The law and politics of internal secession: The Ethiopian experience in comparative perspective

The 1995 Constitution of Ethiopia established what is commonly referred to as ethnic federalism, which is primarily founded based on the recognition of the right of every ethnic community to both to internal and external self-determination. The right of an ethnic community to secede from the federation and establish itself as an independent country represents a recognition of the right to external self-determination. The right to internal self-determination, on the other hand, has found expression with the establishment of ethnic based state and local governments. The Constitution authorizes ethnic communities that do not have their own states to secede from the state in which they are found and establish their own state. It is based on this constitutional right that different ethnic communities are agitating for internal secession. Although secession has been the subject of much scholarly work, the focus has largely been on the external dimension of secession. Little attention has been paid to the less radical solution of internal secession, the right of a community or territory to secede from a subnational unit and establish itself as a state. Using the Ethiopian experience as a case study, this paper discusses the law governing the process of internal secession in a comparative perspective. It also touches on the politics of internal secession.