Professor Kassahun Berhanu, Dr Asnake Kefale, Dr Elisabeth Woldegiorgis, Dr Fekade Terefe, Dr Sarah Vaughan, Dr Yonas Ashine

This interdisciplinary project combining arts and research examined the manner in which formal and informal institutions of political representation are unfolding in Ethiopia, with specific reference to the legitimacy and efficacy with which they discharge their mandates – as stipulated in the constitution and other pertinent legal frameworks.

Professor Zekarias Kenna (Faculty of Law, Addis Ababa University) wrote a research report on the history and evolution of representative institutions, while Dr Yonas Ashine led a comprehensive and nationwide survey on citizen perceptions of Ethiopia’s federal parliament, which demonstrated that people have low levels of attachment to central government across the country. Professor Kassahun Berhanu, Dr Fekade Terefe and Dr Asnake Kefale each explored contestations over representation and exclusion from ethno-regional perspectives – bringing unheard voices to bear on the story of Ethiopia’s evolving political landscape. Berhanu’s research considered the central role that  protests that have played in articulating political dissent in Oromia in recent years, while Terefe’s fieldwork found that in Amhara differences in political ideology continue to be potent sources of conflict with national political leaders and institutions. Kefale’s research looks at the Harari ethnic group, which despite being a minority in the Harari region has enjoyed political dominance, and also examines the relationship between traditional and formal political institutions in the Sidaama region, whose political elites successfully lobbied for regional status and self-determination.



Dr Wolde Giorgis brought an artistic lens to bear on the project’s central research questions, by asking what role art can and does play in articulating and communicating issues around the politics of representation across Ethiopia. Dr Wolde Giorgis also led on commissioning artworks on the project theme and curating an exhibition at the Gebre Kirstos Desta Creative Arts Centre at Addis Ababa University in early 2020.



Dr. Vaughan is complementing the research team’s focus on narratives of political power and protest across Ethiopia, by examining how international development partners contribute to capacity building within Ethiopia – and the politics and efficacy of these endeavours.

The project is exemplary of inter-disciplinarity, but also of inclusive dialogue, as each of the research strands have been presented, and opened up for feedback, at a series of workshops comprising policymakers, parliamentarians, civil society organisations, and academics.  Furthermore, the team set up a Twitter account in order to disseminate their activities more broadly, and are in the process of developing a website with all project content.

About the research team



Kassahun Berhanu is Professor of political science and international relations. He served Addis Ababa University in different administrative and academic capacities during his tenure as a researcher and faculty member spanning over the last 30 years. In addition to his affiliation to different professional societies, Kassahun is widely published on different issues pertaining to the broader disciplines of social sciences in general and political science in particular within various international journals and edited volumes. His areas of expertise include: decentralization and governance, democracy, state-society relations, peace building and conflict, higher education management, political economy of agricultural policy, elections and electoral systems, migration and relocation, diasporic remittances, and constitutionalism and party systems. Professor Kassahun participates in the training of Ethiopian diplomats on pertinent foreign policy issues and engaged in the recent revision of the country’s foreign policy. He also currently serves as a member of the Administrative Boundary and Identity Affairs Commission of the Ethiopian Government.

Asnake Kefale received his PhD in Political Science from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. In 2013/14, he was awarded the Swiss Excellence Scholarship for post-doctoral research at the University of Fribourg. Dr. Asnake Kefale is currently  associate professor of Political Science at Addis Ababa University. His research interests include: federalism, conflict management, political economy, and migration. He has authored a book and co-edited four volumes. He has also published articles in peer-reviewed journals and contributed book chapters to edited volumes. In addition to his university appointment, Dr. Asnake served as senior adjunct researcher at the Addis Ababa based policy think-tank, Forum for Social Studies (FSS).

Elizabeth W. Giorgis is Associate Professor of Art History, Criticism and Theory in the College of Performing and Visual Art and the Center for African and Asian Studies at Addis Ababa University. She is also the Curator of the Modern Art Museum: Gebre Kristos Desta Center at Addis Ababa University. She served as the Dean of the College of Performing and Visual Art and as Director of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies of Addis Ababa University. 

Fekade Terefe holds a PhD in Political Science and is now Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. He teaches and supervises undergraduate and graduate level students. Fekade has undertaken researches individually and jointly with colleagues in the areas of conflict, civil society, the media and politics, foreign policy and migration.

Sarah Vaughan has worked in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa since the late 1980s, assisting a series of governmental, multilateral, academic and non-governmental bodies, with social and political economy analysis. She has taught African politics and social theory in Scotland and Ethiopia.

Yonas Ashine is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Addis Ababa University. He earned his PhD in interdisciplinary Social Studies from Makerere Institute of Social Studies, Makerere University, Uganda. His research interest includes international relations, and politics and political economy of state-society relations in Africa. Yonas serves as an associate dean for the undergraduate program at the CSS, and is editor of the Ethiopian Journal of Social Science and Humanities.