Between Failure and Redemption: The Future of the Ethiopian Social Contract

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Contemporary Ethiopian is, without question, facing enormous challenges. At the core of these challenges lay a state-building process major constituencies and elite groups were either alienated from, forced to acquiesce to, or coopted into. Unable to derive political legitimacy from democratic participation, successive governments largely relied on coercion and neopatrimonialism, modulated by constitutional narratives and reform efforts including the imperial regime’s attempts to establish a constitutional republic, the Derg’s abolition of the ገባር (gabār) system, and the EPRDF’s recognition and prioritization of linguistic and cultural rights. Despite an initially promising political, legal, and institutional reform initiative undertaken by the incumbent regime, Ethiopians remain divided in their views about what kind of constitutional structure has the greatest potential to unify the country without compromising its diversity. In the end, in no small part due to another missed opportunity to reform, neither a stable political system nor peace have been achieved. This publication came out of an academic conference on about the social and political challenges that ought to be addressed in Ethiopia, the strengths and weaknesses of its constitutional structures as pertinent to these challenges, and ways of building a resilient polity. The publication is meant to bring this dialogue, including the specific insights, conclusions, disagreements within it, into the public sphere hoping that it will infuse nuance into the broader political discourse. The conference and the book are the result of a collaboration between Addis Ababa University’s College of Law and Governance Studies, Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, Northwestern University's Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs, and Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program.

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  • 01/03/2023
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  • ISBN 978-1-954984-06-6
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