Stability and Trust in Federations with Ethnic Territories and a Secession Clause – Challenges and Opportunities for Ethiopia
Internationa Journal on Minority and Group Rights, 2021 (Forthcoming)
12 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2020
Date Written: September 8, 2020
How might Ethiopia maintain its federal structure within present territorial borders? Most federal states experience ‘constitutional contestation’ navigating between complete centralization and secession. We should expect further such instability in Ethiopia especially due to two factors: regions and political parties follow ethnic line; and a secession clause in the Ethiopian Constitution. The article identifies some suggestions for how to increase stability and trust under such circumstances, drawn from tentative international comparisons among ethnic-based federal states. Among the particular concerns are the interests of oppressed minorities and ways to quell calls for secession.
A central challenge is to secure sufficient political trust. The public must be assured of general compliance with rules, by authorities and individuals across regional borders. This requires authoritative, independent ways to settle disagreements and monitor compliance, including carefully designed multi-level checks and balances, representatives of regions in central decision making bodies, and a ‘competence police.’ From this perspective we should welcome the prohibition of the 2019 Election law against ethnically based political parties. Strong and credible human rights constraints both on the central authorities and the sub-units may also foster trust, e.g. by an impartial and independent judiciary and international human rights bodies, as well as free media and functioning opposition parties. This is one further reason why Ethiopia should grant the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACtHPR) jurisdiction to hear cases from NGOs and individuals.
Keywords: Ethiopia, Federalism, secession, human rights
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