Ethnicity and inter-ethnic relations. The ‘Ethiopian experiment’ and the case of the Guji and Gedeo
AuthorAsebe Regassa Debelo
This study deals with ethnicity and inter-ethnic relations in African context, with particular emphasis on the new ‘Ethiopian Experiment’ of ethnic politics. The study challenges the already existing thoughts on ethnicity, which map the concept on contours of polar extremes and suggests an approach to transcend the primordialist/constructivist perspectives. It is argued that in the face of rising ethnic politics in Africa, and particularly in Ethiopia where everything is ethinified, ethnicity can no longer remain only an analytical concept nor can inter-ethnic relations be understood separately from the political context. This study thus makes use of ethnicity both in analytical and political contexts. The concepts of politicised ethnicity or ‘Formal Ethnicism’ and its policy instrument - ‘Ethnic Federalism’ - are used in drawing the contours of national discourse on ethnicity and the dynamics of local inter-ethnic relations, taking the Guji-Gedeo relations in Southern Ethiopia as a case study. In this study, I agued that with the politicisation of ethnicity in the country’s political scene, particularly following its articulation in a formal political programme of the government in 1991, ethnic entrepreneurs activated elements of dichotomies at the expense of mutual co-existences like the Guji-Gedeo case. The historical relationship between the Guji and Gedeo ethnic groups has been examined in the context of economic interdependence, sharing some elements of cultural practices, political allegiances, belief in ancestral curse in case of homicide and myth of common ancestor. It also addresses the 1990s conflicts between the two groups drawing lines of connection between the national discourse on ethnicity and the local realities. This study also casts some light on the convergence between ethnicity and indigenousness in an African context, both concepts inconveniently sidelined by the bogus ambitions of post-colonial African leaders who try to build ‘nation-states’ at the expense of the rights of their member groups.
PublisherUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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Copyright 2007 The Author(s)
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