Ethiopia’s Justice System Reform at Crossroads: Impediments relating to Institutional Continuity, Ethnic Politics and the Land Regime

  • Elias N. Stebek


Ethiopia’s Justice System Reform Program has not achieved the pledges that were promised since 2002. One of the sources for the impediments was ‘revolutionary democracy’ because its ‘democratic’ limb represented the pursuits of justice system reform while its ‘revolutionary’ limb caused impediments to the reform. This involves various manifestations of ‘revolutionary democracy’ which include institutional discontinuity, ethnic politics and reluctance to land reform.  Disruptions owing to periodic changes in institutional structures (and mandates) adversely affect institutional memory and continuity in Ethiopia’s justice system reform. The second impediment relates to problems in law and order owing to the risky experiment in ethnic politics that has nurtured ethnic radicalism and hostilities along linguistic lines thereby creating pressures on the justice sector. It has also impeded attainments in the first two dimensions of good governance, (i.e. voice and accountability) because genuine voice of citizens envisages rational choice as opposed to ethnicity. The third trap which is among the manifestations of ‘revolutionary democracy’ involves rigidity against reforming Ethiopia’s land law which has handcuffed broad-based economic performance thereby impairing the resource base of all reform pursuits (including justice system reform). The way forward thus envisages not only addressing the external manifestations of the problems in the justice system, but also requires directly addressing the root causes of the impediments. 

Key terms

Justice system reform · Good governance · Nation building · Land tenure security; Ethnic politics · Ethiopia

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2309-902X
print ISSN: 1998-9881