chapter  2
Federalism and the Ethnic Question in Africa
ByEghosa E. Osaghae
Pages 26

Of all the attempts to resolve ethnic problems by constitutional means, federalism stands out clearly as the most prescribed option for divided societies (Watts, 1970; Ordeshook and Shvetsova, 1997). This should, prima facie, make sub-Saharan Africa, with its catalog of state-challenging and stability-threatening ethnic conflicts one of the world’s leading centers of federalism. But this is not the case, as federalism has failed to take firm roots on the continent. This does not amount to saying that federalism has failed, but that it has not been really or properly applied. This has been attributed to a number of factors. One is that consultation, reciprocity, and compromise, all elements of federal political culture and what Horowitz (1993) calls multi-ethnic democracy, and necessary for the emergence and sustenance of federalism, are in short supply. What predominates is cutthroat zero-sum political competition and politics of exclusion.