AMHARA አማራ ክልል

Ethiopian Peacemaking Database

In Amhara, we showcase 13 reconciliation practices throughout this vast region.

Ethnic Group: Welo

Name of Reconciliation: Abegar

Themes: Heredity; elderly; women; crime; guilty; victim

Location of Reconciliation Process: North and South Welo Zones, in Amhara Region

About Abegar

Abegar is traditional reconciliation system widely practiced in northern and southern Welo, Amhara Region. Abegar means elder and being Abegar in Welo is hereditary. However, there are some other preconditions to become the Abegar. The heir must be free from any kind of crimes in his past in order to be trustworthy. Welo is a district found in the northern part of the Amhara region. Welo have their own culture of proceeding their sorrow with joy. For instance, the food, costume, and girls polish their body with butter for their wedding; while going to the bride’s home the family of the groom performs cultural melodic poems and so on.

Reconciliation Process:

Although the system is led by the people who have family connection with the previous leaders, some other groups of people also participate. For instance, if a certain person commits murder and hides far away from his home, those near to the accused do not faciliate his rather, but rather they expose him and bring to the Abegar. As a reward the Abegar gives them a chance to participate in the resolution process. Women can also participate in the resolution system.

Abegar is widely used in murder cases. The process starts by the family of murderer to sustain peace. Then the Abegar discusses the case with both the murderer’s and victim’s family. When both parties agree to sit down and solve the case, the Day of Reconciliation is appointed.

On the Day of Reconciliation both parties express their thought on the case to the Abegar. After listening attentively to both parties, the Abegar decides a fair decision, determining whether the murder happened intentionally or unintentionally. The fair judgement offers mental and emotional solace, rather than using blood compensation paid to the victim. After the final decision is made, both the families are allowed to go back to their respective area and live peacefully.

Click here to read the full research paper (Oromo)

Ethnic Group: Amhara

Name of Reconciliation: Ante

Themes: Elderly; Guilty; Victim; Compensation; Poetry

Location of Reconciliation Process: Tenta District of South Welo Zone, in Amhara Region

About Ante: 

Ante means relative and it has a meaning of village or country in the higher level. Ante is widely practiced in the Southern Welo, Tanta district. Besides being from a process of resolving a case and bringing two parties to one idea, it has a remarkable effect on making those two parties have a connection they never had before, due to its involvement of music.

Reconciliation Process:

To stop crimes from going further and causing damage, Ante intervenes in-between and tries to resolve the root of the issue. The elderlies get ready to make the appointment date in order to punish the guilty, to compensate the victim, and to consult those who need a guide. On the appointed day the elderlies announce to both parties why they are needed, and then both parties are allowed to express their opinion on the case. After listening to both of them, Ante makes decision and expects both parties to accept the decision. If they accept the decision, peace will sustain and life goes on. However, if the decision is not accepted by one or both the parties, the process continues till peace sustains.

Traditional musical poetry is performed in order to tell the conflicting parties to live peacefully after the reconciliation. “Amen sibal atiletetu, Aman yiwedal selitum titu” meaning “don’t hate the word peace; even the plants need peace to survive”. This will be the last step of the process and allows harmony and solidarity to appear as they return home.

Click here to read the full research paper (Oromo)

Ethnic Group: Minjar

Name of Reconciliation: Atari Commitee

Themes: Elderly; Judge; Conflict; Victim; Accused; Information; Compensation

Location of Reconciliation Process: Minjar Shenkore District, in North Shewa Zone, Amhara Region

About Atari Committee: 

Minjar Shenkore is composed two of big ethnic groups: Amhara and Oromo, alongside some other minority groups. Atari committee is practiced in the district in order to solve conflicts before going to modern jury and also it is believed that Atari committee gives the fairest judgement. The system has its own regulations, assembly, executive groups, secretory and judge. The method of choosing the judge or an elder has its own process. A certain person must know the rules, culture and norms of the society, must have awareness about the vision and goal of the system, and must be capable of acting accordingly,. When it is believed he has no negative impact on the system, then he may be accepted by all the members of the committee. Other than the judge, the members of the committee have a small part on reconciling.

Reconciliation Process:

When there is a conflict, the victim or a person who knows about the case contacts with the approved elderlies. Then the elderlies collect information about the case. The elderlies talk to the victim and the accused parties and listen to both opinions attentively. Then they decide which one is the victim and which one is the guilty. The guilty is obliged to give compensation to the victim and then there will be forgiveness.

Click here to read the full research paper (Oromo)

Ethnic Group: Menz

Name of Reconciliation: Awchachign

Themes: Truth; elderly; victim; accused; compensation; food

Location of Reconciliation Process: Menz District, North Shewa Zone, in Amhara Region

About Awchachign: 

Awchachign is a process of extracting the truth. It has been practiced by the people of Menz for long period of time. Menz is a district found in northern part of Ethiopia, Amhara region. Menz has two parts; the upper Menz and lower Menz. There is a story about the classification: in the past there was a father who wanted to divide Menz in half for his two sons. He gave a horse for both of them and put them on the right and left end points, then told them to race and the area they covered will be theirs respectively. They met at “Gibra field“. That’s why it is called upper and lower Menz.

Reconciliation Process:

In the process, the victim expresses his opinion about who hurt him/her to the higher officials. The victim calls the accused for Awchachign where other people are invited and sit to shadow to the proceudre. Those people are needed in case they know something about the case. If they have information, they step forward and tell the judge. The accused party is allowed to defend themselves too.

After attentively following the case, the judge gives the decision and calms down the situation. If it is found necessary, the guilty is obliged to pay compensation to the victim and a peace agreement is agreed upon to sustain the two parties. To make the agreement and peace stronger between the to parties there will be dinning ceremony. The elderlies, the conflicting parties, and all others who participated in the process dine together in order to reflect new beginning of peace. Eating together is a crucial image in Menz society.

Click here to read the full research paper (Amharic)

Ethnic Group: Golam

Name of Reconciliation: Erke Selam

Location of Reconciliation Process: Finote Selam district, of West Gojam Zone in Amhara Region

Themes: Elderly; women; conflict; victim; aggressor; stories; games

About Erke Selam: 

This traditional reconciliation system is widely practiced in Finote Selam woreda. Erke Selam means resolving conflict and sustaining peace. The burden of resolving and sustaining peace is on the shoulder of life taught by fathers and mothers. In addition, the religious leaders also play a vital role when it comes to providing guidance and discipline. Women’s participation in Erke Selam is not to be left unspoken. Women are believed to be cultural mothers so they are respected with a significant role to play.

Reconciliation Process:

There has been no kind of conflict that cannot be resolved through Erke Selam. Some of the cases are territory conflict, black blood (intentional murder), loan conflict, trading conflict, immoral behavior, inheritance, marriage conflict, religious conflict and so on. The reconciliation process has three main steps.

The first one is: the victim listens to what the accused has to say in front of the elderlies and the vice versa.

The second step is: negotiation and admonishing. In this step both parties listen to what the elderlies have to say and answer their questions. The amazing part is that the elderlies bring different old games and fun histories to lessen the tension and spread laughter.

The last step is: decision making. In this step the accused is asked whether he believes that he is guilty or not. If he refuses to believe on a personal level, it goes to further detection and further information gathering. However, if the answer is “yes l believe l am guilty”, then he shows his greatness by asking apology and begs for forgiveness. The victim shows his greatness by showing mercy and forgiving so as to live a peaceful life once again. They give no place for materialistic compensation; there is a quote which says “the best compensation is the peace restored“.

Click here to read the full research paper (Oromo)

Ethnic Group: Amhara

Name of Reconciliation: Oma

Themes: Elderly; religious leaders; hidden crime; compensation; oath; clothing; bones

Location of Reconciliation Process: South Wollo Zone of Amhara Region

About Oma:

Oma is widely practiced traditional reconciliation system in South Wollo Zone. Oma is a group of elderly and religious leaders who are elected by the community to solve both hidden and transparent crimes and to proceed in peace.

The peculiar character of this system is that it has two main goals. The first one is solving hidden crimes and the second one is reconciliation. Crimes that took place in the evening and ‘out of sight’ are said to be hidden crimes. Solving hidden crimes means the process of resolving these cases and bringing them to reconciliation system.

Reconciliation Process

Elderlies are ultimately headed and respected in this society. They are believed to have lifelong lesson and preserve cultural knowledge. They are chosen according to their age and their good deeds during their life. During formal reconciliation, two or more elders participate in order to see the case from different angles.

The process of reconciliation is given a vital place because it prohibits the two conflicting parties from engaging on such things again. Even though the process of resolving is similar for most cases, the tension is different according to the weight of the crime. If the case is murder, the two parties are not even allowed to see each other on the process, so the judge talks to them individually before the day of Oma system. Even on the day of Oma, the murderer is obliged to wear a skirt to weaken the tension between the two parties. Then the murderer is punished with a compensation to give to the victim called Guma. Finally, they walk on bones and white vines and make an oath in order to not seek revenge and live peacefully.

Click here to read the full research paper (Oromo)

Ethnic Group: Amhara

Name of Reconciliation: Shimgilina

Themes: Elderlies; election; church; conflict; victim; guilty; forgiveness; compensation

Location of Reconciliation Process: Gondar Zone, Gojam Zone, North Shewa Zone, and most parts of Amhara Region

About Shimgilina

Shimgilina is a traditional conflict resolution method practiced in different parts of Amhara region like Gondar, Gojam, and Shewa. Shimgilina is an Amharic word which means eldership: the name is given to represent elders who lead the reconciliation process. In Gondar they have their own way of electing elders for mediation. The king who wants reconciliation will reconcile by the farmer; the farmer who doesn’t want reconciliation will not reconcile by the king. People in conflict come to compromise and chooses the mediator on behalf of family, close friend or relative, an elder, or a community member or neighbor who knows that a conflict has occurred.

In order to be elected as mediator, he must be rich, well respected, intellectual and well mannered. If an elder is wealthy, he may engage in regular farm labor by employing a family or a laborer. He is rich, and his social status is high so when he speaks, he will be heard and honored by the community. A person who does not make the wise decisionsk and discriminates, regardless of wealth, is not chosen by the elders. The elder who is to be chosen as a mediator will likely be expected to see both parties in one eye. The task of selecting an elder is entirely up to the beneficiaries. Elders elected on the one side must be approved by the other side. The elders cannot say “we don’t have the time” after they have gained faith in the community.

Reconciliation Process:

If the mediation request does not come by the victim, the victim may not immediately respond to the reconciliation request. However, when a reconciliation request comes from elders, the victim accepts immediately. The parties in the conflict agree and inform the judge about the date and place of the shimgilina. The place may be under a large tree, in the church, or along the river. In areas where the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church is predominant, reconciliation takes place on Saturdays, Sundays or local holidays. Where the shimgilina takes place, the elders preside over rows of tree branches. The victim and aggressor sit in front of elders.

Shimgilina provides justice. It is believed to be a system that provides fair and equitable judicial service. The victim expresses the case to the elderlies and the accused defends the case towards them. If the accused is found guilty using traditional procedures, the decision makers usually work out a compromise agreement. The victim will be awarded compensation. Compensation ranges from either a simple apology to monetary compensation. If the elder believe that the damage done by both parties is equal the elders will say, “be merciful” and ask each other to forgive, then peace sustains between them.

Click here to read the full research paper (Oromo)

Ethnic Group: Amhara

Name of Reconciliation: Yehager Shumagile

Themes: Elderly; shade of tree; crime; insult; hidden crimes; text; punishment; compensation

Location of Reconciliation Process: Ambasel District, South Wollo Zone, Amhara Region

About Yehager Shimagile:

Ambasel is a district located in the northern part of Ethiopia, in Amhara region. Ambasel is composed of two Amharic and Arabic words; “Amba” means mountain and “Asel” means honey, so it has a combined meaning of honey mountain.  Ambasel is steeped with history and culture, such as a place where the cross on which Jesus was crucified was found, the place where “Wuchale Treaty” was signed, the traditional home of “Aho Holele” game for girls, and so on. The people of Ambasel have a strong traditional reconciliation system named Yehager Shimagle which have been practiced for long period of time. Yehager Shimagle means elderly of locality. The place where the process takes place is known as “kilt”: a shadow under a giant tree. The reconciliation process is led by elderlies called “abegar” which means chosen elderlies.

Reconciliation Process: 

The traditional reconciliation system in this area differs according to the weight of the conflict, the people who are part of the conflict and their number. The punishment for different kinds of crimes is different too. Frequent conflict types and their traditional reconciliation include:

Insulting and undermining: this type of crime is widely spread around Ethiopia. Most crimes start from this kind of crime so the elderlies try to stop it before spreading. If anybody insults someone else and hurts their feeling, he/she is punished accordingly.

Hidden crimes: this kind of crime is solved by “Abegar” (chosen elderlies). The elderlies try to follow the footsteps of all accused people and finally bring them to make an oath on whether they believe they are guilty ore not. The accused is asked to peel off a khat branch and makes an oath “if l am lying let my sin pass to my seven generation.”

Theft: theft is big crime in Ambasel. From 30 years past, the punishment was banning the thief from the country and anyone participated in the theft had to pay compensation of 24 pack of traditional drink and 24 pack of wood. However, today the punishment is 240 birr to restore the peace.

Click here to read the full research paper (English)

Ethnic Group: Amhara

Name of Reconciliation: Yezemed Dagna

Themes: Elderlies; mediation; conflict; guilty; committee

Location of Reconciliation Process: Miwa district in North Wollo Zone of Amhara Region

About Yezemed Dagna:

Yezemed Dagna is a traditional reconciliation system practiced by people of Miwia, located in North Wollo of Amhara region. Yezemed Dagna directly means mediator, and the reconciliation process is led by elderlies who are trusted by the society. The place where the process takes place is under a roof to protect the elderlies from the hot sun. Miawa’s main economic activity is agriculture. They speak Amharic language. 87% of the people is Muslim and remaining 13% is Christian. They have unique way of mourning; they mourn only if the dead is older than 40 days.

The process of reconciliation:

In order to start the process of reconciliation, the questions of how the conflict happened and how to resolve it should be answered first. Before the eldership begins, both conflicting parties put 200 ETB called “gult“. The one who found guilty gives the money to the organized group called “edir” while the innocent one takes the money back.

In the process of reconciliation, after hearing both sides, if the accused is found guilty he/she is punished to pay compensation. In Miawi there are 13 organized groups and mediator’s committee are chosen from all those groups. If conflict happens in one of those organized groups the member of committee from those group is charged with solving it. However, if the conflict is beyond the capacity of one group’s committee, the case is seen by all the committees in order to get fair judgement.

Click here to read the full research paper (English)