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Federalism and Conflict Management in Ethiopia

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  Federalism and Conflict Management in Ethiopia: Case Study of Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State Mesfin Gebremichael PhD 2011  Federalism and Conflict Management in Ethiopia: Case Study of Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State Mesfin Gebremichael Submitted for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Peace Studies University of Bradford September 2011   I Abstract In 1994 Ethiopia introduced a federal system of government as a national level approach to intra-state conflict management. Homogenisation of cultures and languages by the earlier regimes led to the emergence of ethno-national movements and civil wars that culminated in the collapse of the unitary state in 1991. For this reason, the federal system that recognises ethnic groups‟ rights is the first step in transforming the structural causes of civil wars in Ethiopia. Against this background this research examines whether the federal arrangement has created an enabling environment in managing conflicts in the country. To understand this problematic, the thesis conceptualises and analyses federalism and conflict management using a qualitative research design based on in-depth interviewing and content-based thematic analysis  –   taking the case study of the Benishangul-Gumuz regional state. The findings of the study demonstrate that different factors hinder the federal process. First, the constitutional focus o n ethnic groups‟ rights has led, in practice, to lessened attention to citizenship and minority rights protection in the regional states. Second, the federal process encourages ethnic-based elite groups to compete in controlling regional and local state powers and resources. This has greatly contributed to the emergence of ethnic-based violent conflicts, hostile intergovernmental relationships and lack of law and order along the common borders of the regional states. Third, the centralised policy and decision making process of the ruling party has hindered genuine democratic participation of citizens and self-determination of the ethnic groups. This undermines the capacity of the regional states and makes the federal structure vulnerable to the dynamics of political change. The conflicts in Benishangul-Gumuz emanate from these causes, but lack of territorial land use rights of the indigenous people and lack of proportional political representation of the non-indigenous people are the principal manifestations. The research concludes by identifying the issues that determine the sustainability of the federal structure. Some of them include: making constitutional amendments which consider citizenship rights and minority rights protection; enhancing the democratic  participation of citizens by developing the capacities of the regional states and correcting the organisational weakness of the multi-national political parties;   II encouraging co-operative intergovernmental relationships, and maintaining the territorial land use rights of the Benishangul-Gumuz indigenous people. Keywords: Federalism, Ethnic groups, Intra-state Conflict, Conflict management, Intergovernmental relationships

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