Scholar Girum Gebremariam finishes PhD on Federalism and Relations in Multiethnic Ethiopia

19. May 2021
photo of scholars Girum Gebremariam
APPEAR scholar Girum Gebremariam was awarded a scholarship in 2017 within the framework of the project Advanced Academic Partnership for Legal and Human Rights Education |AAPLHRE to pursue his PhD studies in Law and Politics at Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz. In this article he reports about the results of his research and the opportunities of studying in Austria.

My doctoral research entitled “Federalism and Interethnic Relations in Multiethnic Ethiopia (1995 – 2018)” aimed to examine the operation and effect of federalism in Ethiopia on ethnic relations by considering three key areas that are most contentious from an interethnic perspective. These areas are territorial reorganisation, fiscal relations, and the use of preferential policies in regulating groups’ access to public employment and representation in the federal cabinet and institutions such as the military. My study resulted in the following three major findings. First, the analysis shows that ethnic-based territorial reorganisation causes violent conflicts among various ethnic groups and lays the ground for lingering ethnic tensions and conflicts. Secondly, fiscal decisions on ethno-regional units demonstrate that both budgetary and extra-budgetary resource transfers contribute to and accelerate interregional disparities in the country. Thirdly, my study finds that a sustained disproportional representation of various ethnic groups exists not only in the civil services of the federal and regional governments, but also in the federal cabinet and national armed forces. Finally, drawing on these findings, the study concludes that the Ethiopian federalism has failed to make good on its main promises: ending ethnic conflicts and pacifying interethnic relationships in the country so far. The study will advance our understanding of the operation and effects of the Ethiopian federalism on interethnic relations which may in turn allow for better use of federalism in harmonizing interethnic relationships in the country.

My PhD studies were part of the project Advanced Academic Partnership for Legal and Human Rights Education |AAPLHRE which aimed to strengthen the institutional capacities in higher education, research and management in the partner institution. The successful completion of my doctoral studies in this respect is quite significant for improving the academic development of our staff at the Ethiopian School of Law and Federalism which has a limited but growing social science expertise. That is to say, it could contribute to the strengthening of the institutional capacity development in terms of teaching quality, research and academic management capacities in particular.

During my doctoral studies in Austria, I had the chance to attend the European Forum Alpbach in 2017 under theme of ‘Conflict and Cooperation’ with the financial support by the Robert Bosch Foundation. As a young African academic my participation in the forum, which is considered to be essential in the context of generating and disseminating knowledge around this topical theme, was quite worthwhile and greatly benefited me as a PhD candidate. As an added value of this extraordinary event, I found an opportunity to network with other students, researchers, and other professionals from all over the world for sharing various ideas, perspectives, channels of thought, and experience. In so doing, I optimized my stay at the conference to grab a wealth of ideas, new thinking, and insight revolving around this topic. Apart from this, while participating in different cultural and social events in Austria (e.g., visiting museums, historical sites, art gallery, and attending music concerts) I made myself acquainted with the splendid Austrian culture and history.

For the future, promoting academic cooperation between my institution and the host institution in Austria is quite indispensable for the capacity development of our staff. Therefore, I would like to resume the cooperation we had for the last four years to further strengthen the institutional capacity development of the university in general and the academic development of our School of Law and Federalism in particular. I also have a plan to pursue my Post¬doctoral Studies in Austria to further go into details and refine the research which I have done during my previous studies if I could secure another scholarship from OeAD. On this occasion, I want to express my sincere thanks and deep gratitude OeAD and Austrian Development Cooperation whose generous financial support was critical during the last four years of my doctoral studies.

Girum Kinfemichael Gebremariam holds an MA in Federal Studies and a BA in Political Science and International Relations with minor in Management and Public Administration from Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Since then, he worked for different governmental institutions, colleges, and NGOs at various capacities before joining the Ethiopian Civil Service University, Institute of Federalism and Legal Studies (now School of Law and Federalism) as a full-time lecturer in August 2011. Since March 2017, he was a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Law, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz within the framework of the AAPLHRE project. He earned his PhD in Law and Politics in March 2021. As part of his PhD project, he presented research papers at conferences in Ethiopia and Slovakia in the area of federalism and conflict management.