Conference name, dates, place

International Conference on Contemporary Development Issues in Ethiopia, August 16-18, 2001, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Document Type


Presentation Date



This paper examines the current language policy of Ethiopia, especially its significance for the educational systems of that country. The policy in its present form was proclaimed in 1991 after the present government drove out the former Marxist-Leninist military junta, which had ruled the country for the preceding twenty years2. The language policy, along with other human rights and ethnic-related policies, was incorporated into the new constitution that took effect in 1996. Among other things, the policy provides for Ethiopia’s more than 90 language groups to develop and use their respective languages in the courts, in governmental and other political entities, and in cultural, and business communications as well as in education. The policies do not, however, specify which, how many, or in what order they would enjoy priority in governmental support for further development, nor do they hint at any limits as to the number and extent of the languages. In the absence of any limit or specification, the presumption is that all of them would have the right to find the necessary resources, whether through competition for governmental support or through other means. Practical considerations would suggest that, given limited resources in the country or any given linguistic community, the law would provide some guide to efforts to balance the ideal and the practical. It does not do this, consequently, some time soon, conflict among the tribal groups, is almost certain.