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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The politics of space in Borana Oromo, Ethiopia: demographics, elections, identity and customary institutions
Author:Bassi, MarcoISNI
Periodical:Journal of Eastern African Studies (ISSN 1753-1063)
Geographic term:Ethiopia
local politics
political violence
ethnic identity
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/17531055.2010.487333
Abstract:This article addresses the protracted state of political violence in and around the Borana and Guji zones of Oromia region after the introduction of ethnic federalism in Ethiopia. To account for the persistence of the conflict, the author examines the connections between ethnic identity, natural resources and customary institutions by introducing the notion of 'primary identity'. Since the turn of the millennium there is in Ethiopia a theoretically grounded attempt to co-opt customary institutions and elders into modern governance, particularly in the pastoral sector. Field research was carried out on the interplay of customary and modern politics during two electoral events, the 2004 referendum organized to solve the border issue between the Somali Regional State and Oromia, and the 2005 national elections. Analysis of local political dynamics indicates that the strategy of the federal government was shaped by the need to control the insurgency of the Oromo Liberation Front. Local political motivations also played a role. The combination of these two factors resulted in systematic abuse of human rights and the manipulation of development and refugee policies, involving an informal 'demographic politics of space' that displaced the Borana Oromo from a large area of their customary territory, relegating them to a state of permanent food dependency. The author argues that the restoration and strengthening of customary governance holds the best prospect for improving this situation. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]