Ethnic Federalism in a Comparative Perspective: Implications for Uganda

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Grassroots Perceptions
On gaining independence, most African states inherited a strongly centralized apparatus at the national level. Pro-independence nationalists rejected both the imperial masters’ proposals to aggregate nations into regional federations and the temptation to devolve them for the efficient management of ethnic diversity. The first half century of the post-colonial era has however seen a succession of crises. Many leaders at the helm of overly strong, centrist governments have over this period become authoritarian and have contributed a lot to the mire of corruption, economic collapse, ethnic resentment, violence and civil war. They have exploited Africa’s ethnic differences to consolidate patronage-driven democracies and economies. The result has been the personalization of states, their collapse into mini-bureaucracies, the neglect of the people at the grassroots of society, and massive social inequalities.Given such a systematic fading of the hopes and ambitions of independence, many African countries have recently found it indispensable to re-think the structure of the state. Federalism has often been considered as one effective federalism in Uganda. What are the attitudes of the people at the grassroots of Ugandan society, about their self-identity vis a vis the center? The study was premised on the hypothesis that a federal arrangement is a better system of governance for Uganda, culturally, economically and politically, and there was a significant correlation between the results and this hypothesis. The majority of respondents see Ethnic federalism as a way of accommodating the differences in the beliefs and desires of Uganda's diverse ethnic groups.But Uganda and Africa as a whole need good models to emulate from within and from outside the continent. This research note looks at case studies from Switzerland, Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia, and how they create and maintain a nation on one hand, while preserving the integrity of the units, their identity, culture, and tradition, on the other. The Swiss model is particularly being presented as a solid argument for the theory that a consociation or power sharing model of democracy is the most suitable model for multicultural African states.
ethnic diversity, ethnic federalism, consociation democracy, power-sharing
SSALI, V. L. Ethnic Federalism in a Comparative Perspective: Implications for Uganda.