Violence and the crisis of conciliation: Suri, Dizi and the State in south-west Ethiopia

TitleViolence and the crisis of conciliation: Suri, Dizi and the State in south-west Ethiopia
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsG.J. Abbink
Secondary TitleAfrica : journal of the International African InstituteAfrica
Pagination527 - 550
Date Published2000///
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication Languageeng
Keywords1991, Dizi, Ethiopia, Ethnic groups, ethnic relations, identity, Suri, violence

This article examines the social and political background of escalating violence between ethnic groups in southwestern Ethiopia who until recently had customary and ritually sanctioned ways of resolving conflict. It focuses on the Maji area, a frontier region inhabited by two indigenous groups - the Dizi and the Suri, and people from a mixed background, descendants of immigrants and recent arrivals taking up posts as soldiers, traders and government officials in the small towns. The article outlines the economic, social and cultural factors involved in the generation of intergroup violence in the area, as well as traditional Suri and Dizi reconciliation rituals. It also indicates the changing arenas of 'ethnic' self-definition and economic opportunity for local groups in post-1991 Ethiopia. An analysis of a reconciliation meeting organized in the Maji area by the new government in 1991 reveals that in the efforts of State agents to mediate emerging conflicts in conditions of increasing scarcity and identity struggle, the use of customary mediation mechanisms was formally recognized. But at the same time, efficient mediation was structurally impeded by the very nature of the exercise of authority by State agents and their failure to implement practical measures of conflict resolution. This failure was matched by the inability of the representatives of the ethnic groups concerned to redefine their relationship in a constructive manner. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French

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Citation Key2001