The Need for Peace Building and Reconciliation in Post-TPLF Ethiopia

Academic Paper, 2019
31 Pages



1.1 Introduction
1.2. Statement of the problem
1.3 Objectives
1.4 Methodology

2. Review of related literatures
2.1. The concept of Peace building and reconciliation
2.2 Peace building and Its Aliases
2.3 The Practices of Post conflict Peace building
2.4 Dimensions of Peace building
2.5 The Concept of Reconciliation

3. Analysis: The need for Peace building and reconciliation in post- TPLF Ethiopia




In most post-conflict situations, there are major divisions throughout impacted societies, manifested in ethnic, political, economic, social, and religious rifts. The consequent psycho-social impacts that invariably result from protracted civil divergences are often more harmful than the physical damage shaped by the conflicts itself. Conflict is pervasive in every society, so the term post-conflict in this instance indicates the period after a formal dictatorial party in coalition is fired out by long-term protest. This paper attempts to see the need for peace building and reconciliation in post-TPLF Ethiopia. It employed qualitative research approach. It draws heavily on secondary sources, including books, journals, researches and reports of various institutions. The facts collected are analyzed thematically, trans-active approach as alternative explanations. Ethiopia needs a peace-building rule to improve coordination and effectiveness of its interventions in promoting peace and human security. The constitution, sectoral policy pronouncements, international conventions and policy frameworks which the country has ratified, contain bits and pieces of policy pronouncements on peace-building. The high-profile reconciliation initiatives with which we are familiar tend to be national-level, top-down approaches: truth commissions, legal processes and reform, national reparation programs, public apologies, etc. These initiatives can only take place once there is a recognized state-wide system of governance with sufficiently broad legitimacy that such initiatives can be carried out under its auspices. In conclusion for reconciliation activities to have any meaning, structural issues leading to conflict must also be addressed. There must be a harmonization of objectives between economic, political and psycho-social interventions. Peace building is increasingly institutionalized across the international landscape.

Key terms: Peace-building, reconciliation, TPLF, Ethiopia


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1.1 Introduction

In most post-conflict situations, there are major divisions throughout impacted societies, manifested in ethnic, political, economic, social, and religious rifts (John P. Lederach, 1995). Large segments of the populations of such countries have experienced firsthand the horrors of conflict. The consequent psycho-social impacts that invariably result from protracted civil divergences are often more harmful than the physical damage shaped by the conflicts itself. Consequently, underlying causes of these systemic crises and their psycho-social impacts must be addressed in addition to physical reconstruction and humanitarian relief.

The bulk of the conflict and conflict resolution literatures have concerned itself with peace agreements, international intervention, and peacekeeping forces. Relatively little attention has been paid to reconciliation processes and initiatives, which makes the task of evaluating these latter interventions all the more challenging (David Smock and John Prendergast, 1996).

There are numerous terms describing post-conflict conditions and objectives which are often used interchangeably, but for which some clarification would be valuable. Psycho-social, peace-building and reconciliation will be addressed briefly.

In the field, the term psycho-social is largely understood in relation to addressing the mental health needs of traumatized members of a conflict-affected society, not as a broader set of interventions addressing a host of reconciliation objectives. The term itself is alien to some societies. For example, in Cambodia, the Institute for Psycho-Social and Socio-Ecological Research could not find a satisfactory translation for ‘psycho-social’ (Boyden, J. & Gibbs, S., 1996).

Peace building as the Secretary General of the UN originally defined it was primarily a post-conflict concept, although he has since acknowledged that peace building activities are appropriate during all phases of a conflict.

Peace building involves a continuum of responses, including economic development, security, and conflict resolution. Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s definition of peace building in ‘An Agenda for Peace is an ‘action to identify and support structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict’. Peace building is clearly preventive in nature, as is reconciliation. Both of these concepts have great overlap.

Mary B. Anderson (1996), points out that both peace-building and reconciliation are sometimes not acceptable to a society which has recently emerged from conflict. The personal effect can have on the residents of impacted societies makes it difficult for large segments of these populations to be open to the totality of concepts such as reconciliation or building peace. These feelings should not be ignored, and therefore language used in post-conflict programming should be sensitive to such emotions. Anderson recommends using a goal of ‘helping people to disengage from conflict’.

The Horn of Africa is known in its volatility nature and it’s the most conflict-ridden part of Africa. It’s always referred by some quarters as the hot-bed of the world’s conflicts. It has persistently been a venue of many inters- state and intra-state conflicts in Africa (Kinde, 2006). The most common source of the conflicts in this area is the issue of lack of democratic political institutions that allow public participation in the affairs of governance; it has been the main trigger- factor of civil wars (Markakis, 2003).

The Ethiopia of today, not the ancient Abyssinia, as part of Horn of Africa, was born as a result of internal power struggles between Menelik II and forces competing to control additional territories during the 19th century. In the process of territorial expansion, regional lords who surrendered themselves to Menelik II were allowed to rule their areas by paying a certain amount of gibir (tribute or tax) to the ruler of Shoa (central government). Southern rulers, who peacefully submitted to Menelik II, were allowed to rule their territories by paying a fixed amount of tribute (Bahru 2002:87). One could take this as a historical justification for a federal system since Ethiopians have lived for longer periods under decentralized forms of government (Assefa, 2006:135). For most of its history, it existed as a de facto federal system in which the emperor exercised matters of national importance, while regional kingdoms had power to levy tax, guarantee local security and regulate trade.

That is, the regional rulers had some degree of autonomy to govern their respective regions, which is the modern essence of federalism. Thus, the nineteenth century Ethiopian emperor, Menelik, operationalised the federal system of government that was geographic-based, not ethnic. In light of this, Mesfin (1999:142) stated that the structure of the traditional Ethiopian state was federal, having many kings (governing their own provinces) but one king of kings (ruling the whole state). Emperor Menelik II was credited for being the first to implement a federal system before the concept of federalism flourished in the Western political market.

In view of the above, during the imperial periods, a central issue in Ethiopian politics was the struggle between regional and central forces. For example, during the imperial era, the struggle was expressed through continuous disputes between the central king or emperor and the regional lords and princes (Bahru 2002:61). The former power struggles between the central and the regional rulers changed from a struggle for territorial expansion into a class struggle. And the 1974 Revolution which was provoked by the Ethiopian Student’s Movement was a national class struggle. It was not an ethnic conflict. During the revolution, a pool of educated elites, mostly Marxists in orientation, formed a number of political parties and intensified the growing wave of change. The twentieth century Ethiopian elites, participating in the All-Ethiopia Socialist Movement (MEISON) and the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP), viewed the problems in Ethiopia as a result of class conflicts and not as an outcome of struggles between ethnic groups (Aalen 2002:4).

Among the members of the students’ movement, however, the most ethnically conscious students were invariably the Afan Oromo and Tigrigna speakers (Young 2006:82). Owing to this, the Oromo Liberation Front and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) leaders asserted that the early 20th century students’ movement was a struggle among ethnic groups. In disagreement with the allegation of the TPLF leaders, however, a number of scholars teaching at the then Haile Selassie I University (HSIU) asserted that the reaction to the massive oppression and exploitation of the people of Ethiopia appeared to be a class struggle (Young 2006:81). According to Gebru, the peasants rebelled against the state not particularly because it was controlled and dominated by the Shoan Amhara, but primarily because it was oppressive (Gebru, 1977:215). This movement did not have an ethnic foundation (Mesfin, 2012); the main movement with ethnic-centered politics at the time was the one in Eritrea led by the Eritrea Liberation Front (ELF). It may therefore be said that the students targeting the ruling class were against human exploitation irrespective of the rulers’ ethnic background. Most student activists rejected the assertion that national divisions were designed to promote tribalism, and were comfortable with the regime’s policy of avoiding references to ethnicity in any context (Young, 2006:80).

It was in this context that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) appeared on the scene and was officially established in 1975. Their manifesto issued in 1976 called for the establishment of an independent republic of Tigray, but this was later modified to cultural and political autonomy for the region within a united Ethiopia (Aalen, 2002:6). With the support of the popular mass, TPLF, along with its allies in the form of parties and/or movements, took power in 1991 and the most nationalist regime in modern Ethiopian history was removed from power.

Whether we base our argument on historical evidence or the current political temperature in Ethiopia the question no longer is not “if” the wind of change and the popular discontent can be stopped, but it is “when” the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that ruled the country with a brute force for the last 26 years. The other question one must also consider is how far the regime would go in using violence and instigating intercommunal conflict to suppress the popular uprising that is engulfing the country.

All regimes that climb the ladder of power through violence and rule by institutionalized form of state-terror speed up their own expiry date, and TPLF is not exception. Such regimes are their own worst enemies more than anyone or anything else. Their inflated version of self-worth and ‘greatness’ along with extreme arrogance wrapped in a blinding hood of ignorance, prevents them from seeing the reality of their surroundings. They only listen to their own voices and see the fictitious image they created in their own mind. No other ideas, no dissent, no divergent views, which are of a significant value in the building of democratic culture, are tolerated.

While the demise of such an authoritarian rule brings a new hope and optimism to the people of Ethiopia, who endured so much suffering and hardship under the regime. This is also a delicate time that requires responsible navigation from political leaders, as well as the average citizens. The political discourse of the last 26 years under the TPLF has been one of extreme polarization and dangerous play with large group identity. In the process, the regime tried to create permanent fault lines between groups to advance its political agenda. By and large, this attempt hasn’t been successful, thanks to the long standing tradition of peaceful coexistence, shared sense of community and belonging.

At the same time, however, it is important to acknowledge the fact that, the divisive policies of TPLF have dislocated the social equilibrium of the society. Large group identity in Ethiopia has been manipulated with an objective of preventing inter-group collaboration and in the process eliminating centripetal political discourse. Hence, the post-TPLF political process must be strongly and clearly attach on a sustained and long term initiatives of political and social reconciliation agenda.

Therefore, Ethiopia necessitates a peace-building and reconciliation agenda to improve coordination and effectiveness of its interventions in promoting peace and human security. This paper attempts to see the need for peace building and reconciliation in post –TPLF Ethiopia. To this end, I have reviewed some of the ongoing debates, from scholarship as well as policy and practice, which highlight the disputed nature of the concepts, and offer a modest framework for reducing the confusion to more manageable levels. I also examined its complex relationship to two key concepts: justice, and forgiveness. I made the important distinction between interpersonally-based understandings of reconciliation, and what is now developing as a pragmatic approach of ‘political reconciliation’.

1.2. Statement of the problem

Peace building is a wide-ranging process which depends upon several interdependent approaches. From the establishment of peace agreements and institutions of government to the promotion of economic reconstruction and social reconciliation, peace building is a highly complex, and often daunting, task. It is also a long-term and multi-faceted process and, if a lasting and sustainable peace is to emerge, peace building has to address not only the symptoms of a conflict-manifest, physical violence-but also the broader, underlying causes of the conflict.

Different scholars present the relationship between reconciliation and peace building. John Paul Lederach sees relationships as the central focus for sustained reconciliation, which is ‘built on mechanisms that engage the sides of a conflict with each other as humans-in-relationship, rather than seeking innovative ways to disengage or minimize their affiliation’. Reconciliation must confront the past as well as find a vision for a mutually shared future. ‘Reconciliation as a locus creates a space for encounter by the parties, a place where the diverse but connected energies and concerns driving the conflict can meet, including the paradoxes of truth and mercy, justice and forgiveness’(John Paul Lederach,1995).

In seeking to understand the concept of reconciliation, peace cannot simply be defined as the absence of violence. The depth required of processes leading to reconciliation mandates meaningful economic and political reform and attempts to create social harmony. Therefore, reconciliation’s ultimate goal means that conflict resolution - not conflict management - processes must follow the signing of peace accords. Hizkias Assefa(1993), of the Nairobi Peace Initiative defines reconciliation as the ‘restoration of broken relationships or the coming together of those who have been alienated and separated from each other by conflict to create a community again’. Supporting such an objective may have no equal in terms of complexity and difficulty.

As a point of compromise among these and other interpretations of key terminology, this paper use reconciliation to indicate not an end in itself but rather support for the long-term, indefinite processes which lead ultimately to ‘the restoration of broken relationships’. Another compromise the paper made it in the use of the term ‘post-conflict’. Conflict is pervasive in every society, so the term post-conflict in this instance indicates the period after a formal dictatorial party in coalition is fired out by long-term protest. This paper attempts to see the need for peace building and reconciliation in post-TPLF Ethiopia.

1.3 Objectives

This paper sought to address the need for peace building and reconciliation in post-TPLF Ethiopia. To this end it addresses:

- the demand for peace-building, democracy, good governance, and long-term institutional change in the country after the fall of TPLF
- Identify key-characteristics to post-conflict peace-building processes in the country
- Raise awareness of contentious issues for long-term peace building and reconciliation issues in the country

1.4 Methodology

This paper has employed qualitative research approach. The rationale for the selection of the qualitative research approach is due to the fact the conceptual issues to be investigated require a holistic qualitative data and discussion. It draws heavily on secondary sources, including books, journals, researches and reports of various institutions. The facts collected is analyzed thematically, trans-active approach as alternative explanation to the need for peace and reconciliation in post-TPLF Ethiopia is discussed as part of the analysis in various sections.

2. Review of related literatures

2.1 The concept of Peace building and reconciliation

Though, there are critical differences among actors regarding its conceptualization and operationalization, peace-building is generically defined as external interventions that are designed to prevent the eruption or return of armed conflict, (UN, Agenda for peace, 2004).

Different terms are used to describe post conflict peace building, there are even greater divisions regarding the specific approaches that might achieve it. Some programs focus on the production of stability and security in the early days of a peace agreement's implementation, while others focus on building vibrant civil societies and furthering development, democracy, justice, and the rule of law. Although there are various reasons for these differing priorities, the prevailing organizational mandates and interests are an important part of the explanation. Thus far, though, programs have focused on the immediate or underlying causes of conflict to the relative neglect of state institutions. This neglect is a possible artifact of the ingrained belief by wealthy countries that liberalization, largely defined as the movement toward democracy, markets, and the rule of law, is the best way to develop a positive peace in poor ones (Susan L. Woodward, 2004)

In this respect, international peace builders have demonstrated greater concern with the kind of state being built rather than its degree. There is evidence, however, that this neglect is being redressed. Although this greater attention is overdue, to the extent that it is driven by a fear that weak states create a permissive environment for terrorist and criminal networks, it might create a willingness to be more concerned with the degree of the state rather than the kind.

2.2 Peace building and Its Aliases

It is recognizable that different agencies use a wide variety of terms that are related to but are not necessarily synonymous with peace building. Even more confusing, some use the same term, peace building, in slightly different ways (Anthony Giddens, 1993). Different groupings clearly emerge: the UN Secretariat, UN specialized agencies, European organizations, and member states. This differentiation, as I suggest below, owes partly to prevailing organizational mandates and networks. The organization's core mandate will heavily influence its reception to, and definition and revision of, the concept of peace building. Moreover, organizations do not exist in isolation but instead are nested in structured relationships and exchange of resources and information; those that are linked have tended to converge on a consensus definition

As Charles Call (2005), notes in his review of peace building at the UN, introduced two important clarifications. One, it began to emphasize that peace building is more than the elimination of armed conflict; after all, stability can be achieved by the balance or threat of force. Instead, it involves the creation of a positive peace, the elimination of the root causes of conflict so that actors no longer have the motive to use violence to settle their differences. The other clarification, a logical implication of the first, is that the same technologies that are used to help build peace after conflict also can be used to help societies avoid conflict in the first instance. In other words, peace building is conflict prevention by another name and, therefore, "post conflict" often modifies peace building to distinguish it from conflict prevention.

In early 2000 the Brahimi Report on Peacekeeping Reform further refined the definition of peace building: "activities undertaken on the far side of conflict to reassemble the foundations of peace and provide the tools for building on those foundations something that is more than just the absence of conflict." Although the report stressed how peace building comes after conflict, and thus intentionally bracketed its applicability to conflict prevention, this restriction primarily owed to the commission's mandate to review peacekeeping operations in the main (and to bracket what comes after wards).

The UN's specialized agencies have adopted other concepts, a pattern that probably owes to how peace building fits into their broader core man dates. In doing so, it signaled that its real concern is with conflict prevention; therefore, the organization should be as concerned with preventing conflict from returning as with stopping it before it begins.

Outside the UN system there is greater terminological diversity. The European agencies are more likely to avoid peace building in favor of alter native monikers such as civilian crisis management. Here the effort appears to distinguish these efforts from military and security-based stabilization and peace enforcement efforts. The European Union favors the concepts of conflict prevention and management, and rehabilitation and reconstruction: the former pertains to the desire to prevent the outbreak of violence that is imminent (management) and the elimination of facilitating a broader peace process (prevention); the latter pertains to the reestablishment of a working economy and institutional capacity.

Different agencies within the governments of the United States, UK, Canada, Germany, France, and Japan use different terms. The defense departments in the UK and the United States use the concepts of stabilization, reflecting their security missions (although NATO does use the term peace building). The US Agency for International Development has an Office of Transition Initiatives focused on post conflict recovery and an Office for Conflict Management and Mitigation focused on prevention. The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development prefer post conflict reconstruction rather than peace building, but also make reference to peace building since peace-related activities clearly fall within their respective mandates. Similarly, Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs uses the term conflict prevention, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, a lead donor to states recovering from conflict, uses the term peace building. France and Germany share with the European community a preference for civilian crisis management and conflict prevention.

Almost all agree that building peace after conflict is a good thing but may not agree on why it is a good thing (i.e., because it alleviates human suffering, generates regional stability, or creates conditions for long-term development efforts to take root). There is widespread agreement, as well, that peace building means more than stability promotion; it is designed to create a positive peace, to eliminate the root causes of conflict, to allow states and societies to develop stable expectations of peaceful change.

2.3 The Practices of Post conflict Peace building

Because there are multiple contributing causes of conflict, almost any international assistance effort that addresses any perceived or real grievance can arguably be called "peace building." Moreover, anyone invited to imagine the causes of violent conflict might generate a rather expansive laundry list of issues to be addressed in the post conflict period, including income distribution, land reform, democracy and the rule of law, human security, corruption, gender equality, refugee reintegration, economic development, ethno national divisions, environmental degradation, transitional justice, and on and on. There are at least two good reasons for such a fertile imagination. One, there is no master variable for explaining either the outbreak of violence or the construction of a positive peace but merely groupings of factors across categories such as greed and grievance, and catalytic events. Variables that might be relatively harmless in some contexts can be a potent mixture in others.

Conversely, there is relatively little knowledge regarding what causes peace or what the paths to peace are. Although democratic states that have reasonably high per capita incomes are at a reduced risk of conflict, being democratic and rich is no guarantor of a positive peace, and illiberal and poor countries, at times, also have had their share of success. Second, organizations are likely to claim that their core competencies and mandates are critical to peace building. They might be right. They also might be opportunistic. After all, if peace building is big business, then there are good bureaucratic reasons for claiming that they are an invaluable partner.

Both of these reasons help explain two patterns regarding the practice of peace building. One, different agencies tend to prioritize different activities. These alternative priorities are shaped not only by their knowledge of how to reduce the risk of conflict but also by a consideration of how they might best and most easily extend their existing mandates and expertise into the post conflict arena. Two, most programs emphasize the immediate and/or long-term demands of peace building, that is, how to reduce the risk that the combatants do not return to conflict soon after the ink is dry on their peace agreement, and how to create the socioeconomic foundations for a positive peace.


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The Need for Peace Building and Reconciliation in Post-TPLF Ethiopia
Haramaya University
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need, peace, building, reconciliation, post-tplf, ethiopia
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Megersa Tolera (Author), 2019, The Need for Peace Building and Reconciliation in Post-TPLF Ethiopia, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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