Civil Peace Service: creating dialogue to build trust
Title: Civil Peace Service: Dialogue for trust-based land and resource management in the Oromia region of Ethiopia.
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Overall term: 2018 to 2021
Ethiopia is home to numerous different ethnic communities. Since 1995, the country has been governed as a decentralised, federal state organised along ethnic lines. Nonetheless, for many years the central government had a great deal of influence at every political level. With the election of the new prime minister in 2018, a new era of reform and liberalisation has begun. At the same time, open conflicts regarding borders and political participation based on ethnic identities are on the rise.
Oromia is the largest state in Ethiopia. It borders on seven of the other eight regions and on Kenya and Sudan. In addition to the dominant Oromo group, a number of other ethnic groups also live there. While the population of Oromia makes up roughly a third of the country’s total population, until now they have felt that the government has restricted their political and economic participation. Mass protests, which played a major role in the election of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, had started in Oromia as early as 2014. In addition, water, fertile land and reliable land use rights are limited resources here, as in other large parts of Ethiopia as well.
Conflicts over access to and use of these resources flare up between nomadic herdsmen and sedentary farmers, between internally displaced persons and host communities, and between the native Oromos and other resettled ethnic groups. In addition, conflicts arise between the local population and large-scale projects, including agricultural investments in sugar cane plantations, for instance, or state projects such as national parks. These conflicts repeatedly result in violent clashes. The reasons vary but include the use of water, the distribution of pasture and agricultural land, land titles caught between tradition, customary law and official land and resource legislation, and between ethnic and religious affiliations. Climate change, pollution and rapid population growth are exacerbating the problem of resource scarcity and leading to internal migration across Ethiopia. Prejudices and stereotypes on both sides as well as the links between ethnicity and political representation are further heightening these conflicts.
The fight to have and use these resources is also leading to disputes with neighbouring regions beyond Oromia. A common feature of all of these confrontations is the lack of involvement of local people, in particular women, minority groups and young people – a factor which only aggravates the conflict further.
Trust-based cooperation between the various population groups, traditional authorities, government representatives and non-governmental organisations in Oromia and along its borders is helping to deal with conflicts over land and resources without resorting to violence.
The Civil Peace Service (CPS) promotes trust-building measures. They support new and existing mechanisms for a sustainable and conflict-sensitive use of land and resources.
Working with various partners, including the Ministry of Peace (MoP), the Oromia Bureau of Administration and Security (OBAS), Oromia Pastoralist Association (OPA) and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), CPS is helping to deal peacefully with an initial three conflicts over land and resources.
Inclusive and participatory dialogue processes seek to build mutual trust between those involved, drawing on existing traditional structures. Micro projects such as joint sports and cultural events boost trust further.
The positive experiences gained from these projects are discussed, analysed and shared.
Building on this work, CPS helps its partners deal with the non-violent resolution of conflict over land and resources. A key factor here is the willingness of the stakeholders to deal with conflicts through mutual exchange and to come to a shared understanding of the causes. Conceivable options include concluding agreements on resource usage limits and on joint regulations to penalise violence or to develop land-use plans – for example for water management concepts and shared use of pasture for nomads.
CPS also empowers women and young people. It listens to their experiences of conflict, allowing them to play an active role in the dialogue processes and to make their specific needs heard.
The positive experiences gleaned from the non-violent resolution of the three conflicts are being documented and distributed. The aim is for locals in and beyond the project region to recognise and exploit the benefits of dialogue as a way to deal with conflicts over land and resources without resorting to violence.