The Quest for Identity and Self-Determination in the SNNP Region of Ethiopia

Author:Beza Dessalegn - Nigussie Afesha
Position:Beza Dessalegn: LLB, LLM, PhD, Assistant Professor, College of Law and Governance, School of Law, Hawassa University. Email: bezadesy4722@gmail.com - Nigussie Afesha: LLB, MA, Associate Professor, College of Law and Governance, School of Law, Hawassa University. Email: nigussie.afesha12@gmail.com
Pages:63-90
SUMMARY

The rich ethnic diversity in the SNNP region is being managed by different mechanisms of constitutional, institutional, and political practice. Yet, this has not been able to contain new questions of identity, not only seeking for recognition as a distinct ethnic group, but also a desire to establish ethnic territorial administrations. Moreover, ethnic groups that are already recognized are also... (see full summary)

 
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63
The Quest for Identity and
Self-Determination in the SNNP Region
of Ethiopia
Beza Dessalegn and Nigussie Afesha**
Abstract
The rich ethnic diversity in the SNNP region is being managed by different
mechanisms of constitutional, institutional, and political practice. Yet, this has not
been able to contain new questions of identity, not only seeking for recognition as
a distinct ethnic group, but also a desire to establish ethnic territorial
administrations. Moreover, ethnic groups that are already recognized are also
laying claims to various self-determination rights, inter alia, to territorial
autonomy, equitable participation, and the redrawing of internal (ethnic)
boundaries. Based on legal analysis of cases from the SNNP region, the article
critically discusses the quest for identity and self-determination, and provides an
overview of the experience of the region. In dealing with the existing dilemma, we
argue that there is a need to maintain the balance between constitutional rights to
identity recognition and self-determination with the threat of ethnic and territorial
fragmentations.
Key terms
Identity · Self-determination · Federalism · Ethnic groups · SNNP region
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mlr.v13i1.3
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)
___________
Introduction
The Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) region attests to the
extremes of Ethiopia’s ethnic federal experiment. On the one hand, the region,
on the basis of a carefully crafted constitutional architecture and an overarching
political practice, tries to accommodate its Nations, Nationalities and Peoples
(NNP) by empowering them to preserve their identities and manage their own
Beza Dessalegn: LLB, LLM, PhD, Assistant Professor, College of Law and Governance,
School of Law, Hawassa University. Email: bezadesy4722@gmail.com
** Nigussie Afesha: LLB, MA, Associate Professor, College of Law and Governance, School
of Law, Hawassa University. Email: nigussie.afesha12@gmail.com
64 MIZAN LAW REVIEW, Vol. 13, No.1 September 2019
affairs in defined territories. On the other hand, it stands at crossroads when it
comes to adequately responding to the ever increasing questions, which inter
alia include identity, equitable participation and self-rule claims by various
ethnic groups. The latter claim, in particular, has unleashed what some, from the
outset, had feared that ethnic federalism would trigger ethnic fragmentations and
a never-ending request for ethnic territorial homelands.1
In tandem with the overall logic of Ethiopia’s version of federalism, the
region has identified some 56 ethnic groups2 as its native (indigenous) identities
capable of exercising the benefits accruing from the federal formula be it in the
form of territorial autonomy (TA), political participation, or cultural, linguistic,
and economic self-determination (SD). Nonetheless, current developments show
that the region has disappointed many when it comes to responding to the quest
for identity and self-government rights.3
At the moment, several communities are pushing for the recognition of their
distinct identity in addition to the already existing 56 native identities, while the
already recognized ethnic groups dissatisfied with their status quo are laying
various claims to new zones and liyu weredas, territorial re-demarcations in
order to be united with their ethnic kin across (territorial and political) borders,
and equitable participation in the territories they already reside.
A strong caveat to be noted is that most of the research in this article is based
on developments before the political upheaval taking place since early 2018.
While the SNNP region remained relatively calm during anti-government
protests, it has however endured some of the worst inter communal violence
after the coming to power of a new Prime Minister. Some of the instances
Frequently used acronyms:
CCI
Council of Constitutional Inquiry
CoN
Council of Nationalities
HoF
House of Federation
SD
Self determination
SNNP
Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples
1 Minase Haile (1996). “The Ne w Ethiopian Constitution: Its Impact upon Unity, Human
Rights and Development” Suffolk Transnational Law Review, Vol. 20, No.1. , pp. 20 -21.
2 For the list of the 56 ethnic groups, see the document released by the Southern Nations
Nationalities and Peoples Regional State Council of Nationalities, Communication,
Minutes a nd Documentation Supporting Core Process Unit, (November 2011), document
on file. T his document additionally identifies, which of these ethnic groups are considered
native to which of the zones and special woredas (district) impliedly designating their
ethnic territorial homelands. Yet, in order to fully understand the overall status of each of
these ethnic groups at the regional and sub-re gional administrations, one has to carefully
study the political practice, which has far reaching implications, at times, over and above
the constitutional design.
3 See the discussions below under sections 2 and 3.

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