Ethnic Federalism and Nation Building in Development: The Case of Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa University


In 1991, Ethiopia introduced a system of ethnic based federalism. The recognition of Ethiopian ethnic diversity became one of the core principles largely consisting of ethnic based territorial units. This thesis examines the impact of ethnic federalism and nation building in democratic inclusion to enhance cooperation and integration toward political compromise, national consensus and shared identity within diversity that facilitates sustainable development. The thematic focus of this research is to account the constitutional aspiration and optimism of holding ethnically divided societies together in the context of constitutional and extra constitutional setbacks in Ethiopia’s Ethnic Federalism in the path of fostering belongingness to overall identity accompanied by inclusionary, participatory and sustainable development. Although the Constitution embodies a doctrine of balance between unity and diversity to build one economic and political community by rectifying past injustices, politicization of ethnicity under the context of ethnic federalism has encouraged ethnic cleavages by forming distinctiveness and differences which is a backlash against nation building and shared aspirations. Therefore, there is the need for visionary thinking outside the box of past injustices so that the antithesis for these injustices is not taken too far to the extent of derailing shared identity and shared aspirations. This indeed calls for democratic inclusive institutions for the betterment of Ethiopia’s future rather than centrifugal reactions to the past.



Ethnicity, ethnic federalism, nation, nation building, development, Ethiopia