Diversity in Ethiopia: A Historical Overview of Political Challenges

By Abebaw Y. Adamu.

Published by The International Journal of Community Diversity

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The focus of this paper is on the political challenges of diversity in Ethiopia. It discusses the ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity, which are significant distinguishing features of the country. In Ethiopia, for decades, diversity-related issues such as the right and equality of ethnic and religious groups have been the historic and prevalent questions of Ethiopian society. With the intention of better understanding the political challenges of diversity in Ethiopia, the discussion focuses on issues of diversity in the course of the history of modern Ethiopia. In relation to issues of diversity, to date, Ethiopia has exercised two broad ideologies of state policy. The first state policy was a unitary system of government which was used until the downfall of the Derg regime in 1991. There were two phases of this system. In the first phase (until the overthrown of the imperial regime), the policy attempted to bring unity without due recognition of diversity, and resulted in hegemony and suppression. In the second phase (during the Derg regime), the policy recognized ethnic and religious equality and linguistic diversity but failed to succeed. The second state policy is a federal system of government that has been used since 1991. It emphasizes and promotes diversity without balancing with unity, and this potentially threatens national unity and leads to tension, conflict and disintegration. So far, Ethiopia has failed to properly deal with issues of diversity but is striving to address by maintaining a delicate balance between unity and diversity.

Keywords: Diversity, Ethiopia, Ethnicity, Language, Religion, Political Challenge

The International Journal of Community Diversity, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp.17-27. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 391.826KB).

Abebaw Y. Adamu

PhD Student, School of Education, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland

Abebaw Yirga Adamu is a PhD student at the School of Education, Tampere University, Finland. He has been working as a Lecturer at the Faculty of Education, Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia since 2003. Currently, he is on study leave. He also worked as coordinator of Bahir Dar University’s cultural center. Abebaw holds a B.Ed. in Amharic, M.Ed. in Multicultural and Multilingual Education and M.A. in Lifelong Learning: Policy and Management. His research interest includes higher education (diversity, quality internationalization, and harmonization), lifelong learning and adult education.