Power-Sharing in Multi-Ethnic Political Systems

Journal article

Adekanye, J. 'Bayo (1998) Power-Sharing in Multi-Ethnic Political Systems, Security Dialogue 29 (1): 25–36.

In the explosion of ethnic and regional identities, conflicts and wars since the end of the Cold War, 'power-sharing' has become popular as one means of regulating conflict and finding national unity in divided societies. In practical and theoretical terms it is preferable to the flawed principle of majoritarianism. Its application has proven helpful in Ethiopia/Eritrea, Uganda, Mozambique and Angola in Africa, as well as in Latin America, Asia and parts of former Yugoslavia. Power-sharing is based on a form of non-Western-style of democracy. But there are always inherent risks in power-sharing, as the cases of Rwanda and Burundi have shown. Acute post-conflict problems affect ex-combatants and would-be political leaders, problems that are often exacerbated by economic reform and reconstruction. These create strains which make power-sharing governments unstable, particularly in an environment of acute socio-economic inequalities, of which ethnic divisions are but one factor. What is required is the reintroduction of a broadly based concept and definition of security to underpin the management of conflicts in a democratic setting.

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