The Matrix of Ethnic Federalism in Ethiopia in Protecting Internal Minority Rights: Examining Perceptions in Oromia Regional State

Abstract views: 1507 / PDF downloads: 388




Internal Minorities, Ethnic Federalism, Ethiopia, Amhara, Goba


This study aimed to analyze the matrix of ethnic federalism in protecting internal minority rights in Ethiopia via Goba and Robe towns as a case study at Oromia regional state. The post-1990s political formula of Ethiopia was designed considering all ethnolinguistic groups as inhabitants of their own defined territory. It seems that in the architecture of the constitution, there will be ethnic homogeneous states. But, the reality in the ground has shown that none of the units is purely homogenous due to economic migration, (re)settlement, villagization programs, and freedom of movement granted in the constitution. A mixed approach with a cross-sectional survey was used. Questionnaires, interviewees, focused group discussion, and document analyses were used as a primary data. Snowball and purposive sampling were used to select survey respondents. In both town administrations, a kin situation exists; there are constitutional and other legal frameworks gaps, inducing mistrust and tension between minorities and dominant groups, systematic segregation, denying fair and effective representation at levels of government. Therefore, adequately recognizing and legalizing the rights of internal minorities should be the prime duty of the region, establishing particular institutions mandated to protect internal minorities, and government should work on fostering people-to-people integration to reverse the looming mistrust.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Getaye Mulugeta, Injibara University

federalism theory, federalism and conflict management, minority right issues, identity politics, governance, local government and related issues

Gizachew Asrat Woldemariam,  College of Social Science and Humanities at Wolkite University-Wolkete; Ethiopia.

Gizachew Asrat, a Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science, currently serving at the Institute of Foreign Affairs as a Senior Researcher at Pace and Security Directorate. Major interest areas for research are migration, political leadership, federalism, peace and security, border security, non-state armed actors, local government and related issues.


Aalen, L. (2002). Ethnic federalism in a dominant party state: The Ethiopian experience 1991-2000. In Report - Chr. Michelsen Institute (Issue 2).

Aalen, L. (2006). Ethnic federalism and self-determination for nationalities in a semi-authoritarian state: The case of Ethiopia. International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, 13(2–3), 243–261. DOI:

Abbink, J. (2006). Ethnicity and conflict generation in Ethiopia: Some problems and prospects of ethno-regional federalism. Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 24(3), 389–413. DOI:

Abbink, Jon. (2011). Ethnic-based federalism and ethnicity in Ethiopia: Reassessing the experiment after 20 years. Journal of Eastern African Studies, 5(4), 596–618. DOI:

Abebe, S. G. (2012). The dilemma of adopting ethnic federal system in Africa in light of the perspectives from Ethiopian experience. Journal of African Studies and Development, 4(7), 168–175.

Addisu, S. M. (2018). Legal and Practical Responses to the Rights of Ethno- National Minorities in Federal Ethiopia : Case Study of Amhara and Oromia National Regional States (Issue March). All in One-final Version 2.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Addisu, S. M. (2020). The Need to Accommodate the Basic Rights of Ethno-National Minorities in the Oromia Regional State of Federal Ethiopia. In International Studies in Human Rights (Vol. 131).

Agegnehu, A. and W. D. (2016). Does Ethnic Federalism Exacerbating or Reducing Conflicts? The Ethiopian Federal Experiences. International Journal of Emerging Trends in Science and Technology, 03(12), 4838–4845. DOI:

Ahadu, E. (2020). Does democracy affect ethnic minority rights? Evidence from Ethiopian minorities. Agathos:An International Review of the Humanities and Social Science, 11(1), 391–410.

Assefa F. (2007). Federalism and the Accommodation of Diversity in Ethiopia. A Comparative Study. Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers.

Berhane, Z., & Tefera, S. (2018). Does Federalism Reduce Ethnic Conflict? Evidence From the Ethiopian Experience. Ethiopian Journal of the Social Sciences and Humanities, 14(1), 105–131. DOI:

Bieber, F. (2001). Balancing Political Participation and Minority Rights: The Experience of the former Yugoslavia. Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, 2(2).

Cairns, A. (1995). “Constitutional Government and the Two Faces of Ethnicity: Federalism Is not Enough:Rethinking Federalism: Citizens, Markets, and Governments in a Changing World (S. R. and S. K. (eds. . Knopf Karen, Ostry Sylvia (ed.); pp. 15–39). , University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver.

Central Statistical Agency. (2007). Summary and Statistical Report of the 2007 Population and Housing Census.

Chekole, H. T. (2012). Issues of Minority Rights in the Ethiopian Federation (Issue April).

Cochran, W. (1977). Sampling Techniques (3rd ed.). John Wiley & Sons.

Cohen, G. (2006). The Development of Rergional & Local Languages in Ethiopia’s Federal System. In Turton David (Ed.), Ethnic Federalism. The Ethiopian Experience in Comparative Perspective (pp. 165–180). Ohio University Press.

Constitution, F. D. R. of E. (1995). The 1995 Federal Democratic Republic Constition of Ethiopia.

Daba, T. (2010). The Legal and Practical Protection of the Rights of Minorities in Self Administering Nations of Ethiopia : The Case of Oromia. [Addis Ababa University].

Dessalegn, B. (2013). The Right of Minorities to Political Participation under the Ethiopian Electoral System. Mizan Law Review, Vol. 7(No.1), 67–100. DOI:

Dessalegn, B. (2016). Ethnic federalism and the effective political participation of minorities in Ethiopia. Peace, Federalism and Human Rights, 58–73.

Eresso, M. K. (2021). Challenges in Ethiopia’s Post-1991 Ethnic Federalism Entwined with Ethnic-based Political Parties. Mizan Law Review, 15(2), 313–350. DOI:

Fessha, Y. T. (2017). The Original Sin of Ethiopian Federalism. Ethnopolitics, 16(3), 232–245. DOI:

Fessha, Y. T., & Beken, C. Van der. (2013). Ethnic Federalism and Internal Minorities: The Legal Protection of Internal Minorities in Ethiopia. African Journal of International and Comparative Law, 21(1), 32–49. DOI:

Fiseha, A. (2012). Ethiopia’s Experiment in Accommodating Diversity: 20 Years’ Balance Sheet. Regional and Federal Studies, 22(4), 435–473. DOI:

Fiseha, A. (2017). Intra-Unit Minorities in the Context of Ethno-National Federation in Ethiopia. Utrecht Law Review, 13(1), 170. DOI:

Gebremichael, M. (2011). Federalism and Conflict Management in Ethiopia. Case Study of Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State. University of Bradford.

Halabo, T. T. (2019). The Politics of Ethnic Identity and Conflicts under Ethnic Federal System in Ethiopia. Journal of International Politics, 1(2), 15–27.

Holder, Christina, Zeba Huq, and M. C. R. (2006). Early Warning in Ethiopia: Analysis. Human Rights and Genocide Clinic Cardozo, School of Law.

Keller, E. J., & Omwami, E. M. (2007). T. I. J. of A. S. (2007). Federalism, Citizenship and National Identiy in Ethiopia. The International Journal of African Studies., 6(1), 37–69.

Kendie, D. (2003). The Causes of the Failure of the Present Regime in Ethiopia. Source: International Journal of Ethiopian Studies, 1(1), 177–213.

Lijphart, A. (1977). Democracy in the Plular scoiety: A Comparative Exploration. Yale University Press.

Malloy, T. H. (2015). Introducion. In F. P. Tove H. Malloy (Ed.), Minority Accommodation Through Territorial and Non-territorial Autonomy (pp. 1–7). Oxford University Press. DOI:

McGarry, John, and B. O. (2005). Federation as a method of ethnic conflict regulation:From Power Sharing to Democracy: Post-Conflict Institutions in Ethnically Divided Societies. Forum of Federations, 263–296.

Moser, G. R. (2008). Electoral systems and the representation of ethnic minorities: Evidence from Russia. In Comparative Politics (Vol. 40, Issue 3, pp. 273–292). DOI:

Mowbray, J. (2012). Linguistic justice: International law and language policy. Oxford University Press. DOI:

Republic of South Africa. (1996). Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. In South African Government.

Selassie, A. G. (2003). Ethnic Federalism: Its Promise and Pitfalls for Africa. Yale Journal of International Law, 28, 51.

State, O. R. (2001). Oromia Regional State Constitution. DOI:

Temesgen, S. M. (2015). Weaknesses of Ethnic Federalism in Ethiopia. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science I, 4(11), 2319–7714.

Tesfaye, Y. (2008). Institutional Recognition and Accommodation of Ethnic Diversity : Federalism in South Africa and Ethiopia [University of the Western Cape].

Twibell, T. S. (1999). Ethiopian Constitutional Law : The Structure of the Ethiopian Government and the New Constitution ’ s Ability to Overcome Ethiopia ’ s Problems. Digital Commons at Loyola Marymount, 21(3).

Van der Beken, C. (2007). Ethiopia: Constitutional Protection of Ethnic Minorities at the Regional Level. Afrika Focus, 20(1–2), 105–151. DOI:

Van Der Beken, C. (2015). Federalism, local government and minority protection in ethiopia: Opportunities and challenges. Journal of African Law, 59(1), 150–177. DOI:

Verstichel, A. (2010). Understanding minority participation and representation and the issue of citizenship: Political Participation of Minorities: A Commentary on International Standards and Practice (K. N. Marc Weller (ed.); pp. 72–94). Oxford University Pres Inc.

Will Kymlicka. (1995). Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights. Oxford University Pres Inc. DOI:

Will Kymlicka. (2007). Multicultural Odysseys: Navigationg the New International Politics of Diversity. Oxford University Pres Inc.

Wolff. (2008). Minority rights in the western Balkans. Brussels: European Parliament., 5–24.

Wolff, S. (2013). Conflict Management in Divided Societies: The Many Uses of Territorial Self-Governance. International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, 20(1), 27–50. DOI:

Záhořík, J. (2014). Ethiopia’s Hegemony in the Horn of Africa: Internal Tensions and External Challenges Before and After Meles Zenawi. Journal of the Middle East and Africa, 5(1), 23–38. DOI:




How to Cite

Mulugeta, G., & Woldemariam, G. (2022). The Matrix of Ethnic Federalism in Ethiopia in Protecting Internal Minority Rights: Examining Perceptions in Oromia Regional State. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 9(1), 206–225.



Original Manuscript
Received 2021-12-02
Accepted 2022-02-15
Published 2022-02-25