Federalism as an Instrument for Unity and the Protection of Minorities: A Comparative Overview: Ethiopia, India and the US

Author:Legesse Tigabu Mengie
Position:Legesse Tigabu Mengie, LL. B (Haramaya University), LL.M in Comparative Constitutional Law (Central European University), LL.M in International and European Public Law (Erasmus University), Senior Lecturer in Law, College of Law and Governance, Jimma University; Email: <legessetigabu@yahoo.com> or <legeselaw@gmail.com>
Pages:265-295
SUMMARY

Accommodation of differences is used by federal systems to hold their units together. Lack of accommodation of diversity could lead to conflicts and pose danger for a union, particularly, in multicultural federal systems like Ethiopia. This article explores the protection of diverse groups and preservation of a union in federal systems. It involves a comparative overview of three jurisdictions:... (see full summary)

 
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265
Federalism as an Instrument for Unity
and the Protection of Minorities:
A Comparative Overview: Ethiopia, India and the US
Legesse Tigabu Mengie
Abstract
Accommodation of differences is used by federal systems to hold their units
together. Lack of accommodation of diversity could lead to conflicts and pose
danger for a union, particularly, in multicultural federal systems like Ethiopia. This
article explores the protection of diverse groups and preservation of a union in
federal systems. It involves a comparative overview of three jurisdictions:
Ethiopia, India and the US. Although comprehensive discussion on the relevant
principles of federalism across these federal systems cannot be done in a single
article, an investigation into the three jurisdictions gives insight as these
jurisdictions demonstrate substantially different federal features while they share
some of the hallmarks of federalism. The US represents a territorial federal
system. Indian federation is multicultural with unique centripetal tendencies and
this would make it a quasi-federal system. The Ethiopian federal system, on the
other hand, appears to empower ethnic groups by making them its building blocks.
This article examines the accommodation of diversity and protection of minorities
in such differently designed federal systems and aims at drawing relevant lessons.
Key terms
Federalism, unity, representation of minorities, ethnic federalism
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mlr.v10i2.1
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Introduction
Unity, regional autonomy, protection of minorities, conflict management and
establishment of a civilized and democratic community are among the most
important issues in many countries. Federalism is a form of government
structure which can address such concerns. While a unitary form of government
may erode regional autonomy, confederations may encounter problems in
building a lasting union.
Legesse Tigabu Mengie, LL. B (Haramaya University), LL.M in Comparative
Constitutional Law (Central European University), LL.M in International and European
Public Law (Erasmus University), Senior Lecturer in Law, College of Law and
Governance, Jimma University; E mail: <legessetigabu@yahoo.com> or
<legeselaw@gmail.com>
266 MIZAN LAW REVIEW, Vol. 10, No.2 December 2016
Various comparative studies on different aspects of federalism have mostly
focused on territorial federal systems. This is, partly, because most of the
developed federal systems, which are considered as models, are territorial.
Thomas Hueglin and Alan Fenna have, for example, contributed a comparative
work on federalism from the perspective of democratic governance involving,
primarily, territorial federal systems including the US, Canada, Germany,
Australia and Switzerland.1 Michael Burgess uses such federal systems to make
a distinction between federalism and other forms of governance.2
In his comprehensive work on comparative federalism, ‘Comparing Federal
Systems’, Ronald Watts compares 25 federal systems.3 His work involves
territorial and non-territorial federal systems. However, this work gives
emphasis to territorial federal systems, and does not provide detailed analysis on
non-territorial federal systems like Ethiopia. We cannot expect such details as
his work involves almost all federations.
Assefa Fiseha compares differently designed –territorial and non-territorial–
federal systems from the perspective of accommodation of ‘ethno-linguistic
groups’ and division of legislative, executive and judicial powers.4 The Forum
of Federations, an international organization based in Canada, has also initiated
comparative studies on federalism involving both territorial and non-territorial
federal systems. Most of these studies emphasize on fiscal federalism, policy
making in federations, conflict management and decentralization of power.
This article builds on these works with a particular focus on the preservation
of unity and the protection of minorities by comparing differently designed
federal systems and incorporating new developments particularly in Ethiopia.
The focus of the article is on the role of federalism in preserving unity and
protecting the interests of minorities. These federations are designed differently
and their federal features can be used as inputs to draw lessons for federal
systems. The brief investigation into the ethnic based federal system in Ethiopia,
the formally centralized quasi-federal system in India and the territorial federal
system in the US is meant to give an overview on the role of different forms of
federalism in preserving unity and accommodating diverse interests.
The first two sections of the article present theoretical aspects of federalism,
unity, diversity and the protection of minorities. The third section explores
representativeness of shared federal institutions. The fourth section highlights
1 Thomas Hueglin and Alan Fenna (2006) , Comparative Federalism: A Systematic Inquiry,
University of Toronto Press, p. 1.
2 Michael Burgess (2006), Comparative Federalism: Theory and Practice, Routledge, pp.
82-99.
3 Ronald Watts (2008), Comparing Federal Systems, Queens University Press, p. 1.
4Assefa Fiseha (2006), Federalism and the Accommodation of Diversity in Ethiopia: A
Comparative Study, Wolf Legal, pp. 2-14.

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