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Tesfaye-Aragaw, Berhanu (2009) Contested land: Land and tenancy disputes in Gedeo, southern Ethiopia (1941-1974). PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This dissertation investigates land and tenancy disputes in Gedeo, southern Ethiopia, between 1941 and 1974. Such disputes were a deeply entrenched feature of Ethiopian land tenure systems until the revolution, and despite its importance the subject has not received the attention it deserves. Based on local court archival documents and oral interviews, the dissertation seeks to understand how these conflicts shaped agrarian relationships in Gedeo during this crucial period. The study highlights how differential access to resources created disharmony within Gedeo. It not only contributed to the proliferation of disputes but also eroded community cohesion, one of the consequences of which was that when Ethiopia was invaded by Italy in 1935 it was too divided and weak to defend itself effectively from external aggression. The post-liberation period was a formative time in the history of Gedeo. During this time the gabbar system was gradually replaced by landlord-tenant relationships. There was significant economic development largely due to the increasing importance of the coffee trade, but also land and tenancy disputes became a dominant feature of this period. Although land disputes were common in many other parts of Ethiopia, tenancy disputes in the south are described in the existing literature as distinctive from those in northern Ethiopia. The existing works mainly discuss tenancy relationships in the south from an ethnic perspective. This factor might have exacerbated the rivalries; however, it was not the main factor. This dissertation argues that competition for available resources was at the heart of the problem. The increased polarisation of landlord-tenant conflict continued to damage agrarian relationships. The inability of the government to deal with the problem made the situation worse and as a result tenants were obliged to find alternative ways to express their grievances. In February 1960 when the Michele uprising erupted the government rushed to intervene with the heavy use of security forces. Nevertheless the tenancy problem did not show sign of improvement until it was resolved finally and fundamentally by revolutionary means in 1974.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:10

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