Segmented pluralism and democratisation in Africa : the case of Ethiopia
The principal aim of this dissertation is to examine the dynamics of the contemporary reconstruction of the Ethiopian state on the basis of "ethnic federalism" and democratisation. Among the many African multiethnic polities, Ethiopia is the only country that recognises ethnicity explicitly as an organising principle, even to the extent of de-emphasising the idea of a unitary state and national identity. According to Article 39 (1) of the new Ethiopian Constitution, "every nation, nationalities and peoples in Ethiopia has a right to selfdetermination, including secession. " No other constitution (except, briefly, the former Soviet Constitution) has ever gone so far as to allow such a right. This is perhaps understandable in view of the recent history of regional and ethno-political violence in Ethiopia. The study adopts an historical approach using a qualitative methodology. It analyses and demonstrates how the policies of state centralisation and Amhara hegemonic control transformed ethnic identity into nationalist mobilisation and conflict that finally ended military rule and brought about the demise of Amhara hegemony. It then examines the government that replaced the military regime of Mengistu, its theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of "ethnic federalism" and the democratic accommodation of diversity. The study finds that Ethiopia's political system that began in 1991 has successfully established a new federal democratic order but has so far failed to become a truly "selfgoverning unit" and consolidated democracy. Democratisation and devolution of power opened channels for Ethiopian nations and nationalities to participate as equal citizens in Ethiopian political life and to access to political power, resources, and to protect their ethnic interests both at the national and local levels. It resulted in the formation of local autonomy where regional states were set up on the basis of ethnicity. Ethiopian political change has taken place under inauspicious circumstances that are generally unfavourable to democratic transition and consolidation. And, whilst the EPRDF has made major strides towards successful democratisation in spite of these conditions, it has been unable to consolidate fully the new federal institutions in Ethiopia. As a result, it has instead been transformed into a pseudo-federal and democratic state with minority [Tigrean] hegemony at the centre. The study concludes that non-democratic federalism, with which the EPRDF regime tried to experiment, can generate violence rather than serving as a political panacea for ethnic conflict, as also attested by Yugoslav and Soviet experience. The study stresses that successful federalism requires the end of TPLF hegemony and a democratic arrangement that can facilitate "real self-government" for the nation, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia in line with the new Ethiopian Constitution. It notes that a democratic mechanism is effective as a means of dealing with ethnic cleavages in plural societies like Ethiopia. Thus, only if Ethiopia's democratisation can truly progress, can its political integration also advance and support for separatist movements consequently weaken If not, ethno-political conflict will continue and at worst the Yugoslav scenario might follow. Clearly the study of Ethiopian efforts at democratic change has relevance for similar problems beyond its boundaries. Recent events around the world have shown that nationalist conflicts are an important feature of the post-Cold War World. Although not a completely new phenomenon, ethnic conflicts are considered crucial challenges to national and international politics alike and are often accompanied by a gradual collapse of state authority, particularly in Africa. The persistence of ethnic identity in developed societies as well as in the former communist and developing states has challenged theories that assume that ethnic identity would disappear through modernisation. The ongoing civil war in many countries illustrates the problems of ethno-political conflicts and the needs for its management. Democratisation and power-sharing is emerging as a key element in contemporary [post] civil war settlements and to manage conflict in deeply divided societies.