The right to self determination under SNNPRS, the constitutional process and implementation

Academic Paper, 2022

22 Pages, Grade: 2


Table of Contents

Problem identification

I: Introduction

II: The conceptual foundation about federalism
2.1. Definition
2.1.1. Federal political systems, Federalism, Federations and Confederations
2.2 Main characteristics of federalism
2.3. Types of federalism
2.4. Ethnic federalism
2.5. Aspects of Self determination right
2.5.1 Internal self determination
2.5.2 External self determination
2.6. Local governments in federations

III: Federal structure and ethnic self determination in Ethiopia
3.1. Adoption of Federal Systems in Ethiopia
3.2. Ethnic based Federalism in Ethiopia
3.3. Local governments under Ethiopian Federation
3.4. Federated Units of Ethiopian Federalism
3.5. Ethnic self determination under Ethiopian federation
3.5.1 Emergence and Development in Ethiopia
3.5.2 Self determination during transition period
3.5.3 Self determination right under FDRE and SNNPR Constitutions
3.6. Assessment of Constitutional process to formation of Zonal structures under SNNPRS

IV: Conclusion and recommendations
4.1. Conclusions
4.2. Recommendations


There are constitutional provisions and specific laws that detail when new local government will be formed, what procedures and processes are to be followed and when regional institutions can be entitled to participate and decide on the formation of new local governments. The observance of these laws and procedures during the zonal formation will be dealt by this research.

The formation of zonal structures passed through serious of challenges. Many argue that zones were formed at the expense of serious struggles occurred, including arrest of famous individuals from the group who activated the question of self administration. My research tries to point about the process for self administration by ethnic groups to form zone and tries to deal how the quest was implemented i.e, whether through legally declared procedures or as political response.

The conclusion shows us the quest to creation of zonal structure with respect to realize self determination right come into force through legitimate process however, it came into force through series of problems which resulted scarification of many lives of the ethnic members. In addition to this my study tries to assess the practical problems passed during the formation of zones. Finally the paper points the creation of zonal structure was resulted not by the legally declared procedures rather it was to control the mob movement of ethnic groups. The FDRE constitution and regional constitution legally declares the ethnic groups to form their respective local administration by their own will. But the formation of zonal structures by quest of the people was beyond this legal procedures and the aim of this paper is to give information to the concerned government authorities failure to comply with constitutionally guaranteed rights may result in miss of trust between the government and the society. Finally it result in political turmoil.


The FDRE Constitution which came in to force in 1995 officially adopted federal form of government.1 Article 39 of the Constitution stipulates every ethnic group has unconditional right to self determination, including the right to secession.2

The Constitution established nine regional states, even where the country composes of more than eighty ethnic groups. These ethnic groups are entitled to establish their own self government and have right to equitable representation under federal and regional government institutions.3

Among the nine regional states, SNNPRS adopted its regional Constitution in 1995 which later revised in 2001. Similar to the federal one, regional Constitution also gives protection to the right to self determination right of ethnic groups in the region.4

SNNPRS is organized in Zones, Special Woredas, Woreda and Kebele governments.5 Until July 2018 SNNPRS is organized under 13 zonal structures including Gamo gofa zone as single zonal component under the region. Later With respect to realization of self determination right, the decision of SNNPRS State council that formed Gofa zone in 2018 which separates the former Gamo-Gofa zone into two autonomous and separate zones based on their ethnic arrangement .The Creation of Gofa zonal structure had passed through series of challenges and struggles. There are clear constitutional and legal provisions about how and when new local government structures will be formed in the region. This paper aimed at assesses the constitutionality of zone formation by raising questions on the process how it was formed and its effect on Self determination right of ethnic groups with the aim of showing the problems and possible solutions to the concerned organs.

The scope of this article is limited to assessing the constitutional process and implementation up to the creation Zone structure under SNNPR.

The Significance of this paper is showing practical problems in relation to the quest for the creation of new zonal status. And the study tries to show the possible solution with the problems. Furthermore it helps the concerned government authorities to respond in accordance with legally established rules to the quest for self autonomy.

With regard to the objectives, the paper assess the legal procedures under SNNPR to formation of new zone, identifying the regional institutions which are concerned to the formation of new zonal administration, to show practical problems associated with the formation of new zone and taking lessons that faced during process.

While conducting the study, it generally could made use of both primary and secondary source of data. Therefore, the research is qualitative in nature. The paper bases on relevant domestic laws, the constitution and international instruments; it will try to critically analyze the practice in relation to implementation and process of the right to self determination to creation of zonal structure. In doing so, relevant cases could be analyzed; interviews could be employed so as to show the practical aspect.

Regarding the organization of this paper, part 1 deals about introductory part which consists of background of the study, problem explanation, objective of the study, significance of the study and methodology applied and the structure of the paper. The second part addresses general overview about the concept of federalism i.e. about meaning, main characteristics and types of federalism with related concepts.

The third part in detail focuses on Federal structure and ethnic self determination in Ethiopia, in depth it deals about the issue of self determination during different regimes, and discusses the constitutional process to form Zones in light with FDRE and SNNPR regional Constitution. Then detail analysis and findings of the research will be conducted. The last part makes conclusion to the research issue and provides recommendation to avert problems.


This part provides conceptual basis about the research area. It assesses general definition about federalism, federal political setup, about types and characteristics of federalism and furthermore deals about aspects of self determination right in light with the research idea.

2.1. Definition

Federalism is an arrangement which is type of affiliation established and regulated by covenant by combining both self-rule and shared rule aspects and parties are linked for strong, but limited common ends while maintaining the respective integrities of all parties.6

Federalism is a type of government in which the power is divided between the national government and other governmental units.7 The transformation of American confederation to federation by Philadelphian convention in 1787 resulted in the formation of the first modern federation in 1789.8

2.1.1 Federal political systems, Federalism, federation and confederation

Federal political systems:

Federal political systems are systems in which there exist self-rule and shared rule. The central government is formed by the union of two or more constituent governments with protected powers for themselves. Confederation, Federation, Federacies, Associated States are types of federal political systems where self-rule and shared rule aspects are practiced.

Federalism: Federalism is an ideology that advocates for the elements shared rule through common institutions for some common purposes and self-rule for some other purposes.9

Confederation: A confederation is a union of sovereign states, united for purposes of common action often in relation to other states.10

Federation: Federation is a type of federal political system and an actual institutional structure in which both elements of self-rule and shared rule are practiced. They exercise shared rule in the central government and self-rule in their sub national governments.11

2.2. Main characteristics of federalism

In federalism the powers are divided between the federal and sub national units. Under the federal setup two different tiers of government govern the same citizens, but each either parties has its own jurisdiction in specific matters of legislation and administration.12 The other characteristics of federation are written, rigid and supreme constitution. The other basic element of purposeful federation is constitutional division of legislative, executive, judicial and financial power where the tiers of government have autonomy.13

2.3. Types of federations

Federations are classified into many types based on different criteria. Based on the criteria used to demarcate the territories of constituent units (Cultural (ethnic) and territorial federations), based on prior existence of federated units (Holding-Together Federations and coming together federations), based on similarity and difference of the powers and competencies constituent units entitled to exercise (Asymmetrical Federation and symmetric federations), based on the way of executing federal competencies in constituent units (Co-operative (executive or functional) Federalism and competitive (dual) federalism) are some of the types and criteria’s of classifications.14 With regard to the research theme it is better to deal some aspects of ethnic federalism.

2.4. Ethnic federalism

The word ethnic is broad concept that includes different elements which differentiate one group of people from the other. The contemporary element of differentiating one group from others includes language, race, religion, and color.15

Ethnic federalism is form of federal arrangement where the constituent units of the federation are organized territorially by using the territory occupied by ethnic groups as a boundary demarcation and this type of federation is aimed at accommodating the ethnic diversity.16

Ethnic federalism enables ethnic groups to exercise self-rule in their territory and this enables them to autonomously deal with issues that affect the interest of that group like language, education, culture and to develop policies on these matters autonomously.17

2.5. Aspects of Self determination Right

The concept self-determination understood as a concept of liberation. Its concepts are included in UN charter, the 1961 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and in 1970 Declaration of Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States.18

2.5.1. Internal self determination

The incorporation of right to self-determination in UN charter (Art.1 (2) and 55) brought the development of new concept of internal right to self-determination which empowers people who were denied of self-government. Internal self-determination aimed at enabling people to exercise its political, economic, social and cultural development within the framework of an existing state.19 Any forcible action if taken by states against people’s right to self-determination, freedom and independence or resists question of these rights, it amounts violation of UN charter principles and that people can ask international community to enforce the state according to the purposes and principles of the charter.20 Ethnic groups have the right use their own language, know about their history, culture, custom and tradition and also has the right to decide on their economic activities and exclusive right over the natural resources of their territory.21

2.5.2. External self-determination

The term is initially used to refer people’s right to free itself from colonial or racist rule which can also imply right to secede and form independent sovereign state, or integration with other independent state.22 The manifestation of external self-determination is secession which is described as an act or a process by which element of a state take out from the existing state and forms other independent state when there is extreme operation.23 From these statements we can make expressions like, external aspect of self determination is conditional under international law.24

2.6. Local governments in federations

Local governments are preferences by which government come closer to the public.25 It is difficult to national and Sub national governments to have constant access to all areas of their government. Due to this in federal democracies with diverse societies and wide territory creating and strengthening local governments is important to meet the needs of the people.26

The role of local government is increasing and some countries use to the extent of making them full member of the federal partnership. For example in south African constitution established three tiers of governments, where local governments are established with considerable degree of legislative and financial autonomy.27 This tells us local governments arranged as third level of government.


1 The Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Proclamation No 1/1995 , Federal NegaritGazeta of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, 1st Year No.1, Addis Ababa, August 21,1995 (hear after FDRE constitution).

2. Hashim Tewfik, “Transition to Federalism: The Ethiopian Experience”, forum of federations, Ontario Canada,(2010), page 5 available at <> (accessed on 02 April 2019)

3 Supra note 1, Article 39 and 47(2).

4 Article 39 of revised constitution of SNNPRS proclamation no.35/2001, Debub Negarit Gazeta of SNNPR,7th year no, Hawassa,Nov,12,2001 (here after SNNPR Constitution).

5 Article 45 of SNNPR Constitution.

6 Daniel J. Elazar , Exploring federalism, (Tuscaloosa,Alabama, University of Alabama Press, 1991), page 5

7 “available at:< Fehler! Linkreferenz ungültig. >”. ( accessed on April 18,2019)

8 Ronald L. Watts, Comparing Federal Systems, 3rd ed., (Montreal & Kingston,London, McGill-Queen‟s University Press,2008), page 3

9 Assefa Fiseha, Federalism and Accommodation of diversity in Ethiopia; A comparative study,(Nijmegen, the Netherlands, wolf legal publisher,2006), Page 44-46

10 “available at:<>” (accessed on April 18/2019)

11 Semahagn Gashu Abebe, The Last Post-Cold War Socialist Federation: Ethnicity, Ideology and Democracy in Ethiopia, (England, Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2014),,page 16

12 “available at:< https;//brainley>”.(accessed on April 16/2019)

13 Supranote 10, Page 138

14 Annenberg media,federalism;U.S.V.the states “available at<http,// 3topic.html>” (accessed on April 17/2017)

15 Yashi Ghai, “Ethnicity and Autonomy: A Framework for Analysi s” in Yash Ghai(ed) Autonomy And Ethnicity Negotiating Competing Claims In Multi-Ethnic States, (UK, Cambridge University Press, 2000), Page 4

16 supra note 12, page 37

17 C.Van der Beken, Unity in diversity federalism as a means to accommodate ethnic diversity,the case of Ethiopia,law and politics in Africa series,Berlin,2012,Page 44

18 supra note 12, page 31

19 supra note 12, page 31

20 Ulrike Barten, Minorities,Minority rights and internal self determination,(Switherland,Springer International publishing 2015,page 185

21 Id, page 38

22 Supra note 12,page 16

23 supra note 21,page 185

24 supra note 18,Page 150

25 George Mattew, the functioning of local governments and their relationship with upper levels of government,page37, “available at:>”.(Accessed on April 17,2019)

26 Id,page 38

27 Yonatan Tesfaye Fessha, Federalism,the sub national framework and local governments; accommodating minorities with in minorities” perspectives on federalism,,2012,page 86; see also, Section 40 of Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 200 of 1996

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The right to self determination under SNNPRS, the constitutional process and implementation
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Mamush Wana (Author), 2022, The right to self determination under SNNPRS, the constitutional process and implementation, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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