Pastoral Conflicts and Ethnic Federalism in Ethiopia’s Lowlands - Investigating Complex Power Relations and Emerging Ethnic Identities

by Trine Løber

Institution: Roskilde University
Year: 2015
Keywords: Ethnic federalism; Conflict; Ethiopia; Pastoralism; Ethnic entrepreneurs
Record ID: 1122413
Full text PDF: http://rudar.ruc.dk/handle/1800/23210


Pastoral conflicts have struck Ethiopia in different forms for centuries, and are thus not a new phenomenon. However, during the past two decades the country has experienced an increase in the frequency and intensity of violent inter-ethnic conflicts. This study sets out to investigate the socio-political causes and dynamics of contemporary pastoral inter-ethnic conflicts; putting emphasis on the role that the installment of ethnic federalism plays in these. The focal point is Ethiopia’s peripheral lowlands, home to the majority of the country’s pastoral and agro-pastoral communities, and the scene of rampant local conflicts. The study relies on a comprehensive review of theoretical literature and publications on the case of Ethiopia. Taking a political ecology approach, balancing emphasis towards socio- political aspects in the interpretations of contemporary dynamics of pastoral conflicts, it is argued that in the case of Ethiopia, processes of state-building and pastoral conflicts are closely interlinked. The study finds that the political order of ethnic federalism has fueled and reconfigured pastoral conflicts, transforming pastoralists’ relationship to their territory, customary institutions, the government, and other competing pastoral groups. The political orientation towards ethnicity has made space for ethnic entrepreneurs, and consequently hardened ethnic and territorial boundaries, and redefined conflicts along ethnic lines rather than simple resource needs.