Federalism Disad

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Federalism Bad: Ethnic Conflict

A. Federalism sparks ethnic conflict

Willy Mutunga, Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, The Nation, May 20, 2001.

Federalism promotes localism, ethnic and racial xenophobia and undermines the sense of nationhood. Unsurprising the United States and Nigeria are living survivors of debilitating separatist wars between their regions; India, despite its federal miracle still bleeds from secessionist movements. The introduction of ethnic-based 'quasi-regionalism' in post-Mengistu Ethiopia has fuelled the conflict over the proposed Oromia state by members of the Oromo ethnic population. Majimboism in the early 1960s had let off the lid of secessionist movements, particularly by Kenyan Somalis in North Eastern Province and the clamour for an autonomous "Mwambao" on the Coast. There is no guarantee that this time around, majimboism will not trigger ethnic recidivism and separatist movements, especially in North Eastern, Coast and Eastern province where the Oromo population may lean towards the movement for an Oromia state. Federalism's main weakness is that it is a very expensive system that duplicates services and office holders at the regional and federal levels. It lacks uniform policies on such issues of national concern as laws regulating marriages, divorce, abortions, liquor, voting rights and public education. Rather than ensuring economic equity, as many proponents of majimboism assume, it sets those regions, states or cantons with a weak market-base, capital, and resources down the spiral of economic decline. It subjects local governments to double subordination-by the central and regional governments-and the citizens to triple taxation. At a time when the country's economy is on its knees, the feasibility of a well-financed transition is highly doubtful.

B. And, This risk of ethnic conflict outweighs:

1. Risk

World Policy Journal March 22, 1999

"The defining mode of conflict in the era ahead," Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan declared in 1993, "is ethnic conflict. It promises to be savage. Get ready for 50 new countries in the world in the next 50 years. Most of them will be born in bloodshed."Moynihan's apocalyptic vision is not untypical of the prevailing wisdom. History, it seems to many, has exacted its own revenge on what Francis Fukuyama so rashly suggested was the posthistorical world, in the form of conflicts sparked and sustained by ancient and incomprehensible hatreds and bloodlusts. To many analysts, class conflict is passe; the "proxy wars" of the Cold War era can, by definition, no longer occur; and even realpolitik, with rational states pursuing their clearly defined interests, seems dated. Ethnicity, it seems, is the new, dominant causality.

2. Magnitude

Los Angeles Times, February 26, 1993

It is federalism and confederation that we should be pushing -- not ethnic independence. We should be tentatively exploring whether some type of Yugoslav confederation is a solution that would make it easier for different ethnic groups to live together in the new states. The problems we see in Bosnia are nothing compared to the bloodshed -- and the danger of fascists coming into control of nuclear weapons -- that would occur if huge multiethnic countries like India, Pakistan and Indonesia start disintegrating.

Federalism Bad: Secession

1) Federalism leads to secessionist fragmentation

Michael Kelly, Director of Legal Research, Writing & Advocacy at Michigan State University's Detroit College of Law, 1999, Drake Law Review

However, as political sovereign entities, federations are inherently susceptible to fragmentation. Indeed, the fault lines along which a potential break can occur are usually already in place-fixed politically, historically, or both. This flows partially from the inherent internal inequality of their collective constituent parts. In the international legal system, individual nation-states are formally accorded equal legal status vis-a-vis each other. The reality, however, is that nation-states are clearly unequal in both power and ability. Likewise, federations generally accord equal legal status among their constituent parts, be they states, provinces, regions, or oblasts. And just as in the international system, the reality is that those constituent parts are often unequal in terms of development, population, and economic power. For example, just as France and Fiji share equal legal status on the international plane but are vastly unequal in reality, California and Rhode Island enjoy equal legal status under the United States Constitution, but are [*242] unequal in reality. The same comparisons can be made between many internal regions of almost any federation: Nizhniy-Novgorod and Yakutia in Russia, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur in India, Amazonia and Rio in Brazil, or Ontario and Prince Edward Island in Canada. Consequently, inequality is a fundamental feature in almost any federation, whether or not it breeds secessionist ideas on its own. Just as devolution has been seized upon by nation-states, federal or otherwise, as a way to address the self-deterministic aspirations of communities within their borders, so too has federalism been attempted by non-federal nation-states as a self- preservationist move toward the middle ground between separatists and advocates of stronger centralized government. The examples, however, of Mali, Uganda, Ethiopia, Zaire (now Congo), Nigeria, Kenya, and the Cameroons bear out the conclusion that these efforts, at least in post-colonial Africa, have generally failed, except for the notable recent example of South Africa under its new constitution. Consequently, while federated systems of government can work in multi-ethnic states, with the appropriate degree of top-down devolution of administration and self-government, it seems that they cannot be universally extrapolated to work in every instance. A. Recent Federated Break-ups Nonetheless, when inherent inequality is added to other, seemingly dormant, fragmentary ingredients such as historical, ethnic, religious, customary, or linguistic differences, a divisive stew can come to brew in which one of the potatoes may try to jump out of the pot. Indeed, the recent federated crack-ups of the U.S.S.R., Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia demonstrate that the pot itself may burst, allowing all of the elements previously held together to spill forth and go their separate ways. While this Article does not address the political, theoretical, economic, or social failures of the communist philosophy that was applied to the countries of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, it does take note of the fact that these were all federal systems, at least on paper, that spun apart into separate, smaller, more ethnically homogenous nation-states after the fall of communism in Europe. Table 3 delineates some previously federated nation-states that have broken down into smaller successor states during this decade.

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