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News release

Ethiopians seek constitutional changes to add federal languages, Afrobarometer survey shows

16 Nov 2023 Ethiopia
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News release
Key findings
  • About two-thirds (67%) of Ethiopians support amending the Constitution, while only 16% want it to be discarded or replaced and 16% say it should be kept unchanged (Figure 1).
  • The proportion of citizens who favour replacing the Constitution has increased by 5 percentage points since the previous Afrobarometer survey in 2020 (Figure 2).
  • Regarding proposed constitutional amendments (Figure 3), majorities support: o Designating more working languages for the federal government in addition to Amharic (67%). o Limiting the number of terms that the prime minister can hold office (66%). o Making Addis Ababa a member state of the Federation in its own right (53%, up from 35% in 2020).
  • Fewer than half of citizens support proposed amendments that would: o Remove the emblem at the centre of the national flag (39%). o Remove Article 39, which guarantees the rights of nations, nationalities, and people to self-determination, secession, and establishment of their own regional state government.

Ethiopians continue to favour amending the country’s Constitution to make the federal government multilingual, limit the prime minister to two terms, and elevate the status of Addis Ababa to a federal member state, a new Afrobarometer survey shows. However, public opinion is divided on the right to self-determination and the national emblem. 

Large majorities say the Constitution should be amended – rather than replaced or maintained as it is – to reflect the needs of contemporary Ethiopia. 

Majorities also support designating more working languages – in addition to Amharic – for the federal government and instituting term limits for the prime minister. In a sharp departure from Afrobarometer’s previous survey in 2020, a majority of citizens now seek a constitutional amendment to make Addis Ababa a member state of the federation.  

The survey shows some popular support for – as well as significant opposition to – proposed constitutional provisions that have been controversial among the political elite. These include the removal of Article 39, which enshrines the right of nations, nationalities, and people to self-determination, and the removal of the emblem at the centre of the national flag. 

The survey results will feed ordinary people’s views into the ongoing debate among the political elite regarding the Constitution.