Mulatu Teshome (Dr.) Case Study on Ethiopia Ethnic Federalism in Ethiopia: a Model? Background About Modern Ethiopian State Formation The building of the modern Ethiopian State came in to reality with the Reign of Emperor Menelik II (1889 – 1913). He expanded his rule from the central highland regions of Amhara and Tigray to the South and East of the country which are modern Ethiopia’s Oromya Region, the Southern People’s Region with over 50 different ethnic groups, the Gambela, Benshangul-Gumuz, Afar, Somali and Harar Regions and established the borders of Ethiopia that we find today and a country which has over sixty different ethnic groups. Menelik defeated powerful traditional kingdoms, who had never been under the rule of the central highlanders before, such as the Oromo, the Wolaita, the Sidama, the Kafe, the Gurage, the Hadiya, the Kembata, the Somali, the Afar, the Hareri, etc which had their own kingdoms and sultanates. Emperor Menilik’s expansion can be viewed as a process of nation- building which used force and coercion in the process of uniting and creating a new Ethiopia and tried to consolidate the newly gained territories through the process of forced inclusion and assimilation. And it was this forced assimilationist policy of Menelik which did not pay respect to the language, culture, history, tradition and belief of the nations, nationalities and peoples who were conquered. The Menelik expansion included exploitation and subjugation which led to violent conflicts in many areas and the conquerors applied brutal methods to pacify those who showed resistance. The local elite had to become “Amharanized” to be accepted as administrators, which implied that they had to adopt, the Amharic language, religion, culture and way of life. Emperor Haile Selassie continued Menelik’s attempts to modernize the Ethiopian State by consolidating his power by relying on alliances with the land-owning class despite the creation of a large bureaucracy. He further pushed on Centralization of the State and increasingly autocratic style of governance. The highly centralized rule of Emperor Haile Selassie, supported by agricultural aristocracy blocked the land reform and prevented transition to a modern economy. This induced the first peasant rebellions, and later ethnically based liberation fronts started campaigns in several parts of the country. The agrarian crisis culminated, and the 1974 “Creeping Coup” of military autocracy replaced monarchial absolutism as a result of class conflicts as well as the emergence of national questions. Mengistu Hailemariam emerged as the undisputed leader of the Derg by replacing the monarchical absolutism with military Marxism as the ideology for building the nation and concentrating the power in his hand, at the center. During Mengistu’s rule, nationality based resistance movements replaced the role of regional lords as centrifugal forces. The national movements (ethnically based opposition and liberation movements) defined the Derg and Mengistu’s Government as an Amhara oppressor. And it was these national liberation movements who finally brought down the Mengustu regime and established a transitional civilian government in May, 1991. The Transitional Charter and the Delimitation of Regional Units and the Establishment of Regional Self-government. In July 1991, the National conference on peace and Reconciliation was attended by 27 political organizations which were organized in line with their nation nationality or people, i.e., ethnic based organizations. The conference adopted the Transitional Charter which worked as an interim constitution. The Transitional Charter assured the right to self- determination for nations, nationalities and peoples, and the aim of establishing elected regional and local administrations based on ethnic lines (nation, nationality and peoples lines). The first elections in the transitional period were conducted in 1992, to fulfill the aims of empowering ethnic and national groups by decentralizing authority, federalizing governmental stractures and providing local government with a popular mandate. There is no doubt that monopolization of power at the center and the subsequent exclusion of nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia from public affairs were the root causes of conflict in Ethiopia. The grand national projects from Emperror Minelik, Emperror Haile Sellasie down to the Derg-Mengistu era was the project of national integration and assimilation based on religion or language schemes. The implicit assumption that considers Ethiopia as a single religion and cultural unit, i.e. Orthodox Christian and Amharic Speaking, at least, was expected to form a “true Ethiopian Citizen”. Therefore, before going to the federal set-up of Ethiopia, let us look in to where the discourse on multiculturalism becomes relevant or not and what ought reflect a much broader and inclusive view of the various diversities that define the Ethiopian policy. Let us see below some facts about Ethiopia, and Ethiopia’s different ethnic community groupings and their religion in order to get a true picture of it. The Ethnic Situation in Ethiopia There are 63 nations, nationalities and peoples which have a seat in the House of Federation. These nations, nationalities and peoples, belong to four different ancestral families without prejudice to their ethnic origin. These four ancestral families are the Nilo-Saharan; the Omotic, the Kushitic, and the Sematic ancestral families. The Nilo-Saharan family of nations and nationalities are settled in Benishangul-Gummz, Gambela and Southern Nations regions. These are the Berta, Suri, Mejanger, Gumuz, Tirma, Anuya, Kunama, Mursi, Nuer, Komo, Langa, Muguji, etc. All in all, this family of nations has a total of 20 ethnic or language groups. The Omotic family of nations and nationalities are found mostly in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region. These are the Ari, Banna, Basketo, Chora, Dime, Gimira, Yem, Kechema, Kafficho, Mocha, Koyara, Maji, Male, Sheko, Wolayta, Dorze, Gamo Gofa, Kullo, Konta, Mallo, Oyde, Zeye, etc. This group has 25 ethnic or language groups. The Kushitic family of Nations, Nationalities and Peoples is the largest group, the most populous, and occupies the regions of Oromya, Afar, Somali, SNNP State, Amhara, Tigray and Harar Regions. The list of the kushitic family includes the Oromo, Afar, Somali, Hadiya, Kembata, Timbaro, Alaba, Konso, Kimant, Irob, Sidama, Arbore, Awi, Beyso, Burji, etc. This group also totals over twenty. The semetic family of Nations, Nationalities and Peoples are found in Tigray, Amhara, SNNPRS, and Harari regions. This family includes the Amhara, Tigray, Argoba, Gurage, Silte and Harari. It is worth noting that the Amharic language is the official language of Ethiopia. The diversity of the Ethiopian society is not limited to multi-ethnic and multi-nationality, it also is a multi-religious country. According to the central statistical Authority’s Analytical Report of the 1994 population and Housing Sensus, the distribution of population by religion is as follows: Orthodox Christian 51.1% Others 0.9% Protestant 10.3% Traditional 4.6% Catholic 0.9% Not stated 0.1% Muslim 32.1% The Federation: The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and its Federal Constitution As has been explained above, the process of devolution of political power had already started as a result of the provisions of the Transitional Charter from 1991 and proclamations from the central government during the Transitional Period. Another important achievement during the Transitional Period was the adoption of the “The Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia” by an elected body called “The Constitutional Assembly” which was different from parliament. The constitutional Assembly adopted the Federal Constitution on December 8,1994. However, the federal system in Ethiopia was formally established when this new federal constitution came into force in August 1995. Since August 21,1995, Ethiopia has been constitutionally a mulli-ethnic federation. A very distinct feature of Ethiopian Federalism is that it is different from the States of the United States or Cantons of Switzerland. This is because of the fact that the newly formed federal regional states of Ethiopia are not something that reflect the previous organization of provinces. On the contrary, the newly formed regional states are a significant departure from the provincial experience Ethiopia had in former system of governances. The other important point is that the federal arrangement in Ethiopia was introduced primarily as a means of decentralizing power in response to the previous concentration of power at the center and equally to empower the oppressed nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia. In other words it is a federation established from a formerly highly centralized and oppressor unitary state. The newly formed regional states have had no prior existence as a state other than a province in a highly centralized imperial rule or a military dictatorship in the name of scientific socialism. The foundation of the Ethiopian Federation is the federal constitution that gives constitutional guarantee to the division of power between the federal and regional states, and that division of power is written, and it is the supreme law of the land. The federal constitution is aimed at building one common political and economic community founded on the rule of law and capable of guaranteeing sustainable peace, democracy and socio-economic development. The success of Ethiopia’s venture on federalism in general and its mechanisms for conflict management largely depends upon the extent to which the right to self-determination, which ensures self-rule as well as shared rule for all Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia, is put in to effect in reality. In other words, the implementation of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is the only guarantee for the federation, for the national unity, for the realization of peaceful and democratic society, as well as economic development and prosperity. The constitution of the federal democratic republic of Ethiopia declares that Ethiopia’s Nations, Nationalities and Peoples have entered into a binding federal compact by their “free and full exercise of their respective right of self-determination” in order to build “one political community based on their respective free will and consent, and the rule of law”, and “one economic community in order to maintain and promote their rights, freedoms and interests in a mutually supportive manner” . Such a federal political community is set up with the objectives of establishing a lasting peace and democracy in the country and enhancing economic and social development for its peoples. In their federal compact, they have expressed that although each of them has their own distinct culture and territory, they have long lived together developing bonding relationships among one another through various levels and walks of life and thereby creating collective interest and outlook. They have also made it clear that the fulfillment of the objectives of their federal dispensation requires guaranteeing respect not only for individual and group fundamental rights but also for the promotion of cultures and religions without any discrimination. The constitution of Ethiopia endeavors to unite distinct ethno- territorial communities within an overarching political system by distributing power among their common and respective governments in a manner designed to protect and promote the existence and authority of both. It aims not only at the preservation and promotion of ethnic identities by entrenching their autonomy on their local matters in their respective geographic areas but also at maintaining and enhancing their unity on matters of common concern by ensuring their participation in the national decision making process . The objectives of Ethiopia’s federal system emanate from, and depend upon the fulfillment of the right of Nations, Nationalities and Peoples to self-determination. It is by virtue of their respective right to self-determination that all sovereign power resides in the “Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (ethnic groups)” . The constitution is the expression of their sovereignty whose realization they have agreed to be through their representatives elected in free, secret and periodic elections and through their direct democratic participation. Federal- regional Division of Power The federal constitution provides the federal government with bicameral parliament, a constitutional president, and vests the prime minister with the highest executive power of the federal government. The federal government is assigned the responsibility of national defense, foreign relations, monetary policies, foreign investment and the establishment and implementation of national standards on health, education, science and technology. The nine regional states have equal powers and duties. The Regional states are empowered to establish their own administration with responsibility for the state’s civil service, law and order and the state police force. Regional states formulate and execute Regional State laws, economic, social, and developmental policies and strategies as well as administer their own budgets. Above all, Regional States are empowered to adopt and implement their regional constitution. Constitutional powers and functions of Regional States is stated under Article 52. All powers not given expressly to the Federal Government alone, or concurrently to the Federal Government and the States are reserved to the states. Consistent with sub-Article 1 of this Article, States shall have the following powers and functions: a) To establish a state administration that best advances self-government, a democratic order based on the rule of law; to protect and defend the Federal Constitution; b) To enact and execute the State constitution and other laws; c) To formulate and execute economic, social and development policies, strategies and plans of the state; d) To administer land and other natural resources in accordance with Federal laws; e) To levy and collect taxes and duties on revenue sources reserved to the states and to draw up and administer the state budget; f) To enact and enforce laws on the State Civil Service and their conditions of work; in the implementation of this responsibility it shall ensure that educational; training and experience requirements for any job, title or position approximate national standards; g) To establish and administer a state police force, and to maintain public order and peace within the state; The fundamental principles of the constitution defines the sovereignty of the people in Article 8 by stating that: “all sovereign power resides in the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia”; and that the constitution is an expression of their sovereignty; their sovereignty shall be expressed through their representatives elected in accordance with this constitution and through their direct democratic participation”. Article 8 of the constitution very clearly shows that the nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia are the ultimate sovereign powers. The Ethiopian Federation is a union formed through the free consent of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia. And Article 39 para 5 defines A “Nation, Nationality or People” for the purpose of this constitution, is a group of people who have or share a large measure of a common culture or similar customs, mutual intelligibility of language, belief in a common or related identities, a common psychological make-up, and who inhabit an identifiable, predominantly contiguous territory”. This definition as well is the center piece as far as federalism in Ethiopia is concerned. If the federal government abuses their right to self-rule through their elected representatives or through their direct democratic participation, the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples are entitled to reassert their sovereign power in accordance with Article 39 which is about the rights of Nations, Nationalities and Peoples. 1. Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has an unconditional right to self-determination, including the right to secession. 2. Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has the right to speak, to write and to develop its own language; to express, to develop and to promote its culture; and to preserve its history. 3. Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has the right to a full measure of self-government which includes the right to establish institutions of government in the territory that it inhabits and to equitable representation in state and Federal governments. 4. The right to self-determination, including secession, of every Nation, Nationality and People shall come in to effect. a) When a demand for secession has been approved by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Legislative council of the Nation, Nationality or People concerned; b) When the Federal Government has organized a referendum which must take place within three years from the time it received the concerned council’s decision for secession; c) When the demand for secession is supported by a majority Vote in the referendum; d) When the Federal Government will have transferred its powers to the council of the Nation, Nationality or people who has voted to secede; and e) When the division of assets is effected in a manner prescribed by law. It can be clearly seen from the above that once a decision to secede is reached in a given Regional State, the Federal Government is obliged to hold a referendum in that region within three years, and if secession receives a simple majority vote in the referendum, the region goes independent of the Federation. The foundations of the Ethiopian Federalism as well as its continuance requires the consent of each Ethiopian Nation, Nationality and People. The importance of this collective right and the strictness of the unanimity conditions it imposes on the sovereignty of the federal state are underlined by the constitutional provision stipulating that the right to secession is not derogable during national emergencies. Ethiopian federalism was born as a result of addressing the century-old national questions of the different ethnic based political organizations and liberation movements. The highly centralized unitary state was leading Ethiopia in the direction of disintegration and falling apart. That is why the constitutional principles governing federalism exemplify features characteristic of coming-together federalism. The constitution vests ultimate authority in the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia & the preamble to the constitution declares as follows; “We, the Nations, Nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia: Strongly Committed, in full and free exercise of our right to self-determination, to building a political community founded on the rule of law and capable of ensuring a lasting peace, guaranteeing a democratic order, and advancing our economic and social development; Firmly convinced that the fulfillment of this objective requires full respect of individual and peoples fundamental freedoms and rights, to live together on the basis of equality and without any sexual, religious or cultural discrimination; Further convinced that by continuing to live with our rich and proud cultural legacies in territories we have long inhabited have, through continuous interaction on various levels and forms of life, built up common interests and have also contributed to the emergence of a common outlook; Fully cognizant that our common destiny can best be served by rectifying historically unjust relationships and by further promoting our shared interest; Convinced that to live as one economic community is necessary in order to create sustainable and mutually supportive conditions for ensuring respect for our rights and freedoms and for the collective promotion of our interests; Determined to consolidate, as a lasting legacy, the peace and the prospect of a democratic order which our struggles and sacrifices have brought about; Have therefore adopted, on 8 December 1994 this constitution through representatives we have duly elected for this purpose as an instrument that binds us in a mutual commitment to fulfill the objectives and the principles set forth above” The preamble upholds that the constitution is a covenant among Ethiopia’s Nations, Nationalities and Peoples. This wider economic and political community is formed by their decision to authorize the federal government through a transfer of some of their sovereign powers. Therefore, it can be seen that it is not the central government which formed regional governments, but it is the Regional State governments who created the federal government by surrendering some of their rights since all powers not given expressly to the Federal Government alone, or concurrently to the Federal Government and the Regional States are reserved to the Regional States. The Right to Self-determination is all About Ethiopian Federalism The concept of the right to self-determination under the Ethiopian constitution has got multiple pillars and interrelated aspects of creating a new federal system of governance which fits into the Ethiopian socio-political objective realities. This is because of the fact that federalism offers an optimal institutional framework for accommodating diversities, and it is well disposed to ensure the peaceful handling of conflicts in plural societies like Ethiopia. It is worth noting that Ethiopia is the first country in Africa which confronted straight on the challenges of ethnic diversity, by adopting a federal system organized on the basis of the recognition and institutionalization of the right of Ethno-territorial Communities or Nations, Nationalities and Peoples to self- determination, including the right to secession. The significance of correctly handling the issue of self- determination in the Ethiopian federal constitutional frame-work is summarized as follows: 1. The right to the preservation and promotion of Linguistic & Cultural diversity The linguistic and cultural diversity aspect of the right of self- determination comprises the right of every ethnic community to use and develop its language, to express and promote its culture and to preserve its history. In Ethiopia, cultural and linguistic groups that have been suppressed by the homogenizing impulses of state-nationalism have resorted to and deployed ethnic self-definition, which is an ordinary aspect of selfhood and a basic social relation, in their struggles for equality, autonomy and power-sharing. Some of the major causes for conflicts in Ethiopia were the linguistic and cultural repression that several ethnic communities had suffered under the hitherto existing ethno- centrist governments. The policies of the latter to homogenize and assimilated politically subordinated communities into the milieu of the dominant ethno-cultural community had obviously failed to obliterate ethno-cultural differences, rather generated internal conflicts. These experiences have made the recognition and promotion of ethnic diversity imperative for establishing sustainable peace and social harmony, and for building a political, social and economic community constituted by the free will of the ethno-cultural communities of the country. 2. The right of every ethnic community to political autonomy and participation The autonomy and participation aspect of the right of self- determination establishes the entitlement of every ethnic community to self-government and to proportional representation in regional and federal states. This aspect of self-determination ensures the devolution of state power to ethno-territorial communities and thereby makes it difficult for all power to be concentrated and centralized in one center. In Ethiopia where the large majority of its population is divided ethnically into geographic territories, the devolution of power along ethnic lines becomes imperative not only to reduce ethnic competitions and conflicts for state power but also to provide the concerned communities with the opportunity to participate and advance their interests in the governance process. The participation aspect of self- determination is also aimed at developing common identity and unity among ethnic communities. As evidenced in history, the strategy of attempting to develop common identity premised on the denial and suppression of ethnic diversity among the heterogeneous populations of Ethiopia has failed, spawning centrifugal ethnic-based political forces. The recognition of the right of Ethiopia’s ethnic communities to self-determination has thus become crucial in order to bring about sustainable peace, democracy and development, and to create the unity its diverse ethnic communities on the basis of free will and consent. The entrenchment of autonomy and participation aspect of the right of self-determination is, therefore, a requirement of peace, democracy and development in accordance with which the participation of territorially based ethnic communities in the political process from the level of their respective habitats to the level of regional and federal state is ensured. 3. Acknowledgment of the right to secession is a basis for the federal union The constitutional inscription and recognition of the right to secession is not only a guarantee for respecting the right of Nations, Nationalities and Peoples to self-determination but it is also an affirmation of the consensual basis of the federal union. The acknowledgment of the right to self- determination, including secession, might help in diffusing ethnic discontents. Ethiopia’s political history has proved that the unity of its peoples could not be achieved by a resort to violence; it could only built up and sustained on the basis of their mutual consent to live together in order to pursue their common interests. A unity that is based on the denial of the right of self-determination could not be maintained for long by coercion, and instead of bringing about real and viable unity, it would become a breeding ground for ethnic discontent and secession, resulting in civil wars. Hence, Ethiopia’s exclusion of any resort to violence in order to secure the unity of its peoples and its attempts to bring about consensual unity by devolving political power to its constituent people are courageous attempts to tame the centrifugal forces engulfing the country. However, if and when a people might demand secession, the Ethiopian constitution attempts to avoid its potential for violence by proving a peaceful and democratic path for its realization. 4. Unity in diversity is the main characteristic of Ethiopian Federalism The federal compact underlying Ethiopia’s federal system is rooted in the recognition of the right of Ethiopia’s Nations, Nationalities and Peoples to self-determination, making the premise that their federal union could only be maintained by their voluntary agreement to live together and their commitment to pursue the federal idea: unity in diversity. This contractual quality of Ethiopia’s federal dispensation makes it immanently well disposed to the peaceful management and resolution of conflicts. The recognition of the right to self-determination for all ethnic communities plays a crucial role in building trust and cooperation among them because it signifies their equality, their right to self- government within their own habitats and their right to proportional representation at the state and federal levels. It is a guarantee to address conflicts over territory, conflicts for power and power sharing. 5. The application of self-rule and shared rule under the Ethiopian Constitution There are three venues for the realization of the right to self- determination within the federation. One venue is at the grass-root level, that is , the territory that an ethnic community inhabits, and the others are at the member states’ and at the federal levels. At the grass root level, the implementation of the right to self-determination is manifested by the establishment of self-governments of ethnic communities in their respective habitats, and, at higher level, by their proportional representation in the State and Federal Governments. For instance, the constitution attempts to fulfill the right of each ethnic community to proportional representation at the federal level by providing that each ethnic community is represented in the House of the Federation by at least one member for each one million population and by providing that there should be at least 20 seats reserved for minority ethnic communities in the House of Peoples’ Representatives, which consists of a maximum of 550 seats for representatives elected on basis of the system of plurality of votes. The proportional representation of the ethnic communities of Ethiopia in the federal stat is not limited to the two houses of the federal parliament; it applies to the other branches of the government. The same holds true in the case of the constituent states. In addition to the right of every ethnic community to a self- rule and shared-rule, the constitution attempts to accommodate the demands of every ethnic community for statehood within the federation. Although the constitution declares nine member states of the federation, it simultaneously recognizes the right of each ethnic community within the states to establish, at any time, its own States and lays down the procedures for the exercise of such right. 6. Conflict management in the Ethiopian Federal context under the constitution The most important and relevant constitutional organ for conflict management is the House of the Federation, which is “composed of representatives of Nations, Nationalities and Peoples”. The House was created to maintain and develop the cooperation, partnership and consensual relationships of Ethiopia’s ethnic communities on the basis of equality and respect for their respective diversity while realizing their commitment to uphold the constitution. The competences of the House are, therefore, directly interlinked with the need to maintain and promote the constitutional compact of Ethiopia’s ethnic communities. In this regard, the relevant competences of the House are the competences a) to interpret the constitution, b) to decide upon issues relating to the rights of Nations, Nationalities and Peoples to self- determination, including the right to secession in accordance with the Constitution, c) to promote the equality of the peoples of Ethiopia enshrined in the constitution and promote and consolidate their unity based on their mutual consent, and d) to strive to find solutions to disputes or misunderstandings that may arise between states. As has bee pointed out above, constitutional supremacy is an essential prerequisite to the operation of any federal system. It establishes the obligation of both federal and constituent governments to be bound by the terms of their constitution. It also signifies the primacy of the constitution over all other rules of law and acts of the organs of state at every level. Hence, the constitution is the supreme law that upholds and validates the whole social, economic, political and legal order of a federated state. Accordingly, the operation of the principle of constitutional supremacy nullifies any laws and other governmental acts that are repugnant to the constitution. 7. The power to interpret the constitution The Ethiopian federal constitution, introduces a new type of constitutional umpiring mechanism. That is, constitutional umpiring not by the highest Court of law or by a Constitutional Court, but by the House of Federation, which is one of the Federal Houses. The House of Federation is entrusted with the power to interpret the constitution. But the role of constitutional umpiring is not limited to the House of Federation. It also involves a quasi-judicial body known as the Council of Constitutional Inquiry, which is authorized to investigate constitutional disputes and submit its recommendation to the House of Federation. Although it is the House of Federation that has the authority to decide on “all constitutional disputes”, it is supported by the Council of Constitutional Inquiry, which is established by the constitution with the power to investigate constitutional disputes. The Council is, however, required to submit its recommendations to the House of Federation if it finds it necessary to interpret the constitution. The Constitutional Inquiry Council has eleven members comprising the Chief Justice and the Vice Chief Justice of the Federal Supreme Court, six legal experts who are nominated by the House of Peoples’ Representatives and appointed by the President. Furthermore, although the constitution does not provide for the procedural rules that are to be followed in the working of the Constitutional Council, these rules are set down by the House of Federation on the basis of its power to organize the Council. The Council is directly accountable to the House of Federation, which may use the Council’s legal expertise in its attempts to resolve constitutional disputes. The competence of the House of Federation in promoting equality and consolidating unity among the various peoples of Ethiopia directly relates to the fundamental objectives of the constitution, which are to respect and promote ethnic diversity while enhancing and consolidating their unity. By their constitutional compact, as pointed out above, the peoples of Ethiopia have not only found it essentially necessary to guarantee the development of their corresponding identities but also they have committed themselves to build up a political and economic community through which they pursue their common interests. This is in fact predicated upon the recognition that their common destiny can best be served by rectifying the historically unjust relationships resulted from the hegemony of one ethnic identity and the suppression of that of other. In addition to entrenching equal rights for all ethnic groups, the constitution has made the House of Federation the arena through which these rights are protected and realized in practice. In this regard, the House is mandated to strive to find solutions to disputes or misunderstandings that may arise between states, which are the self-governments “established on the basis of the settlement pattern, language, identity and consent of the people concerned”. It is, however, interesting to note that the House of Federation is not expressly given with similar powers in respect to disputes between the federal state and the member states except on matters of constitutional issues. Yet one can detect from the rationale for the existence of the House of Federation that it is also competent to mediate and arbitrate non-constitutional disputes between the federal state and a member state. In particular, the House of Federation is empowered to render a final decision on the basis of the settlement patterns and wishes of the peoples concerned in regard to questions of state border delineation where the concerned states have failed to reach into agreement. Another key competence of the House is the competence to decide, in accordance with the constitution, on issues relating to the rights of Nations, Nationalities and Peoples to self- determination, including the right to secession. These issues encompass a wide range of demands revolving around the right of self-determination. Questions of preservation and promotion of linguistic and cultural identity, questions of establishing institutions of self-governments and participation in state and federal governments and demands for secession fall within the mandate of the House of Federation. From the foregoing, one can see that the House of the Federation is given a pivotal role to play in building cooperation, partnership and unity among the diverse peoples of Ethiopia as well as in umpiring constitutional disputes. The House of the Federation is not only the interpreter of the constitution but it is also the ultimate defender of the constitutional compact. It is, for this purpose, empowered to order federal intervention if, in violation of the Constitution, a member state endangers the constitutional order. Conclusion From Ethiopia’s past history of governance and political experience, and lessons learnt under a unitary state, one can conclude that it would be impossible to manage and sustain Ethiopia as united it is today without democratizing and especially without the federal system of governance. As has been touched upon briefly in my presentation above, the political system of governance which was practiced in Ethiopia was a highly centralized and autocratic unitary state for at least one century. It was this undemocratic unitary state which led the different Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia to mistrust, to internal conflict, civil war and disintegration. On the eve of the fall of the Derg regime, Ethiopia was at the brink of not only disintegration, but it also was on the path to the fate of failed states like Somalia, Liberia and the like. Federalism in Ethiopia and the federation of its Nations, Nationalities and Peoples is the product of the objective realities of the Ethiopian multi-ethnic society which is reflected in the Federal Constitution. Despite the fact that the constitution and the subsequent legal frameworks are a precondition for a federal system to be established, it is the political and social conditions in Ethiopia which determined the establishment of a federal system if the country has to sustain its unity and existence as a country. All Ethiopians, all Nations, Nationalities and Peoples, regardless of their ethnic background work for federalism to be consolidated. This is because of the fact that they have come into building a national consensus which assert only federalism as the guarantee to the sustainability of the unity of Ethiopia, the democratization of Ethiopia, the prosperity of Ethiopia, and above all the peace and stability of Ethiopia. This solid conviction of the people is based on a solid scientific political analysis of the country’s socio-economic and political history of the century-old system of governance. For Ethiopia federalism is not a luxury or a choice of convenience. It is the only choice to democratize the society and build a united, prosperous, peaceful and stable country. Therefore, for societies who are endowed with multi-ethnic and cultural diversity, the unity of a country can only be attained if there is the federal system of governance. Unity in diversity is a national consensus which reflects the confidence of the Ethiopian People in federalism as a bright future.