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The role of communications in facilitating public participation in constitution-making is often neglected and misunderstood, particularly in post-war state-building when mass media may be weak. In the early 1990s, Ethiopia's ruling party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), drafted one of Africa's most ambitious constitutions, allowing for ethnic federalism, decentralization and democratic reforms. The constitution has been highly controversial and many of its aspirations remain unrealized. This article explores how the EPRDF sought to use the media to explain and encourage acceptance of the constitution. It offers a framework for analysis that is relevant for countries beyond Ethiopia by examining: the role of media policies in providing domestic and international legitimacy for constitutions; the ways in which media can provide a space for non-violent political conflict or negotiation, where elites can navigate political struggles and debate ideology; and the use of media to implement the constitution's most ambitious goals.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of African Law

Publication Date





231 - 249