Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Public administration and Cultural Diversity in Ethiopia Part 1: Locate five peer-reviewed articles published within the past 5 years related to a topic of interest you wi - Writeedu

Public administration and Cultural Diversity in Ethiopia Part 1: Locate five peer-reviewed articles published within the past 5 years related to a topic of interest you wi


My Research topic: Public administration and Cultural Diversity in Ethiopia

Part 1: Locate five peer-reviewed articles published within the past 5 years related to a topic of interest you wish to explore for your dissertation research. Do not include book chapters, books, editorials, white papers, trade magazine articles, or non-peer-reviewed sources. Then, complete the following for each source in the form of an annotated bibliography:

Begin each annotation with an APA formatted reference.

Then, annotate the source with a block paragraph. The annotation should be double spaced, 200-250 words, including a brief synopsis of the article, the problem, the purpose, a description of the methodology, the findings, the recommendations for future research, and any particular strengths or weaknesses of the article.

Part 2: After reviewing each annotation, describe the topic you wish to explore for your dissertation research. This topic should logically flow from the gaps in the literature noted in your annotations.

Total Length: 5-7 pages, not including title and reference pages

Your assignment should demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the ideas and concepts presented in the course by providing new thoughts and insights relating directly to this topic. Your response should reflect scholarly writing and current APA standards. Be sure to adhere to Northcentral University's Academic Integrity Policy.


Archibald, D. (2010). “Breaking the mold” in the dissertation: Implementing a problem-based, decision-oriented thesis project.

Bartunek, J. M., & Rynes, S. (2010). The construction and contributions of “implications for practice”: What’s in them and what they might offer?

Corley, K. G., & Giola, D. (2011). Building theory about theory building: What constitutes a theoretical contribution? Academy of Management Review

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Diversity in Ethiopia: A historical overview of political challenges

Article · January 2013




1 author:

Abebaw Y. Adamu

Addis Ababa University



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The International Journal of

Community Diversity




Diversity in Ethiopia A Historical Overview of Political Challenges ABEBAW Y. ADAMU


First published in 2013 in Champaign, Illinois, USA by Common Ground Publishing University of Illinois Research Park 2001 South First St, Suite 202 Champaign, IL 61820 USA

ISSN: 2327-0004

© 2013 (individual papers), the author(s) © 2013 (selection and editorial matter) Common Ground

All rights reserved. Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the applicable copyright legislation, no part of this work may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the publisher. For permissions and other inquiries, please contact <[email protected]>.

The International Journal of Community Diversity is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.

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Diversity in Ethiopia: A Historical Overview of Political Challenges

Abebaw Y. Adamu, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland

Abstract: 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


uman diversity is a salient and challenging issue in most countries. The term “diversity” has become one of the most frequently used words in social sciences. However, there is no single way to define diversity. Finding an agreed upon definition of diversity is rather

challenging. Literally, diversity is a state of being diverse. In some studies diversity refers to “differences between individuals on any attribute that may lead to the perception that another person is different from the self” (Van Knippenberg, De Dreu, & Homan, 2004, p. 1008), or as a variation that exists within and across groups on the basis of race, ethnicity, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and social status (Banks et al., 2005). In general terms, diversity can be broadly conceived as all the ways in which people are different. This includes both visible and invisible differences that exist between people both at individual and group level.

Ethnic and linguistic diversity were common features of most African countries even before the arrival of European colonizers. Nevertheless, European colonization influenced the ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity of most African countries. Many African countries have culture, identity, and ethnic boundaries that resulted from European colonialism and their ‘divide and rule’ policy (Van der Beken, 2008). Many of Africa’s colonial boundaries were drawn at the infamous Berlin Conference, 1884-85. In this conference, European colonizers agreed to avoid a potential armed conflict in their struggle for compelling motives for conquest which includes natural resource, strategic advantage, market, and national glory (Keim, 1995). Most political boundaries, which were drawn between and within the European colonial claims, became the border of African countries at the time of their independence.

The politically and economically motivated conquest (Sheldon, 1995) and border demarcation by European colonizers divided ethnic groups that had lived together, merged ethnic groups that had never lived together, and even created new ethnic groups that had never existed. European colonizers imposed their languages on their colonies in Africa, despite the fact that Africans have several indigenous languages. Consequently, European languages such as English, French, and Portuguese became official or national languages of former European colonies.


The International Journal of Community Diversity Volume 12, 2013,, ISSN: 2327-0004 © Common Ground, Abebaw Y. Adamu, All Rights Reserved Permissions: [email protected]


Although there was Christianity in some African countries such as Ethiopia and Egypt, it was introduced and spread out in most African countries during the European colonial period through European Christian missionaries who had converted millions of native Africans to Christianity.

Unlike most African countries, the diversity in Ethiopia is not influenced by the colonial imperialist design (Van der Beken, 2008), because Ethiopia is one of the two African countries (the other is Liberia) that retain their sovereignty during the colonial era. Unlike most western countries, the diversity in Ethiopia is not also influenced by international migration, because Ethiopia is one of the poorest African countries that hardly attract international immigrants. The arrival of Europeans to Ethiopia, however, had contributed to increased religious diversity. Christianity was introduced in Ethiopia in the early fourth century, while Islam was in the seventh. Orthodox Christianity was the only Christian faith that existed in Ethiopia before the arrival of Europeans. Later, in the 16th century, when the strong Muslim army from Eastern Ethiopia led by Imam Ahmed (also known as Gragn Ahmed) destroyed many churches and threatened the complete destruction of Ethiopian Christendom, Emperor Lebna Dengel requested help from Portuguese to combat with Gragn Ahmed. Following the arrival of Portuguese fleet that helped the Ethiopian Christians in the fight against Gragn Ahmed, the King and Church of Portugal sent their own bishops and patriarchs to Ethiopia (Sundkler & Steed, 2000). This opened the door for the introduction of Catholic religion in Ethiopia which was first accepted by King Susinyos in 1622. Afterward, many European Catholic missionaries came to Ethiopia in the name of other missions and taught the Roman faith.

The present paper looks at the political challenges of diversity in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has a population of more than 85 million which makes it the second most populous country in Africa. It has more than 80 ethnic groups which have distinct cultural traditions and languages. The two numerical majority ethnic groups are the Oromo (34.5%) and the Amhara (26.9%). Although the Tigre ethnic group comprises about 6% of the total population, it is political majority in the government since 1991 (Gashaw, 1993; Joseph, 1998; Mengisteab, 2001; Tronvoll, 2000). Hence, discussions that focus on ‘minority/majority’ ethnic groups in Ethiopia have to be seen from two points of view – political (power relation) and numerical (population).

In Ethiopia, there are different religions and more than 80 languages. The religions include Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant), Islam, Judaism and Paganism. The two largest religious faiths are Orthodox Christianity (40.5%) and Islam (35.4%). Amharic is the working language of the federal government and English is the de facto second language of the federal state. Six languages are being used as a working language of different regional states. More than 20 languages are also being used as medium of instruction in the primary education. English is given as a subject starting from grade one and is used as a medium of instruction for secondary and higher education.

Diversity-related issues in Ethiopia are rooted in the social and political history of the country. However, since early 1990s diversity has become a topic of discussion among Ethiopians both at government and societal levels. Though other forms of diversity do exist, Ethiopia has been described as “a museum of peoples” (Beshir, 1979; Wagaw, 1999) whose population is characterized by a “complex pattern of ethnic, linguistic and religious groups” (Tronvoll, 2000, p. 6). These aspects of diversity are considered as significant distinguishing features of the country. Therefore, with the intention of better understanding of the political challenges of diversity in Ethiopia, this paper focuses on overview of ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity in the course of the history of modern Ethiopia.

The next four sections of this paper present and discuss diversity during (1) the early modern Ethiopia; (2) the imperial regime; (3) the Derg regime; and (4) the federal democratic republic of Ethiopia. In the discussion, emphasis is given to issues of diversity during the current and the previous two regimes because they constitutionally declared diversity-related issues. The final section of the paper presents the conclusion.



Diversity during the Early Modern Ethiopia (1855 – 1930)

The history of modern Ethiopia begins in mid-19th century when Emperor Tewodros initiated the first efforts to unify and modernize the country during his regime from 1855 to 1868 (Mengisteab, 1997; 2001; Van der Beken, 2007; Zewde, 2001). Emperor Tewodros, who was Orthodox Christian and Amhara, came to power as emperor of Ethiopia in 1855 by ending the decentralized ‘Zemene Mesafint’ (era of the princes) (Tronvoll, 2000; Van der Beken, 2007; Zewde, 2001). During his empire, Orthodox Christianity continued to be the dominant religion. Amharic, which was the official language of the Ethiopian state since 1270 (Haile, 1986; Wagaw, 1999), also continued to be the official written as well as spoken language of the country (Pankhurst, 1992; Zewde, 2001). After the suicide of Emperor Tewodros, who chose a proud death over the humiliation of captivity by British Soldier, Emperor Teklegiorgis II (1868-1872) from the Amhara and then Emperor Yohannes IV (1872-1889) from the Tigre ethnic groups came to power. Yohannes was a committed Orthodox Christian (Haile, 1986) and a nationalist who continued in unifying Ethiopia. However, his ambition failed due to profound internal and external confrontations. Islam has no place in Yohannes’s ideology, and his unyielding policy forced Muslims to convert and baptize; or else they were obliged to give their land and property to his administration (Zewide, 2001). For instance, Mohamed Ali was converted to Christianity, took Christian name and became Ras (Head), later King Michael of Wollo. Emperor Yohannes stood as his godfather at his baptism. The emperor was believed to be cruel toward Muslims who refused to convert their religion.

Following the death of Yohannes in 1889, Menelik II (1889-1913) from the Amhara ethnic group became emperor of Ethiopia. In the late 19th century, Menelik expanded his empire to (some historians argue that he rather conquered) the southern part of Ethiopia (Tronvoll, 2000; Zewde, 2001) to integrate and create the modern state of Ethiopia. This incorporation had a significant contribution to the diversity in Ethiopia, because the most ethnically and linguistically diverse region that comprises more than half of the languages and ethnic groups of the country was incorporated as a result of this expansion. Along with this powerful expansion, Orthodox Christianity, Amharic language and the Amhara cultural values dominated the diverse ethnic groups of southern part of the current Ethiopia (Gudina, 2007; Van der Beken, 2008). The ethnic groups incorporated into the empire were believed to be treated as subjects, and predominantly, their culture, language and identity were suppressed (Mengisteab, 1997).

After the death of Menelik, Lij Iyasu (1913-1916) – Menelik’s grandson, Empress Zewditu (1916-1930) – Menelik’s eldest daughter, and Haileselassie (1930-1974) – Menelik’s cousin came to power. All these rulers were also from the Amhara ethnic group and they were Orthodox Christians who claimed lineage to the Solomonic dynasty. The Solomonic dynasty is the traditional ruling class of Ethiopia that claims descent from King Solomon of Jerusalem and the Queen of Sheba of Ethiopia who is said to have given birth to Menelik I of Ethiopia.

Diversity during the Imperial (Haileselassie’s) Regime (1930 – 1974)

The Haileselassie regime claimed its descent from the Solomonic dynasty, and this is clearly stated in the 1955 constitution of Ethiopia – “the Imperial dignity shall remain perpetually attached to the line of Haileselassie I, descendant of King Sahle Selassie, whose line descends without interruption from the dynasty of Menelik I, son of the Queen of Ethiopia, the Queen of Sheba, and King Solomon of Jerusalem”. Succession to the throne and crown of the empire was not by election, merit or other criteria that invite potential successors. It rather constitutionally reserved to the line of Haileselassie (Turner, 1991) which requires a lineage of the Axumite Kings and the perceived Solomonic dynasty. This implies that, as a principle, people from every ethnic group have a chance to become Head of State if he/she claims a royal blood attached to



the Solomonic dynasty (Haile, 1986). However, this excludes Muslims as the royal blood essentially requires Christianity.

The imperial regime was a strong centralized state (Mengisteab, 1997; Tronvoll, 2000) that designed homogenization as a nation building strategy that gives the best guarantee for the state integration (Van der Beken, 2008). In pursuance of this policy of national integration, the regime wanted to create a national culture, language, and religion for all Ethiopians (Alemu & Tekleselassie, 2006). As a result of this policy, Amharic was the only language used for media, court, education, and other publication purposes. It was not legal to teach, publish and broadcast languages other than Amharic and English (Boothe & Walker, 1997; Keller, 1988; Markakis, 1989). In practice, Amharic served as “the language of administration as well as the language and culture of integration” (Tronvoll, 2000, p. 13).

The spread of the dominant Amharic language and Amhara culture through administration and education had a negative impact on other languages and cultures (Van der Beken, 2007). The Amharic language hegemony was at the center of the “Amharization” process, and as part of the process, Amharic language proficiency was considered for political positions and economic resources of many kinds (Smith, 2008). It is believed that several people who joined the imperial army and bureaucracy had passed through the process of acculturation. As Marcus (1995) points out, “politically and socially ambitious people became Christian, took appropriate names [typical Amhara names], learnt Amharic, and began to dress and even to eat like Shoans [Amhara]” (p.194). This is apparently a process of acculturation that imposed the culture, language and religion of one ethnic group on all other ethnic groups (Keller, 1988; Levine, 2000).

Although Orthodox, Muslim, Catholic and other religions existed, due to the policy of national integration, the constitution declared Orthodox Christianity as the empire religion – “the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, founded in the fourth century, on the doctrines of St. Mark, is the Established Church of the Empire and is, as such, supported by the State. The Emperor shall always profess the Ethiopian Orthodox Faith”. Since the restored Solomonic dynasty, Amharic and Christianity were confirmed as integral parts of the imperial tradition dominating the government (Marcus, 1994). Due to the Orthodox Church supremacy, “the concepts of the Ethiopian state and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church had been almost synonymous – both locally and internationally” (Friedman, 1989, p. 249).

The constitution did not mention the status of ethnic groups, languages other than Amharic, and religions other than Orthodox Christianity. However, presumably the imperial regime had an assimilationist political system toward other ethnic groups, religions and languages. Although the regime seems tolerant toward Muslims by allowing Islamic courts to settle family disputes and Islamic schools, it discouraged and alienated them in several ways. For instance, there were no official Muslim holidays, and the teaching of Arabic, which was related with Islam, was banned through time (Abate, 1991). The imperial regime did not officially impose Orthodox Christianity on other religion followers, but nurturing Ethiopian’s identity with Christianity had negatively affected Muslims and others. As a result of the regime’s discriminatory state policy and nation building strategy, arguably Muslims “had no role in public life” (Markakis, 1989, p. 119).

During this period, the Amhara and Tigre, especially the Amharas, were considered as ‘true Ethiopians’ (World Bank, 1948). The ‘true Ethiopian’ allegedly was one “who spoke Amharic, listened to Amharic music, believed in the Amhara-Tigray religion [Orthodox Christianity], and wore Amhara dress; to be ‘authentic,’ Ethiopians sometimes had to alter their names and hide their true identities” (The Struggle, 1969 cited in Wagaw, 1999, p. 79). The Ethiopian national identity was also equated with the Amhara ethnic identity (Van der Beken, 2008), and “being Ethiopian has often been synonymous with being Amhara” (Mains, 2004, p. 342).

Dissatisfaction with the cultural assimilation and traditional political dominance of the monarchy resulted in the creation of several rebellion groups (Habtu, 2004; Van der Beken, 2007). There were nationalist, ethno-nationalist and peasant oppositions across the country. The Eritrean liberation movement in 1960s, the Woyane rebellion of Tigray in 1943 and the peasant



rebellion in Bale in 1964 (Lakew 1992), among others are groups that challenged the monarchy. Equally, even more importantly, the movement of students and intellectuals worried the imperial regime. The students’ movement raised substantial issues such as the land tenure system, poverty, cultural imperialism, education for the poor, class and problems of ethnicity (Tegegn, 2008). Finally, after 45 years in power, in 1974, the Haileselassie’s regime was overthrown by the Provisional Military Administrative Council which was well known as the ‘Derg’.

Diversity during the Derg Regime (1974-1991)

The Derg, which advocated the Marxist-Leninist ideology, wanted to demolish the issue of land, ethnicity and religion which were criticized by the majority of the population for several decades and considered as a threat for the nation’s unity. At the beginning of its regime, in 1975, the Derg came with land reform proclamation, which mostly addressed the main historical criticism raised by several ethnic groups. Later, in 1976, as part of building socialism in Ethiopia, and alleged response to the demands of ethnic nationalism, the Derg came with the declaration of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). NDR declared that “the right to self-determination of all nationalities will be recognized and fully respected. No nationality will dominate another one since the history, culture, language and religion of each nationality will have equal recognition in accordance with the spirit of socialism” (PMAC, 1976). The pronouncements on land reform, ethnic, religion, language and cultural equality seems positively responded to many inequalities perpetuated under the previous regimes. However, their implementation was far beyond the expectation of the society.

In the 1987 Constitution, the military government declared that its political system is a unitary state in which all nationalities (ethnic groups) live in equality. The constitution also ensured the equality of Ethiopians before the law, irrespective of ethnic, religion, sex, occupation, social or other status, and the equality, development and respectability of the language of ethnic groups. It also declared that state and religion are separate. Despite these efforts, opposition based on ethnic, religion, and class interests continued because traits based on religion and ethnicity are deeply embedded and are not susceptible to elimination by ideology alone (Abate, 1991). It requires practical implementation of constitutional rights and positive ideologies which the Derg regime failed to succeed.

There are people who argue that in addition to socialist ideology and centralized authority, the military government was also characterized by Amhara cultural and political domination (Clapham, 2002; Van der Beken, 2007). The Derg itself constitutionally affirmed its centralized political system. However, there is no foundation for the accusation that the Amhara dominated the Derg like its predecessor because the ruling group of the Derg was composed of Amhara, Oromo, Tigre and other ethnic groups (Clapham, 1990; Haile, 1986). This indicates that “the system is not ethnically exclusive” (Clapham, 1990, p. 222); rather, regardless of its successfulness, attempted to dismantle the Amhara aristocracy and ethnic operation and broaden popular participation.

The separation of state and religion had ended the official status of Orthodox Christianity as religion of the State. Islam was granted official standing, and Muslim holidays became official holidays in Ethiopia (Abate 1991). Although the regime declared freedom of religion, in practical terms, it portrayed religion as antinational constituent. The regime took extreme measures against religion in general and separate religious groups in particular (Friedman, 1989). Christians and their institutions were highly repressed by the Derg (Brown, 1981). For example, Christians had been accused of corresponding with their “imperialist West” counterpart and of being CIA agents. Churches were also adversely affected by the nationalization of land. In general, the military regime was considered as repressive by all religious groups.

During the Derg regime, Amharic remained as the official language of the state. On the other hand, the ban on printing and broadcasting languages other than Amharic and English was lifted.



As a result, Oromiffa and Tigrigna languages were used for print media. Afar, Somali, Oromiffa and Tigrigna languages were also used for radio broadcasting. In addition to Amharic and English, Oromiffa, Tigrigna, Afar, and Somali languages were used in the campaign called ‘Development through Cooperation Campaign’ (Smith, 2008). Fifteen indigenous languages, including Amharic were also used in the National Literacy Campaign (Gashaw, 1993; McNab, 1990). However, Amharic continued as the only medium of instruction in the primary education.

The Derg came to power under the slogan of “Ethiopia First” and “Land to the Tillers”, and it was initially popular following the overthrow of Haileselassie. How

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