The Migration, Environment and Conflict Nexus in Ethiopia:
A Case Study of Amhara Migrant-settlers in East Wollega Zone
First, the study has identified the characteristics of migrants, who left their ancestral homes for good and settled in East Wollega Zone at various times. Next, it has uncovered the causes for the conflict that led to the eventual displacement of thousands of migrant-settlers. Finally, it pinpointed the ways and means by which the settler-displacees have been resettled in a place called Jawi and the problems that they themselves and the host population have encountered. In short, the study depicted the predicaments of Amhara migrant-settlers who went through the process of migration, settlement, conflict, displacement, and resettlement.
The introductory chapter provided the background for the problems, objectives, research questions, data types, methodology and the significance of the study. The necessary qualitative and quantitative data were generated in two rounds of surveys that were carried out in 2003 and 2004. The methods used to obtain the data included household surveys, focus group discussions and interviews with key informants and pertinent stakeholders. The household surveys were carried out by randomly selecting settler-displacee household heads from the three PAs found in the Jawi resettlement site. The data were summarised by using the SPSS program, of which the extraction of descriptive statistics was of paramount importance. Based on the statistical results, various tables and maps were prepared to support the discussion.
The second chapter provided a brief description of the study areas. By so doing, it illustrated the location, demographic characteristics, physical size, topography, climate, and the socio-cultural features of the study sites.
The third chapter embarked on a review of related literature through which various concepts relevant to the study, such as migration, settlement, resettlement, vulnerability, risk and forced displacement have been discussed. In relation to these, theories by different scholars from different disciplines have been highlighted. The review has illuminated issues related to environmental disaster risk, risk coping management, drought and famine, poverty, livelihoods, internally displaced persons, resource and ethnic/political conflicts. The author argued that the theoretical approaches outlined in the review had strengths and weaknesses in studying migration and displacement. It is contended that the application of a single approach may not always lead to a satisfactory investigation of the predicaments of migrant-settlers who, at one time or another, have been forced to go through the complex process of migration, settlement, conflict, displacement and resettlement. In light of these problems, the author proposed to use an amalgam or multi-causal approach comprising environment, vulnerability/entitlement and coping approaches as analytical tools to depict a better picture of the problem under study and in finding plausible solutions.
Chapter four is devoted to the description of the migration process of Amhara peasants who trekked toward Gidda Kiremu Woreda, East Wollega Zone embracing the time span between the imperial times up until 2000/01. In terms of the characteristics of the migrants, the results have revealed that mainly young adult men made up more than half of the migrants. The decision to migrate was exclusively made by male migrants. Notwithstanding the exhaustion of the fertility of their land resources, roughly three-fifths of the migrants had a hectare of land or more in their ancestral homes with the remaining two-fifths landless. Given the fact that migrants, comprising all social and economic classes, moved to the recipient area has also testified to the long-held migrants’ characteristics (i.e. not all migrants are the poorest in the areas of origin.) When it comes to the causes of migration, the results of the study revealed that social, economic, political and ecological causes compelled the Amhara migrants to leave their homes for good. These include, among others, physico-environmental causes, such as recurrent drought as well as and land and soil degradation; socio-economic causes, such as social differentiation, weak traditional systems, and entitlement failures acting as push factors, while the availability of vacant and fertile lands in the recipient area, peer and kin pressure, and the opening up of a new access road connecting both regions acted as pull factors.
Chapter five described the social, economic and political relations the migrants established with the local Oromo communities as well as with early Amhara migrants. Issues that are covered in this chapter include the migratory networks used by the migrants to come to Gidda Kiremu Woreda, the settlement and adaptation mechanisms of the migrants among the host Oromo communities, including the ways by which they managed to have access to farmland, the degree to which their livelihood has been enhanced after settling in the area, and the social relationships they established with the local people. The results of the study revealed that nearly 50 percent of the migrants obtained farmland via PA offices, about 25 percent through rental arrangements with the local people, and about ten percent through direct purchase. Almost all the sampled respondents have unanimously stated that their lives have been improved after their settlement in Gidda Kiremu Woreda. The settlers’ desire to create social bonds and harmony with the local people took different forms and included, among others, inter-ethnic marriage, God parenthood and attending various religious gatherings on a rotational basis. These relationships and social contacts were needed more by the settlers than the local people so as to obtain protection and guarantee that they could remain in the recipient area, secure access to land, minimise land-related litigations, and cement spiritual connections. On average, half of the sampled respondents managed to build the above-stated social bonds with local Oromo communities.
In chapter six, an extensive discussion was made on the causes of inter-ethnic conflicts between the Amhara settlers and the local Oromo communities in Gidda Kiremu Woreda during the second half of the 1990s and early 2000, especially after the influx of a large number of Amhara settlers from Gojjam since 1996/97. About five major causes of conflict have been identified in the study, namely environmental, political, socio-cultural, legal and economic. Of the many issues that are discussed under each of the causes, it would suffice to mention a few of them: the indiscriminate cutting of trees to clear land for farming, agitation by the local elites against the presence of settlers in the area, the political processes set in motion by national policies related to the ethnically defined regions of Ethiopia (i.e. ethnic federalism), exclusion of settlers from PA leadership, ‘christening’ of place names, chauvinistic attitude of settlers toward the local population, the breaching of contractual agreements over land by both communities, and the ever increasing land scarcity in the area.
Chapter seven depicted the violent conflict that erupted at the end of 2000 and its aftermath, namely death and displacement. The conflict brought about immense human casualties and the displacement of thousands of settler households. The peripheral PAs that became the epicentre of the conflict generated more displacees than the other areas of the woreda. Whereas the first skirmish that took place in March/April 2000 was somewhat contained thanks to the intervention by elders from both sides, the second one (June 2000) ended by displacing some settlers. The third round of conflict that started at the end of 2000 was deadly. It culminated by claiming the lives of hundreds of settlers and the displacement of thousands of settler households.
Chapter eight stated issues related to the encampment and resettlement of the settler-displacees. Following the displacement of the settlers from Gidda Kiremu Woreda in November/December 2000, the displacees were temporarily encamped in the town of Bure in West Gojjam Zone before they were resettled in Jawi in April 2001. Despite such a measure, the resettled displacees and the host population are still forced to live with immense problems. Whereas the unsuitability of the allotted land and the prevalence of deadly diseases could be taken as an example to the former, the loss of farmlands pertains to the latter.
In the final chapter, a summary of the previous chapters has been made as well as potential solutions to be adopted by policymakers to alleviate the problems demonstrated in the subsequent chapters. In so doing, the study proposed conflict prevention, management, and resolution (CPMR) mechanisms that can reduce the migratory flow of people and deter the re-emergence of conflicts in the study area and elsewhere in Ethiopia. These include designing agrarian policies that could expand the resource base in rural Ethiopia, undoing the long-held taboo of covering up conflicts, abating the politicisation of ethnicity, applying traditional conflict management systems, enhancing inter-regional cooperation that can help in promoting reconciliation between the warring parties, promoting confidence-building measures between Oromo and Amhara communities who are still living together in the study area, and making sure that resettlement takes place with minimum possible effect on the resettlers and the host population.