has examined the impact of democratization on decentralization without much attention, however, to how decentralization influences political opposition movements. In order to help fill this gap, in this contribution I examine two case studies of decentralization in Africa, namely Sudan's experiment with decentralization in the 1970s and Ethiopia's more recent experience with decentralization since the 1990s. In the former case political opposition pressured the government to abandon decentralization in the South, leading to a renewed civil war and a successful coup d'├ętat, while in the latter case the political opposition has both remained fragmented and failed to gain a foothold in a series of national elections. I argue that the key reason for these divergent outcomes was the differing equality of decentralization. More specifically, inasmuch as Sudanese decentralization initially only applied to the South, political opposition in the North remained united and instead focused its attentions on Khartoum. In Ethiopia, however, President Zenawi's regime introduced an equitable form of ethnic federalism across 11 regions, which quickly became a site for political party competition and fragmentation. This contribution thus suggests that equitable decentralization can promote opposition political party fragmentation

Topics: DT Africa, JF Political institutions (General)
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1080/13510347.2011.603476
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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