The politics of ethnonational accommodation under a dominant party regime: Ethiopia’s three decades’ experience

Bizuneh Yimenu*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Ethiopia is the most prominent example of the late 20th-century adoption of federalism to accommodate diversity and complete state-building. This article explores the implementation of federalism and accommodation of ethnonational diversity in dominant party regimes by using Ethiopia as a case. Drawing on legal documents, literature, news sources and government reports, the article argues that federalism enabled distinctive groups to promote their culture, use their languages and exercise self-rule in their territory. However, ethnonationalities’ constitutionally proclaimed self-determination rights and the practice rarely correspond. Although all ethnonationalities have the same constitutional rights, some are still subjugated, and self-rule remains their dream. The dominant party regime in Ethiopia met demands for self-rule and accommodation with suppression and violence. The constitution grants regions to use their legislative powers to accommodate region-specific demands; nevertheless, regions cannot operate out of the narrow framework of the federal ruling party. Thus, regions became repressive agents of the centre rather than genuine self-rule agents. Insights from Ethiopia have broader implications for states embracing federalism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Asian and African Studies
Early online date12 May 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 May 2022


  • Ethiopia
  • accommodation
  • ethnic federalism
  • diversity
  • constitution
  • region
  • dominant party
  • nations and nationalities


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