Ethiopia: from a centralised monarchy to a federal republic

Author Biography

Christophe Van der Beken, Faculty of Law, Department Public Law Ghent University

Faculty of Law, Department Public Law

Main Article Content

Christophe Van der Beken (Faculty of Law, Department Public Law Ghent University)

Published Aug 8, 2007


Although the Ethiopian state traces its roots back to the empire of Axum in the first centuries AD, the modern Ethiopian state took shape in the second half of the 19th century. During that period the territory of the Ethiopian empire expanded considerably. Several ethnic groups were incorporated into the empire and the foundations for a strong, centralised state were laid. Centralisation of authority in the hands of the emperor and a strategy of nation building that denied the ethnic diversity of Ethiopian society characterised the rule of Emperor Haile Selassie. At the same time, these elements contributed to its decline. Haile Selassie was ultimately deposed by a military committee in 1974. This announced the end of the Ethiopian monarchy and the transformation of the Ethiopian state, following the Marxist model. In spite of Marxist-Leninist attention to the 'nationalities issue', Ethiopia remained a centralised state, dominated by one ethnic identity. This gave rise to increasing resistance from various regional and ethnic liberation movements. The combined effort of these movements caused the fall of military rule in May 1991. The new regime, which was dominated by ethnically organised parties, initiated a radical transformation of the Ethiopian state structure that leads to the establishment of a federation in 1995.

Key Words: Ethiopia, Political Development, Constitutional Development, State Structure 

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