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 2020
Ethiopia is home to numerous different ethnic communities. Since 1995, the country has been governed as a decentralised, federal state organised along ethnic lines. However, the central government, which largely comprises members of the Tigray and Amhara ethnic groups, has a great deal of influence at every political level.
Oromia is the largest state in Ethiopia. It borders on almost every other region and on Kenya. 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, they still feel restricted by the government in terms of their political and economic involvement. In addition, water, fertile land and reliable land use rights are limited resources here, as is also the case in other large parts of Ethiopia as well.
Conflicts over access to and use of these resources flare up between nomadic herdsmen and the sedentary population, between internally displaced persons and host communities, and between the Oromos and other resettled ethnic groups, some of whom live in enclaves. These conflicts repeatedly result in violent clashes. The reasons vary but include the use of water, the sharing out of pasture and agricultural land, land titles caught between traditional custom and formal governmental land and resource legislation, and ethnic and religious affiliations. Climate change, pollution and rapid population growth are exacerbating the lack of resources and leading to internal migration across the whole of Ethiopia. Prejudices and stereotypes on both sides 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 sectors of the population, traditional authorities, government representatives and non-governmental organisations in Oromia and along its borders is increasingly helping to deal with conflicts over land and resources without resorting to violence.
The Civil Peace Service (CPS) promotes trust-building measures. These support new and existing mechanisms for a sustainable and conflict-sensitive use of land and resources.
Working with various partners, including OBAS (Oromia Bureau of Administration and Security), OPA (Oromia Pastoralist Association) and EWLA (Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association), which seeks to further the cause of women, CPS is helping to deal peacefully with an initial three conflicts over land and resources free from violence.
Inclusive and participatory dialogue processes seek to build mutual trust between those involved, drawing on existing traditional structures. Mini-projects such as joint children’s, sports and cultural events boost trust further.
The positive experiences gained from these projects are discussed, honed and passed on.
Building on this work, CPS helps its partners deal with conflicts over land and resources in a non-violent way. For example, it champions traditional methods of boundary marking. Landmarks are chosen as natural boundary markers as part of discussions between representatives from the various communities (including the elders) and between these and government representatives. CPS also promotes the planting of trees, the participatory mapping of plots and conflict-sensitive resource management, including water management concepts and shared use of pasture for nomads.
It 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 this non-violent handling of the three conflicts are being documented and distributed, including by the local radio station Peace Radio. 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.