Nathan Belay Abtew and Abubeker Yasin
Samara University, Afar, Ethiopia
P4P Medium Grant Recipient
Exploring the relationship between traditional leaders, elected parliamentarians and local communities: the case of Northern Afar, Ethiopia.
Nomadic populations tend to be characterised by mobility. They are difficult to fix to one place, difficult to maintain within a bounded constituency, and difficult to tax. These things, together with their shared land ownership practices, mean that nomads represent a significant challenge to state-making. In the case of the pastoralists in Ethiopia’s Afar region, the disjuncture between their cultural practices and the requirements of central government has historically led these peoples to being excluded from political participation. However, the relationship between Parliamentarians and the Afar people of northern Ethiopia is widely considered to be positive and friendly – the former dispense with their usual security detail, and even stay with families during their visits. This research will explore in greater detail the relationship between Parliamentarians, local clan leaders and people in Afar, particularly with respect to their interactions and co-operation on democracy-building. The research will also consider the role that gender plays in political engagement amongst the Afar – to what extent women speak, voice their concerns, and feel represented.
Duration: November 2018 to May 2019
About Nathan and Abubeker
Nathan Belay has an MA in Anthropology from Addis Ababa University, and currently works as a lecturer at Samara University. He has conducted research on culture, tradition and resilience to climate change amongst pastoralist communities in Ethiopia. Abubeker Yassin, who hails from the Afar pastoralists of northern Ethiopia, holds an MA in International Relations from Addis Ababa University and is a co-founder of Samara University where he currently lectures on civics and ethics. His research focuses on state-making and human security particularly in the Horn of Africa.
Nathan says: “In Afar, the climate is arid, but life continues and people have long used adaptive strategies such as pastoralism. Dagou (the traditional information sharing system), customary laws, communal life, Absuma marriage, Caravan trading and others are cultural heritages of the Afar pastoralist communities. As member of the University which is found in Afar region and as a young anthropologist, I encourage research projects which could improve the life of pastoralists. And for this, local knowledge and strategy of life should be valued. Come and let us do ethnography and let us learn from the dignified Afar pastoral communities other wisdoms than our own.”
About Samara University
Samara University is one of the emerging higher institutes of education in Ethiopia, and is the only University in the Afar region. As well as providing education opportunities for students from across the country, the University also participates in community service activities amongst the pastoralist Afar communities. The University is interested in exploring research-based interventions among the pastoralist communities of Afar, particularly through bilateral and international partnerships with researchers and institutions.