Ethnicity and restructuring of the state in Ethiopia – By Berhanu Gutema Balcha

June 1st, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Ethnicity has been a key criterion in restructuring the Ethiopian state in federal lines. The cases of dissolved ethno-federal arrangements such as that of the USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia resonated pessimism about the feasibility of federalism based on ethno linguistic lines. In contrast, some relatively successful ethno-linguistic federal arrangements like those of India and Switzerland have shown the feasibility of ethnic federalism in divided societies. Both, critiques and advocates of ethnic federalism have their justifications. (more…)

Ethnicity has been a key criterion in restructuring the Ethiopian state in federal lines. The cases of dissolved ethno-federal arrangements such as that of the USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia resonated pessimism about the feasibility of federalism based on ethno linguistic lines. In contrast, some relatively successful ethno-linguistic federal arrangements like those of India and Switzerland have shown the feasibility of ethnic federalism in divided societies. Both, critiques and advocates of ethnic federalism have their justifications. Advocates hold that ethnic federalism could reduce groups’ disparity, promote accommodation and self-rule, encourage ethnic harmony through co-existence and reduce secession or disintegration tendencies (Lijphart 1977 and 2002, Gurr and Harff 1994; Hameso 1997; Kimenyi 1997; Clapham 2001; O’Leary 2002; Osaghae 2006; Kymlicka 2006). In contrast, critiques argue that ethnic federalism could institutionalise ethnic discrimination, obstruct individual citizens rights, strengthen centrifugal forces, introduce zero-sum ethnic competition and generate dangerous reactions like ethnic cleansing, expulsion and disintegration (Lipset 1963; Nordlinger 1972; Ake 1996; Fleiner 2000; Nyong’o 2002; Egwe 2003; Mamdani 2005).

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