On November 19-20, Dr. Ashad Sentongo, AIPR’s Director for Africa Programs, participated in a regional conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The event, titled “Peace in the Horn of Africa: Can Federalism Help?”, was hosted by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in collaboration with the Center for Federal Studies at Addis Ababa University. Academics, practitioners, and relevant stakeholders were invited to share experiences and views on how federalism can improve internal governance systems, reduce conflicts, and manage diversity on the region.
At the conference, Dr. Sentongo delivered a presentation entitled “Prevention of Violent Conflicts: Mechanisms for Handling Ethnic-Based Conflicts”. The presentation highlighted common theoretical and structural approaches to organize societies in Africa, especially those with a multi-ethnic character. His contribution also explored why the ethnic question persists despite increased institutionalization of decentralized and/or federal systems of government in Africa such as Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda or South Africa, Ethiopia and Nigeria.
Dr. Sentongo also spoke about enduring challenges and the shortfalls of federalism, which explain the persistence of ethnic mobilization in African societies, often with the demand for more power from the state. This includes the failure to translate citizens’ participation in decision-making (e.g. election of local leaders) into meaningful power in accordance with local interests. Dr. Sentongo also spoke about the enduring problem of dual authorities, that is, the contest between state and alternative forms of influence (traditional and religious), ethnic majorities becoming political majorities which go on to dominate those in the minority, the “recentralization of decentralization” under the winner-take-all multi-party political arrangements, and the politicization of the delivery of services among others.
For more information on AIPR’s Africa Programs, please click here.