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ETHIOPIAN "ETHNIC" FEDERALISM: THE ROLE OF THE FEDERAL SUPREME COURT [Abstract ID: 0704-09]
Given the recent escape of thousands of Ethiopians (mostly Oromo) towards Harar, the issue of Ethiopian so-called “ethnic” federalism has once again gained the headlines of major international newspapers and magazines. The purpose of the paper is to investigate the role (if any) the Ethiopian Federal Supreme Court (FSC) in shaping a national identity, which would eventually constitute an aggregating force of the several distinct Ethiopian nationalities into a sense of belonging to a common state. Indeed, it has been noted that the Ethiopian federal process has (at least so far) resembled more the agreement of several distinct nation states to an international treaty, rather than a constitutional process leading to the creation of a functioning and efficient federal state (see e.g., J.M. Cohen). It is the authors’ opinion that peculiar challenges in this regard has been the presence and interplay of several different layers of courts in the Ethiopian legal system (i.e., social, customary, religious, etc.) as well as the lack of a comprehensive bill of rights.In this context, the paper discusses the introduction and implementation of the doctrine of binding precedents delivered by the Cassation Division of the FSC (Proclamation No. 454/2005) and to discuss the opportunities and challenges ahead. References will be made, where relevant, to the examples of both the United States and the European Union to highlight some lessons that Ethiopia might draw upon in its path ahead.