n Africa Insight - Ethiopia and the challenge of diversity

Volume 34, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-2804


Almost all African states have to find some way of managing their legacy of ethnic diversity - a task that becomes more challenging as the spread of democracy encourages people to organise themselves politically, in ways that reflect their own identities. Ethiopia is no exception, but the present Ethiopian government has responded to the challenge of diversity in a very different way from any of its African peers, or indeed its predecessors, through the creation of a federal system that is explicitly based on ethnicity, and the promulgation in 1995 of a constitution that explicitly grants to each of the country's "nations, nationalities and peoples" the right of self-determination, up to and including secession. This article seeks the origins of this approach in Ethiopia's distinctive historical experience, considers the various alternative solutions to the challenge of diversity that have been attempted in the past, examines the workings of the new system as it has emerged since the accession to power of the EPRDF regime in 1991, and makes some cautious prognostications about the future.

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