Responding to land-based conflict in Ethiopia: The land rights of ethnic minorities under federalism

April 2018
Tom Lavers, University of Manchester (African Affairs)

Argues that the institutionalization of ethnic federalism and the persistence of neo-customary tenure result in considerable ambiguity, particularly regarding the land rights of non-indigenous minorities. Highlights tensions between these three sets of land tenure institutions – state ownership, ethnic federalism and neo-customary tenure – and their implications for minority land rights. A case study of land-based conflict in Oromiya region, based on fieldwork conducted in 2009-10, demonstrates the continuing relevance of these land tenure institutions and associated ideas in land debates in Ethiopia, both in terms of the use of these ideas by protagonists as means of justifying land claims, and the ambiguous state response to the conflict, which goes well beyond the provisions of the land policy. Many of the key issues regarding ethnicity and land mirror debates taking place across the continent.