Peace-making from Within: The Tradition of Conflict Resolution in Northern Afar, Ethiopia

  • K Tafere
Keywords: Pastoralism, Conflict resolution, Afar, Ethiopia


A study was conducted among the Afar pastoralists of northeastern Ethiopia on local traditions of resolving inter-clan and inter-ethnic conflict. Qualitative data was collected using ethnographic tools such as  Observations, Key Informant Interviews and Focus Group Discussions. The findings of the study revealed an increasing trend in inter-clan conflict over the past 4-5 decades. The major source of conflict has been competition over scarce natural resources including grazing land and water. There are assemblies run by council of elders representing different clans in north Afar selected on the basis of age, wisdom, honesty and proper knowledge of local conditions. Inter-clan and inter-ethnic conflicts were better addressed by the indigenous institutions because of their participatory, transparent and flexible nature. Government politico-judiciary institutions such as the local court and security forces often played a facilitating role to complement traditional structures. The ritual of peace-making often  involved compensation and the sharing of food and drinks to symbolize the end of animosity between conflicting parties. The fact that the Afar have now been sedentarizing because of economic, social, and political pressures has had negative impacts on inter-clan conflicts and the way such conflicts have been handled. Sedentary life resulted in further fragmentation of Afar culture and social organization and the breakup of traditional pastoral institutions upon which strong economic and social support networks were built. The paper finally recommends an adequate recognition of traditional peace-making institutions with possible integration of the formal and informal institutions for sustainable peace and security in the area.

Key words: Pastoralism, Conflict resolution, Afar, Ethiopia


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2520-582X
print ISSN: 1810-4487