Federation Among Unequals. A Country Study of Constitutional Asymmetry in Ethiopia

  • Yonatan T. Fessha
  • Biniyam N. Bezabih
Part of the Federalism and Internal Conflicts book series (FEINCO)


Nine States and two administrative cities make up the Ethiopian federation. In terms of population and land size, Ethiopia is most likely one of the most unbalanced federations. Despite the political asymmetry that characterizes the federation, the Constitution enumerates equal powers for the nine States irrespective of their capacity and need. Constitutional asymmetry, it seems, is non-existent among Ethiopia’s subnational entities. This chapter argues that this, however, may not be true among ‘nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia’, the constituent communities of the federation. The constituent communities that ‘came together’ to form the Ethiopian federation enjoy different levels of power and carry a different degree of influence over central decision-making processes. This is significant considering the fact that most of the subnational entities are considered as belonging to a particular ethnic community. This means that despite the declared constitutional symmetry among the subnational entities, the constitutional asymmetry among the constituent communities may, to some extent, tantamount to asymmetry among the subnational entities. Although the repercussion of the asymmetry on the federation has not fully come into effect because of a ruling party that has effectively equalized the unequal subnational entities, this chapter argues, this is set to change as competitive politics replaces the political space that is currently characterized by ‘one-party dominance’, or when the balance of power within the ruling party goes under major reconfiguration, as seems to be happening these days.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yonatan T. Fessha
    • 1
    • 2
  • Biniyam N. Bezabih
    • 3
  1. 1.University of the Western CapeCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Eurac ResearchBolzanoItaly
  3. 3.University of TrentoTrentoItaly

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