Ethno-Linguistic Federalism in Ethiopia: Opportunity or Threat to National Unity?

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Kena Deme


Even if Ethiopia is left without a single choice other than introducing the federal political system, it did not escape criticisms. Especially, as far as national unity is concerned, there are strong opposing views- the pro-unitary state and the pro-multiethnic federal system. This study is aimed at examining whether the so far ethno-linguistic federalism experience of the country has been contributing to national unity as well as national consensus or not. To this end, the study relied on secondary sources. Based on a systematic analysis of relevant sources, the following findings are obtained. Though the proponents of pro-unitary system are of the opinion that the current federal system which at least constitutionally gives equal footing to ethnic groups is against the national unity of Ethiopia, this study shows that it is not ethnic federalism that is a barrier to national unity but there are diverse factors. These factors include, but not limited to, unbalanced interest of ethnic groups' elites, inadequacy of commitment to ethno-linguistic federalism principle, lack of constitutionalism and misconception of ethno-nationalism. It is true that the popular struggle for real autonomy and self-rule on one hand and the division or confusion regarding the Ethiopian national unity on the other hand has continued. This study suggests that acknowledging past injustices, practicing ethno-linguistic federalism principle genuinely and foreseeing reciprocated fate are imperative for building national unity and national consensus in Ethiopia where all ethnic groups’ identity is treated equally.


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Author Biography

Kena Deme

Ambo University, College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Department of Civics and Ethical Studies