More than a clamor for autonomy, it is access to central power that defines the political contestations characterizing African states. Autonomy, within a decentralized framework, does not feature prominently in the debates about institutional design and reconfiguration of the African state. The literature on conflict management in Africa is rather replete with modes and experiences of creating an inclusive government through mechanisms of power sharing. The question is thus why conflict management efforts and discussion in Africa focus on what is going on at the central government or how the central government is organized and composed. What is about the exercise of central power in Africa that have forced many to give particular attention to the place it gives to communal representation? This paper seeks to examine why access to central power has emerged as an important factor for ethnic groups in Africa and the implications of the adopted arrangements for inter-ethnic relations.
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