Ethiopian Peacemaking Database
In Tigray of north Ethiopia, we showcase 5 reconciliation practices.
Ethnic Group: Raya
Name of Reconciliation: Abo Gareb
Themes: Elderly; gathering; tree shade; conflict; forgiveness; prayers and blessing
Location of Reconciliation Process: Alamata Zone, Tigray Region
About Abo Gareb:
Abo Gareb, is a traditional reconciliation system practiced in Tigray region specifically by Alamata people. The name “Abo Gareb” directly means “council of elderlies” who are legitimately authorized by the society to lead the reconciliation process without interference of another body, in addition to this the elderly are also called “abo selam” meaning “fathers of peace”. The elderlies are selected based on strong criteria which includes, strong religious stands, age, awareness of culture and history of the society, good behavior, active social participation, isolated from any political party, and trust. The election process takes place under the shade of acacia tree close to a local market place.
Abo Gareb, is used to reconcile and settle conflicts that took place due to various reasons like, territory and grazing land, stolen cattle, disagreement between individuals, family, betrayal etc. Due to such reasons when conflict happens and violence takes place, the aggressor immediately should go to abo gareb, (elders) and openly tell that he mistakenly or intentionally violated someone with regrate. Then, the elderlies immediately gather and go to victim’s house, to console the family and tell them that the aggressor regrates his deeds and he is ready to take any punishment also he is keen for reconciliation. After fewer days of convincing and advice the victim family receive call for reconciliation. If anyone refuses call of reconciliation in Alamata, it is believed that there will be curse for generation, it is reflected with a metaphoric quote, “mergem lehamseya nemurah” meaning “the curse on the cow passed to her calf”.
On the Day of Reconciliation both the aggressor and victims’ family gather under acacia tree with the lead of elderlies. It is not allowed to bring any tool that can potentially cause harm. The reconciliation process begins with prayers and blessings of abo selam (fathers of peace), then the aggressor carries heavy stone, and kneels down under the feet of victim’s family begging for pardon, then the victim’s family remove the stone saying your burden might leave you. The heavy stone is used to represent the wrong deeds heavily worrying the aggressor. If there is murder in the conflict the guilty will be punished with money and other payments, by considering his paying ability. Then the victim’s family put fresh butter on the heads of aggressor’s family saying we are not enemy anymore, and to show that the don’t have any grudge. Finally with the blessings and prayers of elderlies the process ends.
Ethnic Group: Raya
Name of Reconciliation: Dibart
Themes: Elderlies; family; prayers; forgiveness; compensation
Location of Reconciliation Process: Raya District, Tigray Region
Dibart is one of the well-known conflict resolution methods practiced in Raya District, Tigray Region. Dibart means begging and praying for forgiveness and the process is led by selected elderly called Abo Gareb meaning fathers of peace, and also Dribat is mostly used to settle murder cases. According to Dibart system the person who committed a murder asks for forgiveness from the victim family. In this way the family of the murderer and the victim gets along not the murderer; the case of the murderer is taken to the jury. The main purpose of settling the dispute between the families is to stop the family of the victim from avenging and to avoid vengeance. And if they live nearby the family of the murderer is forced to go away until the case is settled.
First far relatives of the murderer go to the funeral with 5000 ETB and askes the Abo Gereb (council of elderlies) to entomb the dead with the family of the victim. If the family of the victim is willing, they give hand and entomb the dead with them. On the third day the elderlies and religious leaders goes to the victim’s family with murderers’ family to give their prayer and support them emotionally. On this day the appointment date is made for reconciliation process.
On the reconciliation day the family of victim and guilty, Abo Gereb, religious leaders and other relatives will be present and Debart starts. The murderer’s family will lock their head down to show how embarrassed they are, the religious leaders and mothers beg the family of the victim bent knee. Finally, the family of the victim accepts the apology and ask for compensation for the life of their lost member; after paying their debt peace will be sustained between the families.
Click here to read the full research paper (Oromo)
Ethnic Group: Endarta and Wejirat
Name of Reconciliation: Erik Endarta
Themes: Conflict; elderly; conflict; punishment
Location of Reconciliation Process: Enderta Zone, Tigray Region
About Erik Endarta:
Disputes in Enderta province are caused by the clash of interest to expand power and territory, often to capture the fertile soil and green environment for the sake of natural resources. The communities in Enderta province have been exercising a traditional conflict resolution mechanism known as, “Irki Enderta,” or Enderta’s negotiation. The Irki Enderta dispute resolution mechanism use elders as mediators. These elders are called Abo Gereb. The members of councils are elected by considering the following qualities: who are most esteemed, wise, discernment, and must be native elder men.
When conflicts are raised in Enderta and Wejerat, the abo-gereb gives a verdict over the criminal and offers judgement. The penalty maybe in cash or in-kind (cattle). If someone committed a serious crime (such as murder) and he/she escapes from the province to another territory, his family and neighborhood will be punished as a representation. For this reason, the probability of criminals to escape from the council and hide themselves from the community is very low. Thus, the traditional dispute resolution of Irki Enderta plays a significant role in maintaining peace and stability in the community. It also known as forest reconciliation, and offers fair treament for those of different religious and cultural backgrounds, while decreasing expensive costs that arise when hiring lawyers at the formal judicial system.
Ethnic Group: Wejerat
Name of Reconciliation: Sreate Kuanchi
Location of Reconciliation Process: Wejerat District, Tigray Region
About Sreate Kuanchi:
The history of the system goes back wards when the first settlers in “Wejerat Haya” started reproducing and increase in number, the need for agricultural land disagreements raised among the people, as a result they decided to create a system to which they obey and follow. That system is the so called Sreate Kuanchi. In this system there are different kinds of organizations like for men it is “demer wejerat esra emba“, for women it is “dibarte” and religious leaders have their own too. These all play their own role in keeping peace of the community. Eldership in Wejerat means there will always be a conflict between two different groups, two clans, two villages, Wejerat and neighbors, the people and government and so on. The process of making these two groups come together and solving the conflict between them is Sreate Kunchi which means eldership or reconciliation.
Among all the cases murder case solving process is a vital one. Unlike other cases the elders are not chosen from the nearby place they have to be far away from both the parties and not related too. The family of the murderer are kept hidden to calm down the situation. The elders don’t go and talk to the family of the victim directly. First, they go too far relatives and if there is good response they go to median relatives after that they talk to close families. They first talk to the female members of the family and these female members talk to the male members.
The elderlies are allowed to enter the home of the victim if the murder is not intentional because it is believed to be God’s decision and his day to die. If it is intentional the elderlies are rejected at their first trial but the second time, they come they bring additional women, bishops holding cross and elderlies to beg for the mercy n forgiveness. The women the bishops and the elderlies bent on their knees and beg for the love of God to be peace between the parties. Then after two or three trial they succeed and the eldership takes place.
Click here to read the full research paper (Oromo)
Ethnic Group: Raya
Name of Reconciliation: Raya Zeweld
Themes: Elderlies; conflict; agreement; negotiation; arbitration; reconciliation
Location of Reconciliation Process: Raya Zone, Tigray Region
About Raya Zeweld:
Zeweld is traditional conflict resolution process of Raya people. Zeweld traditional reconciliation process solves murders cases and conflict on grazing land with neighboring districts. The reconciliation process is led by elderly, who are selected on behalf of their knowledge of their history and the way they behaved in the society. There are two kinds of elderlies whose action is different from that of Zeweld elderlies.
“Yewenz Abat” meaning the father of river; as a river connects two different countries the fathers of river connect two conflicting groups.
“Nur negari abatoch” which has a direct meaning of history narrating fathers; They give correction by referring the past methods when there is unfair decision.
The execution of Zeweld reconciliation system has 4 methods; such as agreement, negotiation, arbitration and reconciliation.
Agreement: when the two conflicting parties agree on their case without the intervention of the third party.
Negotiation: there will be intervention of third party when the two conflicting parties negotiate on their case. Though the role of the third body is keeping an eye on and monitoring the process only.
Arbitration: the two conflicting parties express their opinion to the third body to get a decision from that third body.
Reconciliation: the third body gives arbitrary opinion on the case and tries their best to solve the case, but they don’t force anything.
Although all the different methods of reconciliation mentioned above have different names and systems they are widely accepted and practiced all over Raya.