Federalism, territorial autonomy and the management of ethnic diversity in Africa: reading the balance sheet

12 Feb 2013

The history of federalism in Africa is a history of ambivalence. In the run up to independence, federalism was an idea that galvanized several political movements that, following the retreat of colonial powers, emerged to represent the interest of ethnic groups that were anxious about their political status in post colonial Africa. But it was also an idea that was subsequently rejected by those that wield state power and thrown into historical dustbins. Recent developments indicate that the federal idea that was never given a chance to develop and was being strangled at birth is now re-entering the constitutional scene of several African countries. This short article examines how African federations have responded to the ethnic diversity that characterizes their societies. In particular, it examines how the territorial autonomy solution, implicit in these federations, have helped to deal with the challenges of ethnic diversity.