Federalism and Conflict and Ethiopia

At just over 77 million, Ethiopia is the third-most populous country in Africa. since 1991, Ethiopia has been implementing an ethno-linguistic federal politico-legal arrangement. As per Articles 1 and 47 of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic republic of Ethiopia, the country is a federation of nine ethno-linguistically divided regional states. These can be classified into three groups, based on (i) their population numbers, as minority or majority in the federation; (ii) ethno-linguistic diversity, as multi-ethnic or homogeneous; and (iii) way of life, as settled or pastoralist.1 The Tigray, Afar, Amhara, Oromia and Somali regional states (taking the name of their majority inhabitants) are more or less ethnically homogeneous, with a dominant ethno-linguistic community at regional level. Percentages of the population that are from their respective dominant ethno-linguistic communities in these states are as follows: Tigray 94.98%, Afar 91.8%, Amhara 91.2%, Oromia 85%, and Somali 95.6%.2 The remaining four regional states (southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s region or SNNP; Gambella; Benshangul/Gumuz and Harari) are multi-ethnic, without a de jure dominant ethno-linguistic community. This does not mean there is no ethno-cultural dominant community in power, even if that community could be a minority in number.3 In an ethnic federal arrangement, a minority ethno-cultural community could have dominant power as a result of economic or/and political domination it exercises.

Conflict Trends 2010