Ethnic conflict in Ethiopia: Federalism as a cause and solution
Adopted in 1991, ethnic federalism indeed paved the way for the recognition, accommodation, and institutionalization of ethnocultural diversity for the first time in the country’s history since its modern existence. What is equally important is, the practice of ethnic federalism complicated state-society and inter-group relationships creating a favorable environment for ethnic confrontation and conflict to take place in the country threatening national unity, eroded century-old values of coexistence, a hard ethnic boundary where administrative boundaries are served as political and ethnic differentiators like the Oromo and Somali conflict over contested boundaries. Territorial recognition, and institutionalization of ethnicity gave room for the emergence of ‘ethnic like and ethnic others’ thinking, made minorities in different regions victims of politics and failed to provide sound accommodation mechanisms from them, severely restricted people’s constitutional rights including the right to mobility and right to work, created room for the re-emergence of secessionist tendency. Hence, ethnic federalism while solving old problems of ethnic inequality and injustice; has created new problems of ethnic tensions and conflict across Ethiopia. It is the purpose of this study to investigate how and why federalism is being considered as the source of ethnic conflicts in the Ethiopian context. The study adopted a qualitative comparative approach while FGDs and key informant interviews were used to gather data. The finding of the study shows that though multinational federation plays an irreplaceable role to accommodate and institutionalize ethnocultural diversity, the notion and implementation of federalism instigate ethnic conflict in the Ethiopian context.
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