Federalism as a tool for accomodation of ethinc diversity in Hawassa city

Academic Paper, 2016

14 Pages


Table of Contents


1. General over view of the FDRE constitution in accommodating Ethnic diversity

2.Regional constitution of SNNP in accommodating ethnic diversity

3.General back ground of Hawassa city: A Brief analysis

4.Accommodation of Ethnic diversity in Hawassa city
4.1. The protection of individual right
4.2.The right to self determination
4.2.1.The right to language and culture
4.2.2.Political participation and Power sharing
A). In the City and kebele council
B). In the City executive and kebele administration
C). In the City court
4.3.The right to autonomy

Conclusion and recommendation



The existing ethnic federal arrangement of the Federal democratic republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) is devised with the aim to accommodate the interests of distinct ethnic groups in Ethiopia. This paper attempted to conceptualize federalism as a tool for ethnic diversity accommodation through reviewing the existing literatures on federalism, FDRE and south regional state constitution, city proclamations, and primary data from interview made and with researchers’ interpretive arguments. The finding reveals that federalism at city government status contributes to accommodate rights, interests, needs and claims of competing ethnic groups, especially of ethnic minorities better at kebele institutional structures than at city institutional structures. At city institutional structures the indigenous groups are better protected rather than the non indigenous groups. Hence, the success of this process highly depends on the mechanisms adopted for sharing powers and responsibilities; the nature, subject and degree of decentralized power; and the willingness of authorities to allow the groups to exercise those powers, with other factors. Finally, This Paper tries to recommend complementary legal instrument for farther enhancement of ethinic diversity accommodation at city government status.

Keywords: Federalism, ethnic diversity, minority claims, ethnic accommodation, Indigenous groups , Non indigenous groups, veto power, FDRE (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia), SNNPRS(the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State)

Wondwossen Mengistu is bachelor of teaching professional with academic background - B.A in History from Bahir Dar university and Masters of Art in Federalism and Local government studies from Ethiopian civil service university, and more than 7 years of relevant experience and expertise in teaching and lecturing various civics and ethical education courses at different levels of educational institutions. Furthermore beyond teaching, I have authentic experiences in conducting researches on sensitive issues and vulnerable groups of the society.


With the increase of ethnic conflicts and ethnic groups’ mobilizations for ethno-nationalism to secure and share state power, the concept of federalism has also been getting attention in ethnically plural countries, and many of them have taken advantages of adopting federalism as policies for the empowerment of diverse groups in their state nation-building process.[1] Similarly, the requests and supports for the adaptation of different forms of institutional structure as to accommodate a number of political and administrative demands and claims emerging from different ethnic groups within a country has also increased in the recent past.[2]

On the above backdrop, this paper try to conceptualize federalism as one essential devise to accommodate rights, needs, claims and demands emerging among diverse ethnic groups. The major objectives of this paper is to identify the ways that federalism take in accommodating concerns and priorities of diverse population, especially of minority groups in terms of ethnic, language and cultural differences within the city government status and try to recommend what should be its complementary mechanism for further enhancement of accommodation of diversity through applying different legal instrument.

Thus, this paper is divided into four major parts. The first part deals with the analysis of the FDRE constitution in accommodating diversity. The next section briefly analysis the constitution of the south region in accommodating diversity and thirdly the paper deals with brief back ground analyses of the Hawasa city. Last but not the least, deals and examines the practical accommodation of ethnic diversity in Hawassa city institutional structures as provided in the city proclamation of the region.

1. General over view of the FDRE constitution in accommodating Ethnic diversity

Though not automatically related to accommodation of diversity, federalism as an instrument provides both shared and self rule and unity in diversity.[3] The reason for Ethiopia in the current constitution recognized federalism as one essential mechanism is to accommodate its multi faceted diversity.

The most significant and unique features of the FDRE constitution is its recognition and accommodation of the ethnic groups of the Ethiopian society. The preamble starts with claiming ‘we the nations ,nationalities and peoples with the objective of building unity in diversity and one economic – political community; Ensuring a lasting peace respecting rule of law and individual and group right.’[4]

The most comprehensive grants of the constitution in accommodating and empowering all ethnic groups is the right to self determination in its Article 39. The FDRE Constitution conferring the right to self-determination mainly in its internal component on nations, can be understood as the right to autonomy (self government), the right to speak their own language preserve their own culture, history, identity and to separate institutions.[5]

2. Regional constitution of SNNP in accommodating ethnic diversity

The regional states in the Ethiopian federation are given a wider space to accommodate the diverse nature at the regional context. Likewise, the regional constitutions of SNNPR in its preamble strictly signify that those nations in the region are entitled to both individual and group rights without any discrimination.[6] Thus its commitment in accommodating diversity is reflected in as ‘we, the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples: Dedicated to ensure the supremacy or the law, to advance our economic and social development to further develop our language, culture and unity, and consolidate the peace and prospect of a democratic order which our struggle and scarifies have brought about in a Region we have established on the basis of equality and common understanding by using our right of self-determination’.[7]

The language policy of the constitution of SNNPR states that Amharic language is the working language of the regional state and all indigenous languages found in the region shall have equal recognition. This implies that all territorially empowered communities shall have the right to decide their respective working languages.[8]

According to article 8 of the regional constitution all powers of the regional state resides in the peoples of southern nation nationalities and peoples of the regional state and peoples hence, each of 56 ethnic groups in south nation nationality peoples of the regional state has the power to fully exercise sovereign power in the region.[9]

In the same fashion, Article 39 clearly stipulates the right to self determination for the different ethnic groups in the region. Accordingly the nations, nationality and people have the right to protect their identity & culture, administer their own affair and establish their own institutional structure.[10]

Furthermore, Article 45(1) of the constitution provides a wider space to the nations, nationality and peoples of the region in designing is own administrative structures and institutions to constitutionally accommodate its diverse society. The constitution come up with mechanisms or the accommodation of ethnic diversity that signify a relative resemblance with the federal constitution that is granting territorial autonomy for the different nations, nationality and peoples of the region.[11]

Apart from those articles, in relation to city administrations the constitution clearly stipulates that towns in the state shall have their own administration which was determined by the regional law. Article 45(3), tells that urban local government –city administrations are entitled to self governance.[12]

3. General back ground of Hawassa city: A Brief analysis

Before directly delving in to the analysis of the accommodation right of the different ethnic groups residing in Hawassa city, it is very important to over view the general back ground, its diversity and structure of the city in perspective.

Hawassa, the capital of the Southern Nations and Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS) is located at 070 03’ North latitudes and 300 29’ East longitudes. It is found along the international road that connects Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with Nairobi at 275 kilometers south of Addis Ababa. The altitude of Awassa is 1665 m above sea level, it has a pleasant climate and also is in a beautiful location on Awassa Lake. The town is bounded by Lake Hawassa in the west, Oromia regional state in the North and Alamura Mountain in the South and Hawassa Zuria Wereda in the East.[13]

Historically, before Hawassa took its present shape, its surrounding area was covered by forest that served as a shelter for wild animals. The early settlers were the Sidama and Oromos whose lives depended on livestock raring and cultivation. Hawassa was founded in 1960 by Ras Mangesha Seyoum under the permission of Emperor Haile Selassie. In 1961, 404 pensioned soldiers as well as their families were provided with plots of land to settle in the eastern part of the town. This is reckoned to have given an impetus to the growth and development of the town.[14]

From 1960-1968, Hawassa served as the capital of a sub-administration of Yabella wereda, and it was designated the capital of the then Sidamo province in 1968. Hawassa town began to be administered by a municipality in 1962. Hawassa town has got its name from “Hawassa lake”, which in the Sidama language stands for “large or wide water body”. Before the establishment of the town, the locality used to be known as”Adare”, which in Sidama language means “field of cattle”. The availability of large grazing pasture and abundant water resource throughout the year attracted the highland farmers and the low land pastoralists. However, Hawassa since 1992, has become the socio-economic and political center of SNNPR and one of the reform towns in the region and currently it has a status of city administration consisting of eight sub cities and 32 urban as well as rural kebelles. The sub cities are named as Addis Ketema, Hayk Dar, Bahil Adarash, Misrak, Menahreya, Tabor, Mehal Ketema and Hawella Tula according to the revised proclamation number 103/2006.[15]

The total population of the town (in 2008 EC) is estimated about 300 thousand from 50 different ethnic groups such as Sidama, Wolayta. Hadya. Kambata, Gurge, Amhara, Tigray, Oromo etc. All have their own way of greeting: "Kero". "Saro", "Tumma", "Yimtebel" Tenaystillign," "Kemyalekhum", "Akam".[16] The five largest ethnic groups reported in this city were the Sidama (48.67%), the Amhara (15.43%), the Welayta (13.9%), the Oromo(5.21%), and the Gurage (4.33%); all other ethnic groups made up 12.46% of the population. Sidamo is spoken as a first language by 47.97% of the inhabitants, 31.01% speak Amharic, 9.58% speak Welayta, and 2.07% Oromiffa; the remaining 9.37% spoke all other primary languages reported. 59.71% of the population said they were Protestants, 26.99% practiced Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity , 8.14% were Muslim and 3.78% embraced Catholicism.[17]

4. Accommodation of Ethnic diversity in Hawassa city

According to the current Hawassa city organizational administration, there are institutional structures established to accommodate its diversity as indicated under the SNNPR city proclamation. These are the city council, the city mayor and mayor committee and the city courts. Accordingly, it is governed by the council mayor governance system whereby the council makes policies and major decisions and the mayor in whom executive leadership is vested as per proclamation No 103/2006.[18] The city has 8 sub cities and 32 kebeles . These kebeles also has their own organs of administration these are namely kebele administration comprises the chief and deputy administrator, kebele council which has popularly elected members and kebele social courts whose judges shall be appointed by the kebele council.[19]

4.1. The protection of individual right

Individual rights enshrined in the regional constitution are protected for the members of the different ethnic groups in the city administration. As part of the whole regional state for instance, the right to equality before the law, the right to residence, non discrimination, participates in the civil service, access to land, the rights to elect and to be elected have been protected for the different ethnic groups.[20] However, there is a complaint among the non indigenous peoples that- unfair treatment regarding access to land is a case in point.

4.2. The right to self determination

The regional constitution confers the right to territorial self-determination to nations, nationalities and peoples living in the towns so that ethnic minorities in the city are entitled to the status of nation, nationalities and peoples. Apart from the regional constitution, the city proclamation of SNNPR empowers the different ethnic groups living in the city the right to self governance.[21]

4.2.1. The right to language and culture

The non indigenous ethnic minorities are exercising this right. There are different means in which this right is protected in the city. As per article 5 of the regional constitution, Amharic is recognized as the working language of the region. Hence, there are different private Amharic Language or Amharic speaking primary schools (1-4 grades). There is also other sidamigna language speaking schools despite the existence of 48 % Sidama ethnic groups in the city. The different ethnic groups are attending education in the working language of the region since Amharic is spoken by those ethnic groups. However, other ethnic groups rather than Amhara and sidamas have no any opportunity to teach their children by their own mother tongue but they tend to prefer to teach their children in Amharic speaking public or private school rather than sidamigna as practically observed.[22]

Everybody wants to present his case in a court by his mother tongue though this may not be available for every ethnic minority because of practical reasons. But, everyone has the right to get translator before the Court and this has been protected for different ethnic groups in the city[23] generally, the actual fact in the ground tells that there is by far a better protection of language right for the Amhara and sidama ethnic groups than members of other ethnic groups.

In relation to cultural autonomy as I had interview with the mayors special advisor Ato belayneh teshome told that, the different ethnic groups residing in the city live together based on tolerance, respect and peace starting from recent years .[24] However, as practically observed, the indigenous peoples are by far exercising their cultural rights in better manner. For instance chambala fiche is being celebrated every year and it has been institutionally recognized by the regional government and even by UNESCO as one of a world heritage. Hence, those non indigenous groups has not given such an opportunity to exercise their cultural right institutionally, rather they simply participate in the yearly celebration of chambalal fiche.


[1] Yonatan Tesfaye fiseha (2008) Institutional Recognition and Accommodation of Ethnic Diversity: Federalism in South Africa and Ethiopia. P 84

[2] Ibbid see p 85

[3] Supra note 1 see P 71

[4] See preamble of the FDRE constitution

[5] See Article 39 of the FDRE constitution

[6] See the preamble of SNNPR constitution

[7] Ibbid and van der beken , Federalism in the context of Extreme Ethnic pluralism: The case of Ethiopians SNNPR.P.6

[8] See Article 5 off SNNPR constitution

[9] Ibbid see article 8

[10] Ibbid see article 39

[11] Ibbid see article 45(1)

[12] Ibbid see article 45(3)

[13] Hawassa city administration official webportal http://www.mwud.gov.et/web/hawassa/home accessed April 21

[14] Ibbid

[15] Ibbid

[16] Awassa a capital city of Southern Region of Ethiopia (published in Ethiopia) http://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/ethiopia-social-manager/read/104758/awassa-a-capital-city-of-southern-region-of-ethiopia accessed on April 21

[17] The 2007 Census conducted by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia.

[18] SNNPR City proclamation No 103/2006

[19] See supra note 14

[20] Interview with ato belayne teshome , special Advisor of Hawassa city mayor

[21] See article 39 of the regional constitution and city proclamation of SNNPR

[22] Interview with legesse lankamo , former member of mayors committee before 5th round election

[23] Ibbid

[24] Interview with ato belayneh teshome , special Advisor to mayor of Hawassa city

Excerpt out of 14 pages


Federalism as a tool for accomodation of ethinc diversity in Hawassa city
Ethiopian Civil Service University  (federalism and legal studies)
Federalism and Human Rights
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ISBN (Book)
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federalism, hawassa, ethnic diversity, ethnic accommodation, FDRE, indigenous ethinic groups, Non-indigenous ethnic groups, SNNPRS
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Wondwossen Mengistu (Author), 2016, Federalism as a tool for accomodation of ethinc diversity in Hawassa city, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/378988


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