Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

The humanitarian theatre: drought response during Ethiopia's low-intensity conflict of 2016

  • Isabelle Desportes (a1), Hone Mandefro (a2) and Dorothea Hilhorst (a1)

Abstract

This article aims to rekindle the debate on the politics of aid in the increasingly common – yet still under-studied – authoritarian and low-intensity conflict settings, detailing the case of Ethiopia in 2016, when a 50-year drought coincided with a wave of protests and a state of emergency. During four months of qualitative fieldwork in 2017, state, civil society, Ethiopian and international actors were approached – from humanitarian headquarters to communities in the Amhara, Oromiya and Somali regions. Research participants relayed stark discrepancies between the humanitarian theatre's ‘frontstage’, where disaster responders showcase an exemplary response, and its ‘backstage’, where they remove their frontstage masks and reflect on the information, the decision-making monopoly of the state and the intrusion of conflict dynamics into the humanitarian response. In humanitarian research and in policy, a collective conversation is necessary on where to draw the line between respect for governments’ sovereignty and the intrusion of humanitarian principles.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      The humanitarian theatre: drought response during Ethiopia's low-intensity conflict of 2016
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      The humanitarian theatre: drought response during Ethiopia's low-intensity conflict of 2016
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      The humanitarian theatre: drought response during Ethiopia's low-intensity conflict of 2016
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Footnotes

Hide All

This article was written as part of the VICI scheme project no. 453/14/013, entitled ‘When disasters meet conflict (DisCoRD)’, based at the International Institute of Social Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam, and financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). We thank the respondents and fieldwork partner organisations, which must remain anonymous, and the DisCoRD team members and our two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments.

Footnotes

References

Hide All
Aalen, L. 2006. ‘Ethnic federalism and self-determination for nationalities in a semi-authoritarian state: the case of Ethiopia’, International Journal on Minority and Group Rights 13, 2: 243–61.
Aalen, L. & Tronvoll, K.. 2009. ‘The end of democracy? Curtailing political and civil rights in Ethiopia’, Review of African Political Economy 36: 193207.
Abbink, J. 2011. ‘Ethnic-based federalism and ethnicity in Ethiopia: reassessing the experiment after 20 years’, Journal of Eastern African Studies 5, 4: 596618.
Amnesty International. 2012. ‘Stifling human rights work: the impact of civil society legislation in Ethiopia.’ London: Amnesty International.
Amnesty International. 2017. ‘Ethiopia: draconian state of emergency.’ London: Amnesty International.
Azar, E. 1990. The Management of Protracted Social Conflict: Theory and Cases. Manchester, NH: Dartmouth Publishing Company.
Bakewell, O. 2000. ‘Uncovering local perspectives on humanitarian assistance and its outcomes’, Disasters 24: 103–16.
BBC. 2016. ‘Seven things banned under Ethiopia's state of emergency.’ London: BBC.
Beetham, D. 2013. The Legitimation of Power. Second edition. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Binet, L. 2011. Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed. Ethiopia: a fool's game in Ogaden. Paris: CRASH – Fondation Médecins Sans Frontières.
Bishop, C. & Hilhorst, D.. 2010. ‘From food aid to food security: the case of the Safety Net policy in Ethiopia’, Journal of Modern African Studies 48: 181202.
Blaikie, P.M., Cannon, T., Davis, I. & Wisner, B., eds. 1994. At Risk: natural hazards, people's vulnerability, and disasters. London: Routledge.
Cannon, T. & Müller-Mahn, D.. 2010. ‘Vulnerability, resilience and development discourses in context of climate change’, Natural Hazards 55: 621–35.
Carruth, L. 2016. ‘Peace in the clinic: rethinking “global health diplomacy” in the Somali region of Ethiopia’, Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 40: 181–97.
Chakravarty, A. 2012. ‘‘Partially trusting’ field relationships opportunities and constraints of fieldwork in Rwanda's postconflict setting’, Field Methods 24, 3: 251–71.
Cochrane, L. & Tamiru, Y.. 2016. ‘Ethiopia's productive safety net program: power, politics and practice’, Journal of International Development 28: 649–65.
Cooley, A. 2015. ‘Countering democratic norms’, Journal of Democracy 26: 4963.
Corbet, A., Ambrosetti, D., Bayle, G. & Labzae, M.. 2017. ‘Agents de l’État et acteurs humanitaires: enjeux d'une interdépendance négociée. Étude de cas à Gambella’. Paris: Les Papiers du fond de la croix-rouge française, 8.
del Valle, H. & Healy, S.. 2013. ‘Humanitarian agencies and authoritarian states: a symbiotic relationship?’, Disasters 37: 188201.
de Waal, A. 2018. Mass starvation: the history and future of famine. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Drury, A.C. & Olson, R.S.. 1998. ‘Disasters and political unrest: an empirical investigation’, Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management 6: 153–61.
European Union Election Observation Missions (EUOMs). 2010. ‘Ethiopia: House of People's Representative and State council election (May 2010).’ Brussels: EUOMs.
Fantini, E. & Puddu, L.. 2016. ‘Ethiopia and international aid: development between high modernism and exceptional measures’, in Hagmann, T. & Reyntjens, F., eds. Aid and Authoritarianism in Africa: development without democracy. London: Zed Books, 91118.
Ferguson, J. & Gupta, A.. 2002. ‘Spatializing states: toward an ethnography of neoliberal governmentality’, American Ethnologist 29, 4: 9811002.
Flanigan, S.T. 2008. ‘Nonprofit service provision by insurgent organizations: the cases of Hizballah and the Tamil Tigers’, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 31: 499519.
Füssel, H.-M. 2007. ‘Vulnerability: a generally applicable conceptual framework for climate change research’, Global Environmental Change 17: 155–67.
Ghani, A. & Lockhart, C.. 2009. Fixing Failed States: a framework for rebuilding a fractured world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gill, P. 2010. Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia since Live Aid. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goffman, E. 1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor books.
Government of Ethiopia & United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA). 2016. ‘Ethiopia humanitarian requirements document mid-term review August 2016’. Addis Ababa: Humanitarian Country Team.
Government of Ethiopia & United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA). 2017. ‘Ethiopia 2016 financial tracking service.’ www Document. <https://fts.unocha.org/countries/71/summary/2016>.
Hagmann, T. & Korf, B.. 2012. ‘Agamben in the Ogaden: violence and sovereignty in the Ethiopian–Somali frontier’, Political Geography 31: 205–14.
Hagmann, T. & Reyntjens, F., eds. 2016. Aid and Authoritarianism in Africa: development without democracy. London: Zed Books.
Hammond, L. 2011. ‘Governmentality in motion: 25 years of Ethiopia's experience of famine and migration policy’. Mobilities 6, 3: 415–32.
Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK). 2016. Conflict Barometer 2015. Heidelberg: HIIK.
Hilhorst, D., ed. 2013. Disaster, Conflict and Society in Crises: everyday politics of crisis response. New York, NY: Routledge.
Hilhorst, D. 2016. ‘Aid–society relations in humanitarian crises and recovery – inaugural lecture, Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam.’ The Hague, inaugural lecture.
Hilhorst, D. 2018. ‘Arenas’, in Allen, T., Macdonald, A. & Radice, H., eds. Humanitarianism: a dictionary of concepts. London: Routledge.
Hilhorst, D. & Jansen, B.. 2010. ‘Humanitarian space as arena: a perspective on the everyday politics of aid’, Development and Change 41: 1117–39.
Hilhorst, D., Weijers, L. & van Wessel, M.. 2012. ‘Aid relations and aid legitimacy: mutual imaging of aid workers and recipients in Nepal’, Third World Quarterly 33: 1439–57.
Hoben, A. 1996. ‘The cultural construction of environmental policy’, in Leach, M. & Mearns, R., eds. The Lie of the Land: challenging received wisdom on the African environment. Oxford, NH: Elsevier, 186208.
Human Rights Watch. 2010. Development without Freedom: how aid underwrites repression in Ethiopia. New York, NY: Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch. 2013. ‘They Want A Confession’: torture and ill-treatment in Ethiopia's Maekelawi police station. New York, NY: Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch. 2016. Such a Brutal Crackdown. New York, NY: Human Rights Watch.
Human Security Report Project. 2016. <http://www.hsrgroup.org/our-work/overview.aspx>.
Hutchison, E. 2014. ‘A global politics of pity? Disaster imagery and the emotional construction of solidarity after the 2004 Asian tsunami’, International Political Sociology 8: 119.
International Centre for Non-Profit Law (ICNL). 2012. Research Monitor: Ethiopia. Washington, DC: ICNL.
Kahn, C. & Cunningham, A.. 2013. ‘Introduction to the issue of state sovereignty and humanitarian action’, Disasters 37: 139–50.
Keller, E.J. 1992. ‘Drought, war, and the politics of famine in Ethiopia and Eritrea’, Journal of Modern African Studies 30: 609–24.
King, E. & Mutter, J.. 2014. ‘Violent conflicts and natural disasters: the case for cross-disciplinary dialogue’. Third World Quarterly 35: 1239–55.
Kingsbury, D. 2014. ‘Political transition in Myanmar: prospects and problems’, Asian Politics & Policy 6, 3: 351–73.
Kinross, S. 2004. ‘Clausewitz and low-intensity conflict’, Journal of Strategic Studies 27: 3558.
Kleinfeld, M. 2007. ‘Misreading the post-tsunami political landscape in Sri Lanka: the myth of humanitarian space’, Space and Polity 11: 169–84.
Maru, M.T. 2010. ‘Federalism and conflicts in Ethiopia’, Conflict Trends 2010, 1: 3645.
Matelski, M. 2014. ‘On sensitivity and secrecy: how foreign researchers and their local contacts in Myanmar deal with risk under authoritarian rule’, Journal of Burma Studies 18: 5982.
Matelski, M. 2016. ‘Constructing civil society in Myanmar: struggles for local change and global recognition.’ Doctoral thesis, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Mkandawire, T. 2001. ‘Thinking about developmental states in Africa’, Cambridge Journal of Economics 25: 289314.
O'Keefe, O., Westgate, K. & Wisner, B.. 1976. ‘Taking the naturalness out of natural disaster’, Nature 260: 566–7.
Olson, R.S. 2000. ‘Toward a politics of disaster: losses, values, agendas, and blame’, International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 18: 265–88.
Pelling, M. & Dill, K.. 2010. ‘Disaster politics: tipping points for change in the adaptation of sociopolitical regimes’, Progress in Human Geography 34: 2137.
Rakner, L., Menocal, A.R. & Fritz, V.. 2007. Democratisation's Third Wave and the Challenges of Democratic Deepening: assessing international democracy assistance and lessons learned. London: Overseas Development Institute.
Summer, A. & Tribe, M.. 2008. International Development Studies: theories and methods in research and practice. London: Sage.
Tronvoll, K. 2011. ‘The Ethiopian 2010 federal and regional elections: re-establishing the one-party state’, African Affairs 110: 121–36.
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA). 2016a. Weekly Humanitarian Bulletin Ethiopia 24 October 2016. Addis Ababa: UN OCHA.
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA). 2016b. Weekly Humanitarian Bulletin Ethiopia 10 October 2016. Addis Ababa: UN OCHA.
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA). 2017. <https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/node/140873>.

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed