n African Human Rights Law Journal - Large-scale agricultural land acquisitions and Ethiopia’s ethnic minorities : a test for the rule of law - focus : the rule of law in sub-Saharan Africa

Volume 18 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



The Ethiopian Constitution provides for the exercise of the right to selfdetermination of ethnic groups. This right entitles each group to be in control of its local affairs, through its own autonomous arrangements, particularly regarding matters of land administration and utilisation. The right to self-determination also allows ethnic communities the right to directly participate in decisions affecting the utilisation of land resources. However, the enforcement of the legal rhetoric of self-determination in the administration and utilisation of land has been weak. This article analyses the challenges facing the enforcement of constitutionally-enshrined rights of ethnic minorities to administer and exploit their own land resources, by taking as a case study the Ethiopian government’s measures regarding large-scale land dispossessions of local communities in the Gambella and Benishangul-Gumuz regions. The article suggests that, given the challenges of seeking a remedy from domestic forums, remedies from regional institutions can partly be a way forward. It contends that rulings from regional bodies, including the African Commission, at least can serve as discursive tools through which the actions of government officials are challenged and delegitimised. This, in turn, will provide the affected communities with more tools in their struggle against land dispossession.

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