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‘This pasture is ours since ancient times’: An ethnographic analysis of the reduction in conflicts along the post-1991 Afar-Tigray regional boundary*

  • Lutgart Lenaerts (a1), Mark Breusers (a1), Stefaan Dondeyne (a1), Hans Bauer (a1), Mitiku Haile (a1) and Jozef Deckers (a1)...

The role of post-1991 ethnic-based federalism on conflicts along regional boundaries has been a topic of great dispute in Ethiopianist literature. This article sheds new light on the on-going debate based on original ethnographic material from the Afar-Tigray regional border zone. Contrary to other studies, conflicts appear to have reduced in that area. Two key questions are addressed: how do different groups lay future claims to land; and which role does the post-1991 government play in those claims to land and in reducing conflicts? The case study reveals that people materialise religion to lay future claims to land and that conflicts have reduced with increased involvement of the state over the past two decades, but that this reduction has come at a high cost and may therefore not be sustainable in the long term.

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This research was funded by the University of Leuven (Belgium) and hosted by the MU-IUC project (Mekelle University – Institutional University Cooperation, funded by the Flemish Interuniversity Council). We are most grateful to all informants and to Mr Shiferaw Abraha for his assistance during fieldwork. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier version of this article.

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