ዓፋር ክልል Qafar Rakaakayak

Ethiopian Peacemaking Database

In Afar, we showcase the Dagu and Mad’aa systems.

Ethnic Group: Afar

Name of Reconciliation: Dagu

Themes: Conflict; Elderly; Tribe; Tree Shade; Decision; Ritual

Location of Reconciliation Process: Afar Region, Ethiopia

About Dagu:

Among the Afar people, the value of “Dagu is a crucial means of information exchange, knowledge production, and reconciliation. It plays a central role in their community movement and serves as a fast and authentic way to address conflicts and problems by involving elders. Ultimately, it is an oral, interpersonal communication performance done as a ritual by the members of the Afar ethnic group, done with respect and without interruption.

Within the Afar community, despite differences among tribes, traditional reconciliation and punishment or compensation practices are consistent. There are two primary reconciliation systems: ‘Bilu’ and ‘Irena,’ and ‘Meblo’ and ‘Idolina.’ ‘Bilu’ and ‘Irena’ handle severe conflicts, such as murder cases, while ‘Meblo’ and ‘Idolina’ are designed for less severe offenses like disobedience to family or theft.

Reconciliation Process:

Reconciliation ceremonies in both ‘Bilu and Irena’ and ‘Meblo and Idolina’  involve seven elders, with a leader of the tribe making the final decision. These ceremonies often take place under a tree and are facilitated through Dagu, allowing victims to convey their grievances. ‘Bilu’  is explored as a specific reconciliation system for serious conflicts, where the murderer and the victim’s families build a new house, furnish it, and engage in symbolic rituals like washing the feet of the murdered relatives. This house, known as ‘Bilu Ari,’  serves as a place for reconciliation and reintegration.

Click here to read the full research paper (Amharic/አማርኛ)

Paper by Ruth Hailu (Afar region)

Ethnic Group: Afar

Name of Reconciliation: Mad’aa

Themes: Elderly; Traditional Court; Judges; Tree Shade; Conflict;

Location of Reconciliation Process: Afar Region

About Mad’aa:

Mad’aa is the traditional law and conflict resolution practices among the Afar people.

Regardless of clan affiliations or changes in national politics, the Afar strongly adhere to these unwritten traditional rules and guidelines that have been passed down through generations. Elders hold a central role in this system, seen as repositories of wisdom and knowledge. They play a vital role in transferring traditional wisdom to younger generations, providing informal education, and teaching conflict prevention. The Afar prioritize peaceful settlement of disputes based on Mad’aa, which covers various aspects of societal life and is facilitated through Maro courts and assemblies.

Reconciliation Process:

The Maro institution plays a pivotal role in this process, offering a unique approach to conflict resolution. Maro sessions, conducted under a tree, involve Makabans (judges), elders, disputants, witnesses, and observers in a circle. These judges are often clan leaders with an understanding of customs, and the number of Makabans varies based on the case’s seriousness. Remarkably, age isn’t the sole determinant of eligibility; younger individuals with integrity can also serve. The Afar rely on this traditional system to resolve conflicts efficiently, cost-effectively, and fairly, with swift resolutions for minor cases and a commitment to justice even in complex disputes that may take years.

One distinctive feature of the Maro process is its transparency, with decisions pronounced orally in public and proceedings conducted openly. This stands in contrast to formal courts, which may occasionally hold private hearings. The Afar’s reliance on their traditional dispute resolution system stems from its accessibility, affordability, and relatively swift delivery of justice, making it a preferred method for resolving disputes within their community.

Click here to read the full research paper (English)

Paper by Finot Tsegaye (Afar region)