Ethiopia is the home to more than 80 ethnic communities with different languages, cultural and religious diversity. Except in a few urban areas such as the capital city, most of Ethiopia's ethnic communities predominantly live in their respective distinct geographic areas of habitation. There is no ethnic community in Ethiopia a majority that comprises a population of more than 50% of the total population of Ethiopia. But there are relatively significant majority ethnic communities such as the Oromo and Amhara. Most of Ethiopia's ethnic communities are divided along mainly two religious cleavage lines: Islam and Orthodox Christianity. By crosscutting Ethiopia's ethnic cleavage lines, religion plays a moderating role in limiting the intensity of the ethnic factor in politics, giving rise to overarching loyalty.
The 1995 constitution of Ethiopia established a federal system that is organized on the basis of the right of Ethiopia’s ethnic communities to self-determination. The recognition of the right of self-determination has become imperative to establish peace and democracy in the country and has demanded the reconstitution of the Ethiopian state on the basis of a federal political system that guarantees the maintenance and promotion distinctive ethno-cultural identities while building a common polity that allows them to pursue their common interests. In as much as ethnic federalism institutionalizes the self-rule and shared-rule of Ethiopia's territorial ethnic communities by guaranteeing their representation and participation in the governance process, it is a viable constitutive means to democracy. The federal arrangement in Ethiopia is not only aimed at enabling ethnic communities to maintain and promote their distinctive collective identities and their particular forms of life it is also directed towards building one political and economic community for the promotion of their common interests collectively, in a mutually supportive manner.
Ramifications of Right to self-determination