Cornell International Law Journal


Secularization, Fetha Nagast, Customary law


Part I of this Note will analyze the history of Ethiopia’s legal system.

Part II of this Note focuses on modern Ethiopia and seeks to scrutinize Ethiopia’s Civil Code, Constitution, and other legislation. Written into the new constitution of Ethiopia is a declaration of secularism, similar to the United States and South Africa. Yet, in a nation that has existed as a Christian state for at least a millennium, it is nigh on impossible for Ethiopia to fully divest itself of its cultural mores with mere constitutional edict. The question is, therefore, what is to be made of traditional beliefs that are religious in nature but enter the governmental realm?

This Note hopes to shed light on the fact that religion and customs are embedded in the cultural mindset of people. Simply wishing to create a secular legal system with the aim of inclusion, while a noble endeavor, shall not result in the changes a legal system needs to divest itself of centuries of cultural and religious domination. By contrasting the religious influence on past and present legislation, there is hope that certain peculiarities will become apparent. The effect of a lengthy adherence to Christianity versus the effect of de jure secularization on a people holds promise of interesting revelations.