Hailegabriel G. Feyissa ~ ‘Non-European Imperialism and Europeanisation of Law: Complexities of Legal Codification in Imperial Ethiopia’

(2020) 1 TWAIL Review 152-175
ISSN 2563-6693
Published under a Creative Commons licence

This article focuses on the European standard of civilisation regarding domestic legal systems and its application in imperial Ethiopia. It establishes a link between European legal imperialism, Abyssinian imperialism, and imperial Ethiopia’s domestic legal regime overhaul. More specifically, it examines imperial Ethiopia’s response to charges of inadequate domestic legal regime (notably, civil codification) and its relationship to the ideological views and interests of the Abyssinian elites concerned with the consolidation of a unique Horn of African empire in the shadow of semi-colonialism. It argues that civil codification in imperial Ethiopia was embedded in an imperialism bent on expanding the Abyssinian image of Ethiopia into the juridical realm. The 1960 Ethiopian Civil Code, which did not make concessions to non-Orthodox Christian gebbars of imperial Ethiopia’s peripheries, is a pronouncement of Abyssinian paramountcy in imperial Ethiopia. By showing the 1960 Ethiopian Civil Code, imperial Ethiopia’s most recognisable response to European legal imperialism was reflective of Abyssinian imperialism, not just its semi-colonialism, the article highlights the importance of considering the multiple historical (imperial) contexts for semi-colonial polities’ responses to European legal imperialism.